Over the last four years, The River’s Operations Lead Jon Clark has built many relationships and experienced many changes, especially after the pandemic hit. For Jon, the biggest challenge with COVID-19 is not being able to connect as directly with clients. “I definitely miss the one-on-one family connections we had when families were able to shop and meet inside The River. Being outside, the interaction is different, but we do our best to connect with the families and make them happy,” Jon said.
These days Jon prefers working outside to help with curbside distribution so he can continue his connection with long-time clients. “I like being outside interacting with clients. A lot of them come here to socialize, so it’s important we keep that bond. I get to say hi and ask how their families are doing.”
Jon also focuses on welcoming first-time clients. “I helped a woman who lost her job due to COVID-19. She said she never thought she would need to visit a food pantry and felt weird asking for food. As we loaded her car, she couldn’t believe how much food she was getting,” said Jon, who noticed she had a baby carrier in the backseat. “When I asked if she would like diapers too, she started to cry. I told her, ‘I wish I could give you a hug.’ Every time she comes back, she thanks me. If she no longer wants or needs to visit us for food once she can go back to work, we will miss her. At the same time, we will be happy for her.”
Although the pandemic and social distancing make it even harder for people to get enough food, Jon says, “No matter what, we’ll be here to help whoever needs us—it might just be in a different way.”
This story was originally published in our Summer 2020 Newsletter.