PEABODY — While a lot of the commonwealth was able to take a break from dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the same can’t be said for Corey Jackson, executive director of Citizens Inn, a social-services organization in the city that focuses on breaking cycles of hunger and homelessness.
On a video series titled “Coffee with Corey,” Jackson discussed on Tuesday the gigantic impact that COVID-19 had on the organization. The executive director said that the organization is seeing people come to the food pantry for the very first time due to loss of housing or employment.
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“I think a lot of people got a reprieve and started taking off the masks, started feeling safer doing a lot of things, but in our programs it never really changed from March 2020 to now,” Jackson said in Tuesday’s installment. “We are still fully masked in all public spaces and in all interactions with clients. We are still doing a lot of the safety protocols around the plexiglass and cleaning, and all of those protocols that we had in place in March are still being executed today.”
For Citizens Inn, shelter doesn’t just mean having a roof over your head.
“It’s about the programming that we are able to provide that can really create stability in either the mom’s life, the dad’s life, or the child’s life,” said Jackson.
The organization has a children’s enrichment program, a wellness program, mental health counseling referrals, substance use groups, and many others to help their guests.
Jackson revealed that in this recent surge of cases across the country, they had one family that they served which tested positive in one of their shelters, but that they were able to contain and stop the spread of the virus to other families.
He also stated that a lot of people in the shelters are not vaccinated, and that Citizens Inn is working with North Shore Medical Center for these individuals to get more information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Some of these hesitancy issues (about the vaccine) are going to be very difficult to overcome and some of our individuals are hesitant for legitimate reasons,” Jackson explained. “We need to do as much as we can to educate or to inform what we know and what medical professionals know and hopefully let them make the choice that is right for them, and we hope that that will be to get the vaccine.”
Jackson also said that the demand of the food pantry rose exponentially at the beginning of the pandemic and has yet to let up.
Another consequence of the pandemic for Citizens Inn is that they were unable to hold their gala that Jackson stated brought in $500,000 to the organization. The organization is looking to hold the event on March 11, 2022, which will be the first time they have been able to hold it in two and a half years.
The organization is also kicking off a new campaign on Oct. 16. The event will be held outdoors at the newly-renovated Haven from Hunger. Jackson said that they hope to take individuals at the event on small tours of the new building as well.
While Jackson didn’t reveal all the details of the campaign, he did explain that the organization has quietly been working on the project for four years and that the goal is to raise $7.5 million. The funds will go towards the Haven From Hunger renovation, a shelter at 29 Holton St, The IB playground, as well as ongoing programming at Haven from Hunger and other shelter programming.
“In order to continue to provide additional support on that resource center, we need to make sure that we grow our donor base,” said Jackson. “That we are generating more revenue every single year to maintain that operation, that new operating budget, and so a big priority of the campaign is to grow the donor base to support the new Haven programming.”
Jackson also announced that the organization has two brand new kitchen bays, including one that can be rented out, which will add an additional revenue stream to the organization.
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