Six feet apart, everybody

Volunteers Phyllis Greer, left, and Diane Vanderwest work together at an appropriate social distance in Lexington Park at the Church of the Ascension’s outdoor food bank Wednesday afternoon.

Shelters and churches, which normally supply food and a place to stay for the county’s homeless, have had to restrategize how they carry out their missions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mission, a daytime shelter in Lexington Park for people who are homeless, normally houses “25 to 50” homeless people during the day, according to its director, Richard Myers.

With the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, The Mission will no longer be a large gathering space, but rather a place to return to.

The shelter is giving tents, sleeping bags and necessities to those who need them, and sending them on their way for about a day, after which they can return, Myers said on Tuesday.

“We’ll give them enough food for the next 24 hours,” Myers said. “We’ll give them a tent, a sleeping bag, and the things they need.”

The patrons are then shuttled back in groups of about 10 people each day, during the shelter’s extended hours, to restock on food, have a meal and take a shower.

The shuttling time works around the schedule of the St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen just down the street on Great Mills Road, which transitioned to take-and-go meals on Monday, handing out alternating hot meals and cold sandwiches between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.

“We’re trying to pick up where the soup kitchen leaves off,” Myers said. The Mission is aiming to bring their patrons back during either breakfast or dinner hours, earlier or later in the day than when the soup kitchen is operating, according to Myers.

If a new patron comes to The Mission, their temperature will be taken before they are let in, to prevent the virus from spreading to others who rely on the shelter as a place to stay, Myers said.

“It’s kind of a weird situation,” Myers said. “But we’re just doing the best we can, and making sure everyone gets what they need.”

Up Great Mills Road at the Church of the Ascension, which was shut down for services last week along with the entire Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the sign out front says the “building is closed, but the church is open.”

The church’s food pantry is running out of the parking lot from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday, and also runs an afternoon session from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The food pantry recently received good news — a large donation was delivered, stocking the pantry for at least two weeks.

“There is some concern,” the Rev. Greg Syler said, noting about three times as many visitors came during the morning session than prior to the pandemic. “We’re exhausting our supplies, but we have more coming in.”

The church’s food bank does not plan to run out anytime soon, though, and Ascension’s volunteers see providing necessities as a way for a church in a struggling community to provide during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now that you can’t be in your building, how do you be the church?” Syler said.

Farther north in the county, the Loaves Of Love Food Ministry and Pantry at Real Life Wesleyan Church at 27399 Old Village Road in Mechanicsville will keep offering bread, bagels and other foods to those in need on Wednesdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Although the church will be closed for services and all other meetings, food will continue to be given to those in need. For more, call 240-249-6098 or visit www.RealLife.us.

Twitter: @DanEntNews

Twitter: @DanEntNews