The Gray House Meets Increased Demands During COVID-19 Pandemic
SPRINGFIELD — The Gray House, a community service agency in the North End of Springfield, has quickly adapted to meet the increased need for food to low-income households due to COVID-19. While the Gray House’s adult education and youth programming are currently closed, the space that is usually utilized for this programming has been taken over by its food operations. During its first ‘no-contact’ curbside food distribution on March 19, the Gray House served 253 families with groceries in a three-hour period — a 69% increase from its normal numbers.
“Our food-assistance program is considered an essential service, and not only are we staying open during this pandemic, we’re serving more people than ever,” said Teresa Liberti, executive director. “Only volunteers and staff essential to our food-assistance program are allowed inside the building. Volunteers are spread out among other rooms in the house that are typically used for classrooms so that we can maintain social distancing. All of the volunteers and staff coming in must complete mandatory training to ensure everyone understands the policies and procedures we’ve put in place to protect them and those we are serving. We need everyone to understand the severity of this, and that following these protocols is essential to our ability to remain open during this time.”
The Gray House is maintaining its normal distribution hours, which are Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and on the second and fourth Fridays of the month from 4 to 6 p.m. Households with a vehicle are instructed to remain in their car at all times. They can enter Sheldon Street from Main Street and pull up to the first tent in front of the Gray House, where they will be assisted. Anyone who does not have a vehicle can walk up to the Gray House and wait in line on the sidewalk to be served. There will be markers on the sidewalk so that those waiting can maintain a six-foot distance from others at all times.
In addition to the impact this pandemic has had on the need for food, the Gray House also had to cancel its most profitable fundraiser of the year, the annual Spaghetti Supper, which typically nets over $20,000 and hosts more than 400 individuals. “We had to get creative,” Liberti said. “Rather than postponing or canceling the event altogether, we decided to host it virtually.”
The ‘No Show’ Spaghetti Supper will utilize social media to encourage people to donate online (click here) in lieu of buying a ticket and encourages them to have their own spaghetti dinner at home. Supporters will also be able to participate in a raffle, and the winners will be pulled on Facebook Live around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. Raffle tickets can be purchased online (click here) or by mailing a check to the Gray House at 22 Sheldon St., Springfield, MA 01107. Donation or raffle ticket checks can be made payable to the Gray House. Event sponsor Freedom Credit Union, platinum sponsors PeoplesBank and the Springfield Chapter of UNICO, and many other sponsors generously committed to allowing the Gray House to retain the sponsorship money as a donation.