KEARNEY — The Salvation Army is facing a severe shortage of funds and food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Tuesday, it was giving out diapers, bread and other food pantry items and waiving the normal 30-day waiting period required before people may begin receiving supplies.
“We’ll keep going until the items are gone. If they run out, they run out,” said Steven Dahl, the envoy at the Salvation Army.
A food drive Saturday at New Life Church brought in 300 pounds of food, “and we are thankful for every pound,” he said. But more is needed.
He said many food pantries have a waiting period “because we want to make sure food can get to everyone who needs it,” he said.
The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services fund is being depleted as well. Its March funds are gone, but Dahl will not dip into the April allotment yet because “no one knows how long the pandemic will last, and we want to be sure we have something to give in the next month or month and a half,” he said.
This is the second public crisis Dahl has dealt with since taking the top post here nine months ago. Just 13 days after he was transferred to Kearney from the Salvation Army’s North Platte office, the July 9 flood swamped parts of the city. He and his staff hurriedly assisted 330 flooded-out hotel guests and 400 flooded-out families.
At that time, the Salvation Army received many generous donations “but that disaster affected a limited number of people, so those who were not affected stepped in and freely gave money,” he said. “This is affecting everyone, so the people who normally contribute have to hold onto their resources to cover their own basics before they reach out.”
The Salvation Army Thrift Store is open, but its staff is limited because, according to state COVID-19 guidelines, only 10 people may be inside at one time, including the clerk at the cash register and two employees, Dahl said. Normally, five or six volunteers assist, but only two or three are helping now to allow space for customers.
“We’re really working with a skeleton crew,” he said.
However, thrift store business remains brisk.
The Salvation Army has locked its main office doors at 1719 Central Ave. All access is through the Thrift Store at 15 E. 19th St. Donations, both checks and cash, may be given to any employee or volunteer.
Dahl asked that the public delay donating clothing and other goods right now because of the reduced workforce and the demand for food and diapers.
Gifts also may be made through the Salvation Army website at salvationarmyusa.org; specify Kearney on the memo line.