People of the Pov: Fall 2020 Edition

 

Town Pump Charitable Foundation: Montanans Helping Montanans


Providing food, shelter, help and hope to all who ask is nothing if not a team effort. While the Poverello Center is hard at work running programs like Food Recovery and Emergency Shelter, we have many partners standing alongside us, making it possible not only to be sustainable, but also to grow. For over 11 years, Town Pump has been a friend and community partner of ours.

As a Montana-based company of gas stations, hotels, casinos and more, Town Pump is a dedicated member of our community, with a Charitable Foundation designed to help them stay connected to the needs of Montanans.
Director of Corporate Communications Bill McGladdery paints a clear picture of why it has been important for Town Pump to be involved in the Poverello Center’s work. “The mission of the Town Pump Foundation is to help meet basic needs of Montanans,” he explains, “and we believe the Poverello Center’s mission and programs dovetail right into that by meeting the basic needs of shelter, food… as well as programs for Veterans.”
In support of its mission, the Foundation is on to its 19th year of its signature Food Bank Fundraiser, Be a Friend in Deed, Help Those in Need Campaign. What started out as a collaboration among 15 shelters and food banks with a budget of $50,000 has now grown to reach 93 food banks and shelters with an amazing $750,000 budget. The Poverello Center is proud to be part of this far reaching annual event.

What makes Town Pump’s Charitable Foundation so special is the dedication and involvement in community support within its own work culture. McGladdery shares how hunger issues are discussed in monthly meetings with all staff members, their team working together to better understand the impact of their donation drives and who it is that benefits most from them. This is also what has helped build such a strong partnership between Town Pump and the Poverello Center says McGladdery, “we don’t always know who is in most need of help but if we can help the Pov, we know the resources will make it to those people”. We know this is true. The Poverello Center works directly with our most vulnerable and at risk neighbors and thanks to Town Pump, for over a decade we have been able to provide our guests thousands of hot meals, warm overnight shelter, and above all, hope.

While Town Pump helps us meet the very immediate and necessary needs of so many, we also share the same dream for the future of our work. McGladdery says Town Pump hopes to see our work together continue for many years to come while at the same time finding solutions across the state to address homelessness. This is a true and beautiful dream and one that will only be possible through trust, commitment and understanding within our community. With their annual donations and fundraising matching, Town Pump is helping make a difference in the daily lives of everyone we work with. It is only when we can count one the basic needs of food and shelter to be met that we can expand our efforts to look forward towards long term change. One step at a time, together we will continue to share and undo the burden of homelessness on our community. If it impacts one person, it impacts us all and as Town Pump likes to put it, in the end it comes down to Montanans helping Montanans.

 

Staff Spotlight: Food Rescue Truck Driver Robby Matherne Keeps Shelves and Hearts Full


Cruising through the streets of Missoula in the Poverello Center’s food rescue truck is the best ride in town. Down every street and around every turn, it is met with smiles and waves followed by an enthusiastic honk as the truck expertly ducks into each grocery store loading dock. While the impressive amount of food rescued and shared with hungry neighbors is undoubtedly impressive, over 10,000 pounds weekly, what has made this truck and this program so famous around town is its driver. Robby Matherne, brought on to drive the truck in 2019, has quickly established himself at the Poverello Center as reliable, dedicated and friendly to everyone.

Robby enjoying the outdoors

Knowing the names and stories of all employees at the 10 grocery stores and handful of restaurants is nothing compared to the openness and supportiveness he shows guests at the Poverello Center. Robby sees people holistically, taking the time to learn not only their struggles but also their hobbies and interests. He knows what type of food each guest likes and how long it has been since their last meal. In part, this is why driving the truck around town means more to Robby than just poundage and mileage, he knows that his presence represents hope and community to so many. Each pound of food he logs and transports holds the weight of real people with real stories and needs. “It is so hard to see people hungry and I feel for them. No one should be denied food,” he explains.

Originally from Colorado, Robby has worked and lived all over the country. He has many years of experience in maintenance, everything from building ski lifts to working as a remodeling contractor. His direct handyman experience was “many aches and pains ago” and the transition to the Pov, while still requiring the strength for moving many pounds of food, is a great fit for him, “[I] love my job at the Pov,” he says enthusiastically to anyone who asks.

