On April 16, the focus of the Think About Energy Briefing, which usually centers on energy policy and how the industry impacts our daily lives, shifted to learning more about the pressing community needs impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. At the top of the list were food insecurity, the continued need to support education, and the role that stress plays on aspects of life such as domestic abuse.
The videoconference was facilitated by George Stark and the panel included Jane Clements-Smith of Feeding Pennsylvania; Joe Arthur of Central PA Food Bank; Gene Brady of CEO Weinberg; Christine Clayton of Commonwealth Charitable Management; Josh Whiteside of the Education Partnership; and Lisa Hannum of Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern PA.
Those most directly involved in food distribution – Clements, Arthur, and Brady – agreed that demand for food is highest by families that are currently out of work and whose children are home from school. More importantly demand might not reach a peak until August or later, as people get back to work and start to catch up on bills. This will likely include people who have never before sought the services of a food bank.
Equally important, Whiteside maintained, is getting students what they need to complete this school year and to prepare for their return to school in the fall. Many youths sent home to rural areas have poor or no internet service, let alone the smart devices that would allow them to receive and complete study assignments at home. He also advocated for teachers and called on other meeting participants to extend moral support to educators.
Long-term educational needs can be met by corporate and individual donations through Commonwealth Charitable Management (CCM). Clayton and her staff manage charitable funds and grants on behalf of donors to get the impact that they want. CCM has worked with the Community Foundation of the Endless Mountains to establish the Susquehanna County Coronavirus Assistance Fund to respond to the current community needs. Clayton expressed her gratitude for financial institutions and other organizations for helping them in their endeavors.
Among families experiencing so many new challenges and hardships, the stress can lead to domestic violence, and Hannum affirmed that agencies like hers across the state are readily available to empower those who are victimized by providing safe and effective services.
As Stark wrapped up the briefing, he encouraged all of those watching and listening from home to share the rebroadcast link with anybody who might be in a position to assist any of the aforementioned agencies and their partners.
“The real call to action is to look for the opportunities to help. This isn’t going to end when the curve gets flattened,” he stated. “We’re projecting that we are going to see this in a continued way.”