GLADWIN COUNTY – The Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom Connect meeting on Friday, April 24 for non-profit organizations to have a discussion about how they are actively serving the community during this time of stress and hardship. 

The Zoom meeting was hosted by Yvette Keast, Executive Director for the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce. She began by introducing the guest speakers for the discussion and having each of them speak about how their organization has been operating during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Yvette first introduced Lori Stout who is the Executive Director for the Gladwin City Housing Commission. Lori mentioned a couple of programs that are tied to the Gladwin City Housing Commission including the Council on Aging and Senior Services which has sent out a total of 10,184 meals to seniors over the last 30 days. 

The Gladwin City County Transit is another service that is offered by the Housing Commission. The transit system is down to about half of their drivers currently, they also have moved to a free ride system. Commuters are able to do up to two rides (both to and from) a total of three times each week. This free service allows for people who are suffering from the economic downturn to save money on their travels to essential locations. 

“We’re trying to do our best and we’re hoping that soon we will be able to get back to our normal lives,” Lori said. 

Yvette then introduced Eva Rohlman, the Outreach Director for the Mid Michigan Community Action Agency (MMCAA). According to the MMCAA website, their mission is to guide local residents on the path to self-sufficiency through empowerment, education and community enrichment. While all offices remain closed for the agency at this time, employees continue to work from home and their services are being conducted over the phone. 

“We are hearing from families that they are struggling with rent, that they’re struggling with utilities, many people are still waiting on unemployment,” Eva said. “So we’ve been in close contact with the kids and their families making sure that they have their food needs and those sorts of things met.”

The action agency is able to assist people who are having issues with paying bills on time through their utility assistance. 

The only building that the MMCAA has that remains open across six counties is their food warehouse according to Eva. Both April and May food boxes for seniors were packed and included in the April distribution through car-based deliveries to avoid further exposure for the seniors. Eva believes this was a great way for the staff to supply a quick boost of food for the seniors.

“We’re still making plans for when the world reopens and when our staff comes back, but for now we’re keeping in close contact with all of our contacts to make sure that immediate needs are being met.” 

Sarah Kile, Executive Director for 211 Northeast Michigan was the next speaker to be introduced. According to their website, 211 is a free and easy to remember telephone number that connects people in need with people who can help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This support service looks to assist people with essential needs through referrals and information while keeping all conversations confidential. 

“If you have someone who is looking to connect with their senior services, Eva’s programs at Mid Michigan Community Action, 211 is that connector,” Sarah said.

211 assists in connecting people in need with non-profits and others that will be able to problem solve different scenarios. This service is a crucial service for the public to be aware of because people continue to face hardships they haven’t experienced before such as the spike in unemployment and the limited access to both goods and services. 

“You don’t have to struggle alone,” Sarah said. “The longer you sit and wait thinking, ‘I’m not sure if I have a need or I’ve never struggled before and probably won’t qualify for anything,’ call 211 and ask us. We have these programs in our database and it’s our job to connect you to those local services.”

Sarah believes that it takes strength for people to admit that they are struggling and that they may need help. Even making a connection with someone about a specific issue can help resolve it. For example, Members First Credit Union is offering a temporary 90-day Loan Payment Deferment Program to relieve financial stress from its members. Many organizations are also creating ways to accommodate people during these times of uncertainty and if finding out who to contact is a challenge, calling 211 will guide callers to those who can help.

“The truth is, we’re all in this together and more now than ever, people want to help,” Sarah said. 

Other local organizations continue to tend to immediate needs in the community as well. The Helping Hands Mission in Beaverton has been holding a food distribution on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. They also have a food pantry open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The Sacred Heart Mission in Gladwin also has a food pantry that is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

The Chamber plans on continuing weekly Zoom meetings on Fridays at 9 a.m. with the next meeting focusing on unemployment questions and answers with MichiganWorks!. See the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page on Friday for the link and information for joining the meeting.

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