Beyond physical labor, working for the Poverello Center is not always easy. Addressing hunger and homelessness means not only sharing in the successes of recovering food, for example, but also feeling the weight and struggle of lives in crisis. Robby meets the difficulty with compassion and patience, standing with people, food in hand, even on their worst days. I was lucky enough to see Robby in action, following along on his morning food rescue route. Before we had even left the Poverello Center parking lot, he made it clear how impactful the job is, “some are bred for success and some are bred for significance,” referring to himself as the latter. To prevent food waste, provide hot meals to all who ask, and radiate hope through partnership and understanding, significance is surely an understatement.

 

#PovFacts Fall 2020

 

Volunteer Spotlight: The National Guard Touches Down in Povlandia


Every edition of our newsletter we love to spotlight volunteers for their meaningful and essential contribution to the Pov. These past few months have brought many changes to our community and our work, which has been reflected not only in our programming, but in our staffing as well. We are excited to take this opportunity to reflect on a very new presence and form of assistance we have been grateful to receive during these unprecedented times.

With the discovery of COVID-19 among our staff, our full efforts went into protecting the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and guests. With our capacity temporarily limited as a result, some extra help was called in to ensure that our emergency shelter services could remain in full swing. Therefore, on Saturday, August 15, the Poverello Center welcomed six new friends and temporary volunteers onto our team, members of the US National Guard. Ryan Chevera, Morgan Lawson-Sanderlin, Albert Tedrick, Ethan Moroldo, Ryan Stansberry, and Michael Steuhler answered the National Guard’s request for volunteers and joined us from the Kalispell Reserve Response Force.

Splitting up into two different shifts, our new team members quickly got to work cleaning, handing out sack lunches to guests, and providing staff a helping hand in maintaining our workflow and service capacity. While this posting was unlike previous assignments these National Guard members have had, their presence felt rewarding not only for us, but for them as well. “It’s always good to see and meet different people. It’s not just serving with the National Guard and being in the military, but also a personal feeling – it feels great to be here and help do what’s needed for these community members and make an impact in the community in a different way.”

The National Guard team helped hand out sack lunches and water bottles each day from the Pov courtyard

At a time of high stress in our country, working with the National Guard was a wonderful reminder of what can be accomplished when we all work together. They were fully present with a willingness to learn and an openness about their experiences as Guard members, explaining that people often do not fully understand the extent of the National Guard’s role in our country. They remind us that their top priority is to ensure the welfare of community and state, meaning they respond to all types of requests for assistance in emergencies such as fire, disaster relief, and most recently pandemic, through COVID19 testing and medical transportation of essential equipment.

As for us, we saw this crew make connections with guests, learning their names and checking in to see how they were doing. It was a true act of community support and with every day, we witnessed the amazing resilience of the people around us. Bringing in the National Guard may have seemed a surprising move but before long the Pov team and many of the guests fell into a routine, embracing the change and appreciating what we were able to accomplish together. We cannot fully express our gratitude to these six individuals for stepping in and lending a hand in a moment never before seen at the Poverello Center. Their work ethic, efficiency and motivation are some to be admired.

Through their time with us, the National Guard shared some of their most interesting experiences, “Probably walking up in the morning to start the day’s work to see a guest of the Poverello wielding a toy blue lightsaber with reckless abandon in the parking lot. ‘Just another day in Povlandia’”. They have left a lasting impression on us at the Pov and based on their stories, we have a hunch the feeling is mutual.

 

Missoula Food Bank:  A Partnership Success Story


A snapshot of the last few months at the Poverello Center would not be complete without addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our guests and appreciating the support from our community partners in tackling these unparalleled challenges.

As mentioned in words from our Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson, we are seeing an unprecedented rise in unsheltered homelessness in Missoula. While this economic and public health crisis has brought change for us all, the neighbors we serve are uniquely and severely impacted. Although safety precautions were swiftly enacted in our building to protect guests and staff, it has been difficult for individuals to securely shelter in place when their shelter is shared with dozens of other people. Many individuals walk through our doors each day, a number that is only increasing as unemployment rates remain high in Missoula. With social distancing encouraged, the added risk has deterred guests from accessing our building for services.

