The article below was written by Hadley Barndollar and appeared in Seacoast Online on April 8th. It describes how the Town of Kittery has teamed with local nonprofits—including York County Community Action—to address the needs of its residents and surrounding communities during the coronavirus pandemic. The players making up Kittery’s “social safety net” have designed a central point of access for individuals seeking assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. People who find themselves struggling financially should call (207) 439-2699, the York County Community Action office in Kittery. Individuals will then be referred to proper services. The effort is comprised of End 68 Hours of Hunger, Fair Tide Housing, Footprints Food Pantry, Fuel & More, Meals on Wheels, Table of Plenty, York County Community Action, York Hospital, Mary Safford Wildes Trust and the town of Kittery. These entities address an array of needs, including food access, transportation, medical care, case work and housing. “If you’re already in a difficult position trying to find services, having to call this one for this and that one for that, that adds additional stress and can see people fall through the cracks,” said Town Manager Kendra Amaral. Amaral said the organizations had been working together and with the town to further bolster the “safety net” and streamlined access to resources, so when the health emergency hit, they were already closely connected with similar goals in mind. “We immediately sent out to everyone, ‘Alright let’s work together,’ because we know it’s going to impact the residents in a way we haven’t seen,” Amaral said. Once individuals contact the YCCAC Kittery office, cases will then be shared between YCCAC and Fair Tide’s case managers, who will connect them to available resources. “We came together as social service agencies in Kittery with the intention of creating an easy, user friendly way to access assistance in the midst of this crisis,” said Fair Tide Executive Director Emily Flinkstrom. “We have created a common application to be used to request financial assistance from multiple agencies who have funds set aside for this purpose. The application will be sent out from the case manager to the agencies, taking the onus off of the household to contact several different organizations and share their story several times over. This will make for a more efficient and streamlined process for those who need it.” Flinkstrom said while officials have not yet seen a major uptick in calls, “we know the wave will come.” “There are so many households who live on the margins and through losing any amount of income will be unable to pay their bills,” she said. “On top of that, many households who did have some savings will see it depleted as this pandemic persists.” Fair Tide specifically has an emergency fund for people requiring assistance in order to meet their basic needs. Donations can be made at fairtide.org/donate. Volunteers at Footprints Food Pantry, which is seeing increased demand, are keeping proper social distance by having clients remain in their vehicles on pick-up days, while they’re brought pre-packed items. The pantry has also been soliciting for toilet paper donations. People can email firstname.lastname@example.org, and pantry volunteers will come pick up the toilet paper. This week, the town also launched a “Kittery Together” volunteer form, allowing residents to sign up to donate supplies, food items or volunteer hours.
“Kittery is a generous, caring community that has a knack for coming together in times of need,” the town announced on its website. “We understand that people are looking to help each other in meaningful ways during this emergency.” Amaral said as of Wednesday, they’d received nearly 30 responses. She’d already connected one woman who sought to sew masks for first responders with Police Chief Robert Richter. “We’re working it as we go, but I think it’s already being helpful,” she said. The “Kittery Together” volunteer form can be accessed at kitteryme.gov.