Close this search box.
The Clothes Closet thrift store opened back up on Monday, June 1 for shoppers. Volunteer Kenneth Harvey helps shopper Carrie Fitzwater with her purchases.

The ‘how-tos’ of helping aid organizations — or receiving help from them — in the era of COVID-19

BUCKHANNON – Two local service organizations – the Upshur Parish House and the Salvation Army – have resumed their regular operating hours and continue to serve the needs of local Upshur County residents with their food pantries.

My Buckhannon talked with both organizations about how to help and how to receive help from these agencies, which both reopened their doors near the end of May or beginning of June.

The Upshur Parish House/Clothes Closet is now also offering assistance with personal hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, diapers and rent and utility payments. The Parish House is located at 68 College Ave. and operates a thrift store, the Clothes Closet, which is located next door, at 47 Sedgwick St.

Kristi Wilkerson, director of the Upshur Parish House, said the Parish House reopened Monday, May 18 and their thrift store, while the Clothes Closet opened Monday, June 1.

“We are back to our normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parish House,” Wilkerson said during a recent interview. “Right now, we are continuing to do everything by phone. So, if folks need assistance, they need to call us at 304-472-0743.”

She said following the phone call, volunteers will work to get the food boxes filled for neighbors in need.

“When they pull up out front, they can call us again and we will take their food to the front porch for pick up,” Wilkerson said. “This helps us limit contact.”

In a similar way, Wilkerson said neighbors in need of rent or utility assistance also need to call the Parish House during their regular hours.

“If they can call us, we can call the utility company and get a copy of the bill or they can take a picture of the bill with their phones and email it to us,” she said. “If none of this is possible, neighbors can come to the front porch, and we will have someone get the documents and make a photocopy of them.”

All in all, Wilkerson said the Parish House is continuing most of their services except for the Monday, Wednesday and Friday lunches.

“Right now, we are talking about resuming those lunches in July, but we don’t have a firm date set for those yet,” she said. “They will probably begin as bag lunches given the limited space we have in our dining room. We always close the week of July 4, so resuming the lunches will not be until after then.”

Wilkerson said at this present time, there is no plan to unlock the building and be open to foot traffic again.

“We seem to be serving everyone who needs us right now and that affords us an extra layer of protection,” Wilkerson said. “When we do reopen, we have a plan in place to limit contact.”

On June 1, the Clothes Closet reopened to shoppers and has shopping hours from 8 to 11 a.m. and folks can reserve a half-hour time slot by calling 304-471-2290.

“We recommend folks call to reserve an appointed time to go shopping,” Wilkerson said. “We can only have four customers shopping in the Clothes Closet at one time. Folks can stop by and see if they can go in to shop, but we do recommend they make a reservation.”

A staff volunteer is greeting shoppers at the front door of the Clothes Closet and asking self-screening questions such as, ‘have you had a temperature,’ and ‘do you have a cough’?

“Those who answer yes to the self-screening questions will not be allowed to come in and would be required to come back on another day,” she said. “We are requiring facemasks for shoppers. We have been asked to do that because we are part of the United Methodist Church West Virginia Conference and our own board of directors have asked we do that as well. If shoppers do not have a mask, we will happily provide them with one for free.”

Wilkerson said at the present time, children are not allowed in the Clothes Closet.

“We are not allowing food and drink into the building and we have shut down the public restroom,” she said. “We appreciate all of the support of the customers who are coming there and shopping, and we just want to do all we can to keep customers, volunteers and staff safe.”

The Clothes Closet continues to accept donations on their back-porch weekdays during their regular hours. Wilkerson said the donations are set aside before they are put out on the shelves for purchase as recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have had some questions from folks who know they will be receiving the P-EBT card for food for their students, and they have asked if they can donate those to the Parish House,” Wilkerson said. “The cards are nontransferable, so we are not able to accept the cards. Some people have said they do not need the extra money on the P-EBT cards. However, recipients may use those cards to purchase food items and then donate them to the Parish House for distribution for those in need.”

The Pandemic-EBT cards will be issued to every family in Upshur County who has a student enrolled in Upshur County Schools to assist with purchasing nutritious meals. The cards will provide $5.70 per day per student because the students fall under the Community Eligibility Provision which qualifies all Upshur County students to eat free.

Wilkerson said some folks in the area who received their stimulus checks have cashed those and donated the money to the Parish House as well.

“It is our privilege and pleasure to serve our fellow residents of Upshur County,” Wilkerson said. “Our main priority is to keep our neighbors, volunteers and staff well. We continue to pray for our community that we all remain safe and well throughout the pandemic, and we are so very grateful to all of the individuals, businesses, churches and civic organizations who have donated funds, food and other items for our neighbors in need.”

Sharla Smith, service unit director of the Salvation Army in Buckhannon, said the store reopened on Monday, June 1. She said they are following all of prescribed rules and are busy keeping the store sanitized and safe for employees and shoppers.

Store hours for the Salvation Army are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and food services are available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.

“We can have 10 to 12 clients in the store at one time shopping,” Smith said. “There are arrows on the floor for shoppers to follow, and we ask that folks maintain a six-foot distance from others. We have Lysol wipes on hand to sanitize the shopping carts in between uses.”

Smith said employees and volunteers are working to spray down the racks in the store periodically during the day.

The Salvation Army is currently accepting donations of clothes, household items, food and furniture, but and that is by appointment only. Those having questions or wanting to schedule an appointment to make donations may do so by calling the Salvation Army, located at 21 N. Spring St. at 304-472-6165.

“We are back to doing utility assistance, but that also is by appointment only,” Smith said. “That helps keep our clients from having to stand in line. Food services are available as usual. We are still doing produce on Mondays and Thursdays. We have a full-blown food pantry and serve a pretty large clientele. We have folks who are on unemployment due to the pandemic, so we are offering food boxes to those in need.”

“Food services are available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and folks who do not have a file with us just need to show that they are a Buckhannon resident with a current utility bill or rental agreement,” Smith added. “Food boxes are available every 60 days and clothing vouchers are available if referred by emergency from the Department of Health and Human Services. These will not be available until mid-June and are available two times per year.”

Smith said rental assistance and mortgage assistance is currently not available but should be available again in the next month.

“When that becomes available, clients will need to make an appointment to apply,” she advised.

Smith said there are a few reminders she wanted to give people about the Salvation Army in Buckhannon.

“I don’t think people realize we are 100 percent nonprofit,” Smith said. “Everything that comes into the store is turned around for the benefit of Upshur County residents – be it food, monetary donations or items for resale. It all stays right here in Upshur County.”

She said the Salvation Army continues to offer lots of services to help those who are homeless.

“We make specialty homeless food bags,” Smith said. “Homeless clients come to us daily, and we give them specialty made up food bags for the day.”

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!