COVID-19 is changing, but not stopping, Salvation Army outreach.
As Australians grapple to keep up with the changes to home, work and community life as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, The Salvation Army across the country is also changing its practices, but continuing to reach out to local communities to do whatever they can to ease people’s burdens during this time.
Just recently in Sydney, Nicole Viles, manager of Stanmore House (Salvation Army conference and training centre) and her staff hit the streets to show love to their community, dropping a gift of toilet paper and a card on the doorsteps of their local neighbourhood. The card read: “If you are self-isolating we are here to help!”, with details including Stanmore House phone numbers. The team is hoping the small gesture of love will cut through the fear and uncertainty many people are feeling at this time.
Across the city at The Salvation Army Streetlevel Mission, team leader Mitchell Evans said he and other team members were trying to work with the community to be a source of truth in this confusing time.
“There is a lot of misinformation at the moment that is portrayed as truth and this is incredibly dangerous,” Mitchell said. “Social media can be an incredible tool for people to connect, but what we’re seeing at the moment is this becoming a platform for conspiracy theories, crackpot remedies and fearmongering.
“Practically speaking, we’re encouraging the community to practise good personal hygiene — something we do anyway — and to look after themselves and one another. We will get through this. We just need to ensure we keep our humanity in the process.”
Many Salvation Army corps and centres are having to readjust the way they deliver regular meal services for people in need. Most are reporting twofold reasons for this — not just the impact of coronavirus and its potential for transmission, but also due to panic buying and the inability to source food for large numbers of people.
Salvo volunteers have also been helping Woolworths support its elderly and disabled customers during the early restricted opening hours at the Australian supermarket chain.
Woolworths announced that from 17-20 March it would give the elderly and those with a disability a 60-minute window from 7am to shop freely, as its managing director Claire Peters said in a statement, “in a less-crowded environment”.
Salvos in uniform were invited to assist by getting groceries back to people’s cars, pushing a trolley, or in other practical ways, including reaching up and getting items that are high on shelves.
Woolworths called on The Salvation Army to make ‘official’ the initiative after it learned that some Salvos had taken it upon themselves to go to their local Woolworths supermarket to offer to assist elderly and disabled customers.
“This gesture of kindness is truly appreciated, and we are very grateful to all our friends at The Salvation Army. It’s these little things that can really make someone’s day,” Woolworths Senior Community manager Loretta Arrastia said.