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Seminole County food pantry temporarily closes amid coronavirus pandemic

HOPE food pantry and resource center closes after a staff member had a family member test positive for COVID 19

OVIDEO, Fla. – Normally Thursdays are a very busy day at the HOPE resource center and food pantry in Oviedo. Joan Faulker, HOPE’s president and CEO, says they’d usually see between 50 and 60 families today alone. But now they’ve had to temporarily close their doors due to concerns over COVID 19.

"So we had someone that was exposed to the virus," said Faulkner. "And so we wanted to take every precaution for not only our staff,but volunteers and especially our clients."

Faulkner says it was a family member of one of her staff members that fell ill with the contagious virus.

"They're fine, they're healthy and they're doing good," said Faulkner. "Our policy here is if anyone has any symptom we have to take every precaution."

HOPE stands for Housing, outreach, prevention and education and Faulkner says during their temporary closure, they have wiped down and sanitized everything in their food pantry and also in their offices. They've also had to close down their Hope Chest Thrift store, which would help raise thousands of dollars to help the non-profit continue to provide services for those who need it.

"People who have lost their job, they don't know what to do. They've never been in crisis before," said Faulkner. "And that's what HOPE is about. We've been helping people since 2007 with that exact reason."

Despite the closure, their volunteers are still getting food to their elderly and home bound clients.

Just yesterday they did a drive through pickup and delivery day, which they shared on Facebook.

But Joan says they are running short on food and supplies like personal protection equipment.

"We ran out of gloves but we did have a local dentist provide us with about 3000 pairs of gloves.

She says while those supplies will really help, she's worried she won't have enough food and resources to help the surge of people she's expecting to show up next week.

"We know people are going to have need for utility and rental assistance and more food and the increase has been about 65 percent," said Faulkner.

Susana Wright showed up today.

She says she drove more than 30 miles to get here, only to find out she'd have to come back next Wednesday.

“I just feel scared that I can’t afford any food to go buy it and i’m not on any government assistance i don’t accept that,” said Wright. “So I was just trying to get help with the food pantry. So, it’s really hard, difficult to deal with.”

But Faulkner says she doesn't want anyone to lose hope during this closure, and to come back to their food pantry when they reopen. And she made sure Wright did not leave empty handed, and provided her with some food to get by.

Faulkner says the one thing they need above all during this downtime is for people to continue to contribute cash donations, and to continue helping any way they can at www.hopehelps.org.