Volunteer organizations struggle to keep up in health crisis

Services for vulnerable populations do their best to provide.

As the coronavirus pandemic necessitates widespread closures of public spaces in the state for the foreseeable future, volunteer organizations are left to decide, on their own, how to function in the wake of the crisis.

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Nancy DeLaura, executive director of Interfaith Caregivers of the Haddons, has been so busy trying to keep the business vital, she had little time for conversation.

The nonprofit, which provides elderly and infirm residents the chance to live a more independent life, has been rotating personnel between their homes and the organization’s downtown Haddonfield office. In a statement issued to the Sun, DeLaura said:

“We have taken strong measures to protect our clients and our volunteers and are monitoring the hourly developments of this pandemic.

“We recognize that there are great uncertainties with regards to this new Virus,” the statement added.

“We need to balance the needs of those we serve with the health and safety of our volunteers. We urged our clients to work with their family members to create an emergency plan as we monitored the COVID-19 outbreak in the state of New Jersey and then Camden County. We are following Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s request to socially distance and to keep our clients out of physicians’ offices in order to flatten the impact on our medical providers.

“Like all our friends in the nonprofit world, suspending our work adds a level of uncertainty for our clients. We know that when we start scaling back our services, our community will be there to support us.”

DeLaura went on to suggest that members of the public volunteer at least two hours a month, so those in need can live a healthy and independent life with vital social contact. For more information on volunteering, visit https://www.ifchaddons.org/.

According to the Habitat for Humanity of Camden County’s website, in the interest of public safety, the organization’s ReStore will be closed until March 31, when the situation will be reevaluated.

Customers who have purchased items on hold for pickup can do so, as the pickup window will be extended. Habitat will not schedule any donations until further notice. For the most up-to-date information, visit https://www.habitatcamden.org/, or call (856) 963-8018.

At Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice South Jersey, it’s been mostly situation normal as the threat of coronavirus grows. According to Joanne Rosen, vice president of marketing and public affairs, there has been no reduction in personnel.

“We have over 400 people employed at Samaritan,” she revealed. “Most of them are medical professionals, the rest are supportive staff and administrative staff. We also have volunteers and they help in certain ways: friendly visits, helping in the office, and various boards are made up of community leaders who volunteer their time.”

But Samaritan was proactive and discontinued all volunteer services starting the week of March 9, until further notice.

“We have over 400 patients and families in our care,” Rosen said. “Our care is continuing. We are accepting new patients and we are following all recommendations of the state of New Jersey and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

“We are in touch every day, taking all necessary precautions for our patients, staff and families.”

Samaritan has a plan in place if the pandemic becomes more serious, and it intends to work closely with local officials to assure the safety and well-being of all involved. For more information, visit https://samaritannj.org/,  or call (856) 596-1600.

For all the latest on coronavirus in Camden County, visit  https://www.camdencounty.com/service/covid-19-updates-and-preparations/. For the same in Burlington County, visit: https://www.co.burlington.nj.us/AlertCenter.aspx, and for Gloucester County, http://www.co.gloucester.nj.us/alerts/default.asp.

Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.
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