Our mission of providing food, shelter, help and hope to all has no boundaries or limitations therefore a clear and immediate priority of ours has been to ensure reliable meals continue to be accessible to all people, regardless of where they lay their heads.
A key player in addressing this issue has been the Missoula Food Bank, with whom we’ve created and maintained a cooperative and symbiotic relationship. They have a history of assisting not only with our general donation needs but also happily accepting donations that we can’t use. Needless to say, they have been crucial in seeing to it that our clients have access to food.Within just a few weeks of the pandemic, the Montana Food Bank started making sack lunches for the Poverello Center. Providing roughly 500-700 sack lunches a week, they have increased our capacity to provide meals through our Homeless Outreach, which helps to extend our food support far beyond the Pov’s doors. Our Food Programs Manager Jared Bell expresses deep gratitude for this extended support, “It’s been a real help because our capacity to manufacture sack lunches has been decimated by the pandemic.”

And the Missoula Food Bank did not stop there. As we discovered that we had positive COVID-19 cases among our staff, one of our most pressing concerns was how to continue addressing the hunger in our community. The Missoula Food Bank was our first call and without hesitation, they stepped right in, increasing their sack lunch donations, including breakfast meals for guests, and facilitating our purchase of JA Shelf-Stable meals as emergency backup. Not only did this help secure our ability to provide meals, the added support also allowed the Pov to focus staff time on overnight emergency shelter, another top priority for us.

The Missoula Food Bank is part of our town’s foundation. Their advocacy, volunteerism and healthy food far extend their services to us at the Poverello Center and so we could not be more thankful for their help during this time of crisis. They have been supportive, responsive, and flexible as we have made changes. We know many people are hurting right now and while this time is scary and confusing, we hope our community, especially our clients, can take some solace in knowing the Pov isn’t going anywhere and we are backed by the strong and unfaltering support of partners like the Missoula Food Bank. Together we will get through this.

 

Welcome to our new Jesuit Volunteer Corps member, Liam Seymour!

The Poverello Center is thankful to continue a nine year partnership with JVC Northwest, working together to meet the needs of our community.

Liam has jumped right into the mix with our staff and we can’t wait to spend the next year making great strides in our shared commitment to helping those in need.

A Letter from the Executive Director

Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson

As I am sure you saw in the news, the Poverello Center had our first cases of COVID-19 in our building. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we knew it was only a matter of time until we had our first case. I am incredibly proud of the entire Poverello Staff for how they responded and very thankful for community partners like the Missoula Food Bank and National Guard for helping us continue our mission to provide food, shelter, help, and hope during this difficult time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is further exposing and making worse a crisis that I know you are all too aware of. The lack of affordable homes, living wages, and mental health and substance abuse support in our community mean that people experiencing homelessness are getting pushed even further to the margins of our society. And now, the economic consequences of the pandemic are starting to add to the number of people without a home.

We are beginning to hear reports from rental management companies that they are nearing a 0% vacancy rate in the market-rate apartments and this will make access to affordable rental housing even harder. Our Homeless Outreach Team is seeing more and more people living unsheltered in our community and they are having a harder time helping those people find permanent housing.

As the winter approaches, we are acutely aware that we need to make sure we have enough space to both continue our social distancing protocols and shelter everyone who needs a warm place to be. We cannot allow ourselves to be in the position to have to choose between someone catching COVID-19 inside or freezing to death outside.

The good news is that we are very close to having a plan in place for this winter. The Poverello Center has been in an ongoing conversation with the City and County Officials to get a plan in place. I am confident that we will be able to provide a warm place to sleep for our neighbors without a home this winter.

However, we must also remember that whatever plans we put in place are just stop-gap measures. The solution to homelessness is a home, and to make that solution a reality will take all of us advocating for an investment in more affordable housing, more living-wage jobs, and more mental health and substance abuse services. This Fall, I strongly encourage you to ask those people who are running for elected office in our state about what they will do to meet the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors.