The anxiety surrounding the coronavirus is understandable. Just as many of us are weighing our personal choices to protect ourselves and our families, our neighbors in need have no choice if they are hungry, need financial resources, or need safe shelter. A pandemic is punishing to everyone, but the people who rely on our social safety net can be harmed the most severely. This is why, now more than ever, we need to bolster support for local nonprofits.

The health and safety of people is more than a priority for us, it is our mission: 360 Communities delivers safety and stability that improves lives. We have already acted to ensure that our clients, our volunteers, and our staff are as safe as possible. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have instituted measures that:

1. Eliminate and/or limit social contact

2. Maintain “clean areas” where volunteers and staff are working

Food shelves, resource centers

Beginning Monday, March 16, all five 360 Communities food shelves shifted from shopping models, where customers shop for their food, to pre-pack models. The food shelf and resource center doors in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Lakeville, and Rosemount will be closed to the public. Food orders and donation drop-offs will be arranged ahead of time by calling. Food shelf customers can drive up to receive their food orders. With the temporary closing of Farmington Schools, the Farmington Food Shelf will temporarily close as well. Farmington Food Shelf customers can call 952-985-5300 to be scheduled at another 360 Communities food shelf. Visit 360Communities.org for more information and updates. Our domestic and sexual violence shelters will continue to operate and limit non-essential social exposure.

How you can help

Together, we are the answer to this crisis. You can be the difference for many neighbors in need. Please, if you are able, support your local Dakota County nonprofits in the following ways:

• Donate money. Financial donations are the easiest and safest way to support your neighbors in need. During Minnesota FoodShare’s March Campaign, your contributions to food shelves qualify for a portion of Minnesota FoodShare’s grant dollars. Food shelves also stretch your contributions through access to discount food programs like Second Harvest.

• Share your resources. We have seen runs on household essentials at our local stores. Many families and individuals do not have the means to stock up on these items. They will rely on nonprofits for help. Food and personal care items are needed.

• Volunteer. If you are not in a high-risk category and feel healthy, please consider volunteering at a local nonprofit. Many volunteers at nonprofits fall in high-risk categories and may need to step away from their volunteer roles during this time. We need others to step up and help.

• Watch for domestic and sexual violence. We anticipate that the need for these services will increase with the introduction of more stress in the home. Call our 24-hour hotline 651-452-7288 to reach a Lewis House advocate if you or someone you know needs help.

During a pandemic, we are told to create distance from one another for our safety. It is necessary advice to slow the spread of the contagion and flatten the growth curve of the pandemic. Let’s do our best to balance this advice with our care for the most vulnerable in our communities. Together we are strong, and we will see this through.

Jeff Mortensen is president and CEO of 360 Communities, a Dakota County nonprofit that delivers safety and stability that improves lives. Visit 360Communities.org today to find out more. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.

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