United Way steps up to coordinate community response to COVID

On a recent shiny Sunday morning, the warm smell of chicken corn chowder filled the air in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church in downtown Great Falls. Several homeless gentlemen smiled as they supped the tasty soup and snacked on fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookies while holding take-home bags filled with more food to help them get by.

Five mornings a week, St. Vincent de Paul’s Director of Homeless Services Carley Tuss loads up her food truck and heads downtown to serve some 20 to 30 residents, including Randy McCormick, who always shows up because he knows she and her helpers will be there.

“God bless their hearts,” said McCormick. “They do a lot of good things for a lot of people, and it’s awesome.”

St. Vincent de Paul Director of Homeless Services Carley Tuss hands out meals to homeless residents Sunday through Thursday at 11 a.m. in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church. On Sundays, Susie McIntyre brings hot soup and Stephanie Cummings brings homemade cookies.

These homeless residents usually receive food and other assistance at St. Vincent de Paul’s Drop-in Center. But, like many other organizations that provide services in Great Falls and the surrounding area, the center had to close when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March.

Hundreds of other community members also were affected by the sudden shutdown. The demand on food pantries increased substantially. People who couldn’t work or lost jobs needed unemployment assistance and help paying bills. Essential workers who relied on public transportation had no way to get to work.

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