Increased need in aid continues for Operation Liberty Hill

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By ANTHONY FLORES

With the number of layoffs seen across the state during April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for assistance is more critical than ever at Operation Liberty Hill.

In recent weeks, the organization has seen an increase in the number of people requesting aid.

“We’ve seen an increase in numbers,” said Director Susan Baker. “The biggest increase we’ve seen is in new people we’ve never assisted before in the pantry, which is understandable because people are without work.”

From February to April, OLH saw an increase of 239 households requesting aid. February, a typical month, saw them serve 283 households, with 302 in March followed by a large jump to 522 in April.

While many may be seeking temporary aid as a result of the current situation, what worries Baker is how fast those numbers are rising.

“It may just be during the crisis that they come for help, but those numbers are increasing pretty rapidly, and in just one day, we might have about 10 new people come,” she said.

Despite the difficulty of receiving donations because of the quarantine, the OLH pantry is still well stocked and able to provide food to the community.

“We’re giving out quite a bit of food because we’ve been blessed with a lot of food from grocery stores,” said Baker. “Even with meat being scarce, we were able to buy some from Mighty Fine.”

Along with a need for food, Baker is seeing an increased need for financial help. To provide financial assistance OLH applied for and received the All Together ATX grant worth $20,000.

“The good news is that we were able to get the ATX grant, and that’s helping us to provide financial assistance for rent and utilities for a lot of people,” Baker said.

Even though the pantry is well stocked, there are still some of the hard to find household items OLH could use.

“Of course, we need the same thing everyone is looking for,” she said. “Disinfectant wipes, sprays, masks, and other household items.”

For people interested in donating items, OLH has several baskets donated by Target placed on their property where people can drop items off. Carts can be identified with the donation signs placed on their sides.

“Any non-perishable items are helpful,” Baker said. “Refried beans are a big favorite here. Hamburger Helper meals, Chicken Helper, Tuna Helper, too, because we give out all those kinds of protein that people can mix with it to make a meal.”

Baker emphasizes a need for items that fall into the lower end of the price spectrum.

“Jelly is something we always need because we can buy peanut butter through the Central Texas Food Bank, but not jelly,” she said. “With the kids being stuck at home now, that’s a great item to have. We can always use spaghetti and pasta sauce, too.”

With the closing of the thrift store, OLH is seeing a cut in the money coming in, money that allows them to keep them stocked with items people need.

“Right now, resources like food are pretty good, but we could always use monetary donations since the thrift store is closed,” said Baker. “That way, we can still purchase the food that we need.”

The thrift store will remain closed until it’s determined to be a safe time to reopen. As of now, Baker believes that may be able to open at the end of May but admits there’s still a considerable amount of doubt.

“I’m saying the earliest we would open is probably May 26,” said Baker. “And it would still be with limited numbers in the thrift store, everyone wearing masks and still sanitizing things. I’m not convinced that’s going to be the opening date yet. I hope so because we lose money every day that we’re closed.”

Despite her doubts about reopening, Baker is still impressed with people and their willingness to reach out and help.

“I’m glad that people are sharing and paying attention to their neighbors, making sure that everybody is okay; that’s what we have to do right now.”

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