Local charities see heightened need



As items at local grocery stores fly off the shelves as fast as they are stocked, a pair of local charitable organizations are feeling the pinch in their efforts to serve others.

Operation Liberty Hill and Hope House are already identifying needs the community can help meet as preparation for the unknowns of the immediate future begin.

“We really just started talking about it early this week when they started closing the school districts in Austin,” said Operation Liberty Hill (OLH) Executive Director Susan Baker. “We started talking about the people we’re going to need to deliver food to, the lack of volunteers we will be faced with because of this, and I don’t think anyone knows the impact this is going to have on any organization, especially a food pantry. I don’t know how it will impact us in the end, we just don’t know what to expect.”

It is the unknown that has led OLH to make the call to the community for food and monetary donations.

“If the food is clearing off the shelves at the grocery store, people are going to come to us,” Baker said. “We’ve got to maintain our stock. We already buy meat, and we’ve had to tell people that come in on a weekly basis that they can only get the meat once a month. With the shortage we just don’t have enough for everyone to get it every single week. Unless we get some funds we will just have to do the once a month for the meat.”

Monetary donations are needed to purchase meat and necessity items, and a tax-deductible donation can be made online at operationlh.org or by mail at PO Box 1081, Liberty Hill 78642.

The following items are needed to increase stock:
• Bottled water (gallon or smaller)
• Canned meats (tuna, chicken, Vienna sausage, Spam, etc.)
• Dry pinto beans
• Spaghetti
• Canned beans
• Shelf stable milk
• Toiletries (shampoo, body soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper)
• Detergent
• Dish soap

Baker anticipates the need to increase food and meal deliveries as well.

“We will probably be delivering more meals to our elderly clients, or the ones that have compromised immune systems because they won’t want to come in when there are crowds here,” she said. “We are probably going to need more drivers. We already have a program called Drive Care, but we only have about five drivers and they’re taking people to doctors appointments and any place they need to go, so this is just going to be an extra burden on that program.”

Those interested in delivering food and have the proper liability insurance are encouraged to volunteer. Baker said many OLH volunteers are over 60 and may not be coming in to work so volunteers will be needed in the food pantry.

The thrift store will be closed through April 6.

“We need volunteers to help put together food orders,” she said. “There are those three opportunities just for preparing food orders as clients come in. There are also opportunities for stocking the shelves when we get donations or when we purchase food.”

The food pantry distributes food Tuesday and Thursday then gives out produce and bread along with other perishable items on Saturday.

While the need is greatest for items identified, Baker said any donations are helpful in times like this.

“If they don’t have these items necessarily, any nonperishable food items will be good because if it gets real bad, if they have something they can put in their belly it is better than nothing at all, of course,” she said. “These are the most popular things people ask for.”

One of the biggest needs that she expects to see is not food at all.

“Toiletries are something people can’t get with their food stamps, so we’re always looking for toiletry donations,” Baker said.

Local food drives are encouraged as another way to help keep shelves stocked.

“If people wanted to do a small drive in their own community, that would be awesome and it is something more doable with the kids on break,” Baker said. “One of the most effective drives we’ve seen is where people will put a bag on someone’s front porch, write on it that they’ll be back to pick up this bag and here’s a list of what the pantry needs.”

Items like hand sanitizer, Lysol spray and Lysol wipes for workers at OLH are also important, and that’s where Hope House also finds itself most in need.

“What we’re running low on is hand sanitizer,” said Erland Shulze with Hope House. “I don’t know if anyone has any or can get any, but the state says we need a bottle for every person, and that’s 54 bottles for us. We need that, of course toilet paper, Lysol disinfectant and sanitizing cleaners.”

Shulze said with an emergency like COVID-19, there are added concerns for the health and safety of Hope House residents.

“Our residents are most definitely at a greater risk,” he said. “All of our residents are high risk. We have closed the houses to the public. If someone wants to donate they can go to one of our houses in town and donate at the entrance, but we will not be able to answer the door because of that. We can’t have anybody out there now.”

Shulze said the best option for donating the needed items is to leave them at 104 Nita Cove for Hope House employees to pick up.