The one-per-customer limit of boxes of gloves at local stores even applied to the United Way this week.
Caprice Hover, executive director of United Way of Rutland County, said she was relieved when she finally found a vendor to sell gloves in bulk — letting her order 10 boxes after she was denied in her efforts to purchase more from local retail outlets due to a “one per customer” policy instituted after a run on such supplies created shortages.
“I had five friends who all made purchases, and I waited outside for them,” she said Wednesday. “I had my United Way vest on. It didn’t matter. ... The VNA is running low on gloves and the mission is running out of gloves to serve food.”
Every day has brought new challenges as local social service agencies adjust to the constantly changing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rutland County Mutual Aid, a volunteer group that formed just over a week ago to help people who were self-quarantining, has essentially abandoned their original mission of making grocery runs, instead referring people who need that sort of help to local agencies. Organizer Tabitha Moore said that with tightening social distancing recommendations, it seemed as if there were better places to direct the energy of volunteers.
“For example, this morning Marisa Kiefaber and I spent the morning taking apart all of the home kits from the refugee resettlement program, breaking them down and making a spreadsheet,” Moore said.
The kits were designed to get refugee families started with household essentials, but were virtually all left unused after resettlement from Syria was effectively ended in early 2017. Moore said the spreadsheet listing items from the kits is being distributed to local agencies.
“They’re professionals,” she said. “They know how to handle all of it.”
Moore said several volunteers were working with Rutland Regional Medical Center to sew protective masks, following instructions made available by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“These are the kinds of things we can do that adhere to the every-increasingly strict social distancing,” Moore said.
Hover said that with the exception of Meals on Wheels, which has put out a call for volunteers that a number of people from the Mutual Aid group answered, most agencies need money more than they need volunteers right now.
“We’ve maxed out what we’re supposed to spend,” she said, noting that they burned through a $25,000 emergency fund within a week. “Anybody who wants to help us purchase things would be great.”
Hover said housing and food were the chief concerns at the moment, and she was on the verge of securing 89 units of isolation housing, for which she will then have to figure out the logistics of getting food to them. Toward that end, she said they are looking at a partnership with Castleton University’s food services. She also said the empty campuses at College of St. Joseph and Green Mountain College may be pressed into service.
“It’s like a pretzel right now,” she said. “Every day creates a new hole you have to fill.”