It's 2022, or, as some memes have jokes 2020 - too!
That's right, the pandemic is not over folks. As case numbers skyrocket it seems it like it may never be over.
Businesses, churches, schools and everyone else are once again asking whether or not it is safe to stay open, what kind of safety protocols need to follow be followed, and how many staff will actually be available to work. Especially with the Omicron variant it seems like everyone is calling in sick.
We at Open Arms Community are no exception. We have had strict masking protocols all along and every room has hand sanitizer to encourage frequent hand washing/sanitizing, especially from our young friends who tend to be less germ aware. So far we have not had to close down or have anyone quarantine due to a COVID exposure, but we know that there is always that possibility, especially with the high positivity rate in our community at large.
But that does not mean that COVID has not hit us hard in other ways. When the pandemic began we, like so many others, shut our doors "for a little while" (which lasted several months). When we reopened, many of our programs did not resume. We no longer offer Reading Club or Girl Scouts. We have changed our tutoring program to only serve elementary students; we no longer serve middle or high school students. Our Hispanic Bible Study has been online for nearly two years. We know that the Bible Study will come back once it is safe to have large numbers gather in person again, but the other programs will not.
Some programs are gone for good and others have been modified for one main reason: lack of volunteers. You see, it's not just the employment industry who has suffered from "the great resignation", the nonprofit world (including faith communities) also saw large numbers of people walk away from their volunteer positions at the start of the pandemic and many are reluctant to return.
We are currently in the process of hiring a Program Coordinator for our youth so that we can expand that program. With the help of the coordinator, the youth will be able to meet weekly instead of only once a month. We have had the goal of more frequent meetings since the group was formed in early 2021, but we had such a difficulty recruiting volunteers that we could not manage to consistently meet more than once per month. Having another staff member will allow for that (much needed) program to grow.
Other nonprofits, who can afford it, are taking similar steps. They are hiring more staff and relying less on volunteers. Open Arms Community was fortunate, our giving did not suffer during the pandemic. Our donors remained faithful and, because we had less programs, our bills were lower than a typical year. Thus, we can afford to hire the new Youth Program Coordinator. We are conducting interviews now and hope to announce the new position soon.
BUT WE STILL NEED VOLUNTEERS! Volunteers fill much needed gaps in programing. They are the second (or third, or fourth) adult to help us meet Safe Sanctuary protocols. They provide specialized skills and expertise in areas our staff may not be as knowledgeable in. They provide mentorship. They provide love and extra attention to children and youth who may not always get such nurture at home. They cook meals for us. They even take care of our building and grounds.
So if you stopped volunteering when the pandemic started. Or, if you have never volunteered before. I invite you to consider volunteering now. Help us with our tutoring program or youth group. Prepare a meal for one of our programs. Offer a special event for one weekend or evening to share your talent with the community. There are so many possibilities, even in the midst of the pandemic.