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Helping those who help others: Local nonprofits face challenges during the pandemic

The Rebound Detroit
Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 19:22:06-05

(WXYZ) — There are too many wonderful nonprofits to count in Southeast Michigan. When there's a crisis whether for food or shelter they answer the call for help. However, during this pandemic they too have been in dire need of rescue.

In the Rebound Detroit, we take a look at how a few nonprofits have adapted during these challenging times and how you might give them a hand at this time of so much need.

It's heartbreaking to see here at home and across America, a staggering number of people in food lines including an elderly brother and sister whose lives depend on donated food from Forgotten Harvest.

Forgotten Harvest now has 17 super food distribution sites including The Oak Park Recreation Center. Every week, their busiest location volunteers pack food into 500 to 600 cars, sometimes with up to four families in one car. Each week this load in Oak Park feeds at least 1,000 people.

The CEO of Forgotten Harvest, Mike Spicer, says this is the worst he's ever seen for Forgotten Harvest. Last year, their efforts fed 750,000 people. This year, that number will grow by another 250,000 people.

No matter where you look –– churches, schools and businessess, food assistance for the needy, the unemployed and others is in high demand and so are volunteers down 40 percent during this pandemic.

The Owner of National Food Group, Sean Zecman, is not only on the board of Forgotten Harvest, he's also a volunteer. He told 7 Action News, you can sit behind a desk and try to help and sometimes you can roll up your sleeves and try to help, and this week was about rolling up his sleeves.

Forgotten Harvest is not alone. This 7-month pandemic has brought on major challenges for nonprofits like First Step, which serves victims of domestic violence and the need is overwhelming. Even before the pandemic, they were turning away about 150 families a month who needed emergency shelter to be safe from violence.

First Step had to retool their shelter because many families had to home-school their children in the shelter.

Donations are down, their annual gala done virtually, but others in the community have stepped up to help with fundraising dollars.

We also wanted to spotlight another nonprofit targeting literacy. Beyond Basics, co-founded by Pamela Good, is in Detroit Public Schools Community District and other districts helping to teach kids to read in a record time of six weeks. However, the pandemic brought the program to a screeching halt.

Good says it was a shock on March 12 when schools were closed because school is where they reach kids. Immediately, 80 tutors did not have a place to go tutor.

So like everyone else they had to regroup and begin tutoring online one-on-one.

Good says she believes that illiteracy is connected to almost every social ill. If you cannot read, you can't get a job, you can't take care of yourself or your family.

Beyond Basics typically reaches 500 students annually but the need is far greater with 85 percent of DPSCD students reading two grade levels behind.

We asked each of these nonprofits what the community can do to help them. Forgotten Harvest desperately needs volunteers and donations.

For more information and to donate, visit www.forgottenharvest.org.

First Step needs monetary donations to help supply shelter families with necessary supplies to survive. To help, visit Firststep-mi.org.

Beyond Basics needs volunteers to tutor and to read with kids and donations are always welcome. For more information, contact info@beyondbasics.org

Bottom line, with so much need if we all do a little, the lift for these organizations that do so much won't be so heavy.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.