Agape Resource Center is defying conventional wisdom during COVID-19 — and that is both a good and a bad thing.
The organization on East Sixth Street that exists to help families with food and clothing has, over the past several months, seen a dramatic drop in the number of people coming to their doors for help.
"Not may people are in to get food or to shop [for clothes]," said director Carol Gaeta. "I don’t know if they are afraid of the virus. I do not know, for sure, what is going on there. ... I am kind of stumped of what to do."
She says all the clothing is steamed before it’s put on the racks for those in need. The organization did get a grant early on in the COVID-19 pandemic to purchase food for a the food pantry.
"Especially food; you would have thought we would have run out by now," Gaeta said.
Food assistance is available for the unemployed at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, and for those with a job 10 a.m. Thursdays. Families can be served every six weeks. Those seeking food should bring a utility bill to confirm their address. The clothing program exists on donated clothes, with those clothes available for free.
The organization also has seen a drop in financial support — support needed to keep the building open.
"We are not getting cash donations coming in," Gaeta said. "That keeps the bills paid — the electric bill and so forth — to keep the doors open."
This fall they have turned to a new grant and funding source — Community Thrives, which creates fundraising websites for initiatives in addition to awarding grants nationwide in an attempt to raise funds.
Fundraising, and online fundraising, has been a struggle for Agape in the past.
"It has never worked for us," Gaeta said. "I have a gofundme page that hardly anyone contributes to. I have had one person there in two years."
She is oping things will be different for Community Thrives. The Agape Resource Center drive can be found at https://acommunitythrives.mightycause.com/Agape-Resource-Center.
The goal is for $2,500 in donations to support general operations.
"We need to keep the bills paid," she said.
A Community Thrives received 944 total submissions nationwide. Trinity Heights Respite Care is one of two Newton organizations participating in the program, Agape Resource Center is the other.
There are nine grants approved in the state of Kansas — all in communities served by sister papers to the Newton Kansan. Communities served include Newton, El Dorado, McPherson and Topeka.
The nationwide crowdfunding and grant program is entering its fourth year of supporting organizations that address social issues including education, housing, arts and culture, wellness and the environment.
A Community Thrives will award over 100 grants nationally that will be targeted specifically toward communities served by Gannett news organizations. In Kansas, that includes nine daily newspapers and eight weekly papers.
These local grants, which start at $2,500, can be used for general operating expenses. They are chosen by leaders at Gannett news organizations.
"We need all the help we can get," Gaeta said.