Enquiries to The Salvation Army in Tauranga have doubled compared to last year, with over 260 requests for help since the end of March, meeting the needs of over 600 people.
Providing support in the form of social work, food, clothing, furniture and non-food essential items, The Salvation Army has also been helping families across the Western Bay experience some sense of normality in these strange times.
Whether delivering Easter eggs and activity packs to whanau with young children, providing vital communication supplies such as phones and laptops to keep people connected, or helping families to celebrate birthdays with cake and party supplies, the charity has been a beacon of positivity.
All staff have been working remotely during lockdown levels 4 and 3, and have been using masks, gloves and hand sanitiser as they continue to provide their vital welfare service.
Their team have been responding to needs for support via phone, email, text and messenger, with demand expanding significantly since the lockdown, particularly via the many referrals they receive through partners Civil Defence and other welfare providers.
The Salvation Army Community Ministries Manager Davina Plummer says they are supporting a wide range of people from all walks of life.
"We are keeping in contact with the elderly, supporting international students and migrants with hardship, and doing grocery shopping on behalf of those who cannot leave their homes.
"We have also increased our social work support for those currently in our transitional housing— helping to alleviate anxiety, help establish or maintain routines, maintain health, and education, advocacy on employment matters and accessing wage subsidy.
Davina says they are seeing many families struggling with increased power, communication and food costs, decreased income, stress, anxiety and not being able to access wider family or support networks.
One client, who had never had to rely on help from the foodbank or other support systems before, was grateful for the support when they had no one else to turn to.
"Due to the current COVID-19 situation, my partner and I are unable to work and have been struggling financially. Someone mentioned about the Salvation Army offering a food parcel for people in need. I text a number and someone rang me back the next day. Within 2 hours, I had a box of groceries at my door. I just couldn't believe the items that were given to us; it was everything we needed."
For others, having access to a laptop provided by The Salvation Army will be the difference between their children struggling and succeeding in school. Another client's feedback reads:
"I can't thank you enough for thinking of my family when you bought the laptop around today. It will be such a help for my children's schoolwork, and for me to update CVs for jobs and heaps more. I'm totally grateful for your help and the support of The Salvation Army."
To support the increased costs The Salvation Army were facing, they applied for funding through the Rapid Response Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council.
The $10,600 they received helped them purchase 40 phones for those with no means of communication, provide games and craft supplies for 60 families to help them engage together positively, and allowed them to upgrade to a commercial freezer to cope with the increased demand for food parcels.
TECT Chairperson Bill Holland says TECT is proud to be working with other funders to assist with these costs; a small price to pay for the wellbeing of our community’s people.
“Our community has shown incredible resilience and support for one another during this challenging time, and we are pleased this funding can help The Salvation Army continue their work and play their part in that.
“Whether it’s food for a week, an activity pack for a day, or telephone support for an hour, one thing for sure is that The Salvation Army’s support will be remembered for a lifetime by the many vulnerable people in our community they are helping.”
To learn more about The Salvation Army, visit https://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/