Kitchen Cupboard has drive-up

Oelwein Community Kitchen Cupboard volunteers inside the window from left, Anita Mars, Judy Malget and Al Baldwin, put the boxes of food orders together and pass them through the window to volunteer Carol Hamilton, who gives the food to clients through their car windows. This is the new “drive-up” system in place to promote social distancing during the pandemic. Clients that walk to the food bank can wait inside in the hallway while their food items are packaged for them.

The Oelwein Community Kitchen Cupboard has also adapted to continue serving clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a cue from local banks and other businesses with drive ups, the local food bank in the basement of First Baptist Church, 31 First Ave. N.E., is serving clients through a window to the church parking lot.

Most of the time, the window is used to unload large food donations. In these days of social distancing, it is serving a dual purpose.

“We have some standard food items like pancake and cake mixes already boxed. We hand out a sheet of items they can choose from and clients mark their orders. We add it to their boxes and distribute it out the window,” said Carol Hamilton, longtime volunteer.

The Kitchen Cupboard has posted a sign on its door that asks clients who drive to the site to pull up to the third window from the street and honk their horn. If there are multiple cars waiting for service, persons are asked to form an orderly line.

When asked how the walk-up clients get their attention, Carol said they watch the window, or if they miss seeing someone, the client taps on the window to let them know they are there. Those who walk to the Kitchen Cupboard are allowed to wait in the hallway inside while their order is filled.

“We’re doing what we can to limit personal contact while still serving persons who are referred. Every day we come up with new ideas that help serve our clients and keep us all safe,” she said. Carol added that she is the only one that has any close contact with clients. The rest of the volunteers work from the basement window, while she comes outside to assist.

Carol said the Council of Churches Board members, which is the governing body for the Kitchen Cupboard, has authorized an emergency service plan to provide assistance to persons, due to the current pandemic situation and many suddenly without income.

“We are starting out offering this to 100 families through Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation, which is the referring agency. This will allow families to have a disaster visit if they have not otherwise been approved,” Carol said.

She explained the process is for families to call NEICAC, 319-283-2510, to request a referral to go to the Kitchen Cupboard. A worker will fill out a form from questions asked over the phone. The filled out form will be mailed to the family who can then present it at the Kitchen Cupboard to get the needed food.

The Oelwein Community Kitchen Cupboard is open 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, and 1-4 p.m. on Fridays in the lower level of First Baptist Church. Persons with questions must call during hours of operation, 283-3595.

“Once we have the 100 visits, we will assess and see if we have the means to do more and if more are still needed,” Carol said. “We can’t bankrupt the Cupboard to do this, but we want to be here to do what we can to help as many as we can.”

Carol reminds area residents that donations are always welcome. The best way to make a donation right now is to purchase one of the $5 or $10 purple bags at Fareway or mail a check to Community Kitchen Cupboard, 31 First Ave. N.E., Oelwein, IA 50662.