When A Second Chance, Inc., Allegheny County’s primary kinship care provider, heard about the need for food distribution help in Penn Hills early in the pandemic, the organization quickly redeployed staff in a creative way with enormous impact.
A Second Chance has 28 family service transportation aides who normally help to arrange and oversee visits between birth mothers, their children, and relatives serving as caregivers. Once the COVID crisis broke out, these aides weren’t arranging live visits as usual; instead they were working out of the organization’s office in East Hills. With no travel taking place, they had some free time.
And Sharon McDaniel, A Second Chance’s president and CEO, had an idea. She sent DHS leadership an e-mail asking if her staff could help in filling a food delivery gap.
Within five days, a dozen of A Second Chance’s transportation aides were transformed into a food distribution team, taking meals provided by the United Way and Eat ‘n Park to locations across Penn Hills. Two staff members made masks for the aides, who were trained in how to make safe grab-and-go delivery visits without making direct contact.
The team delivered 1,000 meals on the first day, April 15. Soon they were up to 3,200 a day for three days a week, reaching an amazing cumulative total of 52,000 by the end of May. Transportation and logistics were supervised by A Second Chance vice president Lisa Chambers and David Brock, managing director of family and community engagement.
A Second Chance spent $10,000 of its own funds to enhance the available food supply. And when Nutrition Inc. provided additional food in bulk form, the food distribution team started showing up earlier, functioning as an assembly line—while carefully observing social distancing protocol—to put individual meal packages together for delivery.
Meanwhile, the other transportation aides took over the whole A Second Chance caseload, maintaining a 91% visitation rate (mostly virtual visits by Skype or Facetime).
“They made the shift seamlessly and joyfully,” McDaniel said of her reassigned staff. “They are wonderful frontline workers. They know that there’s a need and that our work has to be different now, and they do this with such exuberance.”
Moreover, 20 staff at A Second Chance offered to become emergency caregivers if necessary for children of first responders who became ill or needed to self-isolate.