COLORADO SPRINGS — For some in Colorado Springs, Marion House Soup Kitchen is one of their only options for a meal each day. The soup kitchen keeps going despite COVID-19, but it has had to make changes.
The lunchtime line outside the Marion House used to be to get inside. "Now we're doing a sack lunch from eleven to noon," said Rochelle Schlortt with Catholic Charities. The dining hall is now closed.
A previous COVID-19 prevention plan allowing diners inside had to be scrapped. “Normally we have 500 people in the building on any given day," said Marion House, Director, Jim Benavidez. They tried to lower the number of people in the dining room by keeping some outside until others finished and left the space. "We tried to implement the social distancing and really just didn't work effectively. We would've been serving the meal until three-thirty, four in the afternoon," said Schlortt.
There are less people working in the kitchen. “Just because of the social distancing piece alone we’ve had to draw the volunteer numbers back, said Benavidez. It is also because a lot of the usual volunteers are retired and in the high-risk category for COVID-19. "We have seen a lot of younger folks volunteer this week that we've never seen before."
Staff have also become a resource for news about the COVID-19 response. “Some of those folks really have no idea of what's going on,” said Schlortt, “We find that every day, we are educating people as to what is going on in our community."
Whatever safety changes happen, Marion House staff is committed to making sure everyone can get a daily balanced meal. "These are definitely uncharted waters that we're sailing here,” said Benavidez, “We're trying to be that safety net for everyone."
COVID-19 concerns in the community add to the challenges at the soup kitchen. “Donations are down a little bit,” said Schlortt, “our costs are up.” It is in part, the result of clearing shelves at grocery stores and stockpiling food. With businesses shuttered and people out of work in response to COVID-19, the soup kitchen is preparing for even more people need services.