While COVID-19 and the ensuing shutdown impacted the lives of people around the world, groups like individuals in recovery were significantly impacted. Social distancing posed a challenge to Never Surrender Hope, a nonprofit organization that drives around the city to provide people experiencing homelessness and addiction with food, supplies and help. Members wanted to continue carrying out their mission, but didn’t want to risk the health of their volunteers or the people they were helping.
That’s when Mike Doyle, a local Realtor involved in the recovery community, stepped forward with a solution. He introduced Never Surrender Hope to Caring For Friends, an organization that’s been delivering food to the homebound and food pantries from its Parkwood location for 22 years.
Through the partnership, the two groups have been able to coordinate deliveries to more than 400 recovery houses in the Northeast and surrounding areas.
“We were able to make a beautiful thing out of something scary,” said Valerie Felici, co-founder of Never Surrender Hope.
During shutdown, Caring For Friends has stepped up to deliver five to six times as much food as it normally does. It is a key component of a coalition created by Councilman Bobby Henon to provide aid to those in need during shutdown. In April, Henon announced the coalition would bring together many service providers, but they needed volunteers to step up and help.
Doyle and Never Surrender Hope member Cathy Conner led the outreach to the houses and ensured they would not evict residents who were out of work and could not pay rent during shutdown.
They connected with recovery houses in the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, which provides its residences with protections such as this, and also outreached to many houses outside the network.
“It turned out to be a great way to organize recovery houses that weren’t in [PARR],” Doyle said.
Fred Way, founder and executive director of PARR, said the organizations have greatly helped the houses in the network while introducing them to new houses.
“They’ve been wonderful. There’s nothing else I can say,” he said.
Shutdown meant putting a halt to Never Surrender Hope’s trips to Kensington, where many people it helped out were located. It shifted to cooking homemade meals and delivering them to 23 recovery houses as well as helping with food shopping for some houses. With Caring For Friends, the volunteers help cook and box up the meals, which also go to the elderly and people who can’t leave their homes.
“We’re helping the wider community while still helping the recovery community,” Felici said.
At the peak, they were delivering to 60 to 70 recovery houses a week, Conner said, though the number is starting to dwindle down as houses are in less need of the supplies. Once a month, volunteers will prepare a big meal like barbecue or breakfast and deliver it fresh to a couple of locations.
“Never Surrender Hope is a really good team that has come together and become a family,” Conner said. “We’re up for helping in any way we can.”