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Sunday Focus: COVID-19 presents challenges to local charities

NATCHEZ — Non-profit organizations throughout the Miss-Lou have faced challenges during three months of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

One of the organizations that has, perhaps, been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 shutdown is Habitat for Humanity in Natchez.

Habitat for Humanity helps build affordable houses for people in and around the Miss-Lou.

Andrew Calvit, president of Habitat for Humanity in Natchez, said the pandemic has limited the number of people that work on a house at a time.

“Normally we would have 15 people,” Calvit said. “We try to work in different locations of the house. We are only 40% complete on a house. It has been four to five months working on the house, and we were pushed back due to the pandemic and weather.”

Likewise, the pandemic has hindered Seeds of Change Resource Foundation.

Seeds of Change Resource Foundation is a non-profit that helps veterans, senior citizens and disabled persons.

“The pandemic has created a significant burden for small businesses as well as non-profits,” said Carolyn Myers, founder of Seeds of Change Resource Foundation. “Since the pandemic, we have had to cancel our planned events that we normally do. Then, we have not been able to solicit donors at this time because most of our donors are worried about the virus, so they have pulled back on giving.”

During the pandemic, Myers said she has hosted different drive-through events at four different churches in Natchez.

The first event Seeds of Change hosted was at Zion Chapel where they gave away hand sanitizer 8 oz. bottles in the church parking lot.

The second event, Myers said they bagged up grocery bags at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and the third event they supplied care packages with tissue paper, paper towels, Kleenex and anti-bacterial wipes at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church.

The final event happened on Memorial Day where veterans were given grocery bags at First Baptist Church.

Myers said two of the bright spots for Seeds of Change have been the increase of number of volunteers signing up for future events and receiving one monetary donation.

The lack of volunteers also has affected the Natchez Stewpot, said Amanda Jeansonne, director of the Natchez Stewpot.

Jeansonne said, however, that an increase in monetary donations has been a bright spot.

“We exist solely on donations and we have no other funding,” Jeansonne said. “ We have to raise $106,000 a year. That’s why donations are important. I’m very thankful this other money has come in these past few months and that will help us out.”

Physical donations help Catholic Charities, an organization that serves people in need in Natchez, as well.

During the pandemic, Catholic Charities had to stop receiving donations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two weeks ago, Whitney Houston-Irving, a case manager and training and prevention coordinator, said Catholic Charities has resumed taking donations.

“With the donations that we get it helps us to be able to help the clients that we have even better,” Houston-Irving said. “We are able to help them with their certain need.”

Houston-Irving said Catholic Charities is in need of hand towels, wash towels, pillows, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste to help with the clients.

Houston-Irving said the number of clients has decreased due to the coronavirus.

“Before the coronavirus, we would have 10 clients,” Houston-Irving said. “Now we only have five clients and that is due to some people who are afraid to leave their home. They are forced to live through situations that they normally would not have to due to social distancing. From a shelter’s point of view, most of our clients do not know what they are coming into.”

At Catholic Charities, Houston-Irving said with the clients they have now, she is taking extra precautions to keep them safe.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has even affected Natchez Adams County Humane Society and Concordia PAWS.

Hanna Willis, director of Natchez Adams County Humane Society, said the humane society had run into some issues leading to the population growing to approximately 80 animals inside the humane society.

“People thought that their dog could get COVID-19 and they would dump the dog at our office or they would dump them anywhere in the county,” Willis said. “Secondly, we ran into the problem that people could not afford to buy food for their animals. While we were shutdown, our numbers kept growing and it got to a point where we were begging for foster families.”

Willis said thanks to people stepping up and fostering animals, the number of animals has decreased in the humane society.

Meanwhile, Dianne Watson, treasury for Concordia PAWS, said Concordia PAWS has not been hugely affected by the pandemic.

“We have cut back on the number of people that come into our business,” Watson said. “We have made some adjustments and have taken care of our dogs.”

We could not have been through this pandemic without the help of our supporters. It would have been a huge loss without them.”

Watson said that one of the bright spots is seeing the number of adoptions increase. During June, Watson said there have been three to four adoptions of dogs.

“We could not have been through this pandemic without the help of our supporters,” Watson said. “It would have been a huge loss without them.”