ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — The all-in-one Switchpoint Community Resource Center serves as a lifeline for many, but the COVID-19 pandemic has bled the vast majority of its volunteers with some devastating effects.
As an emergency homeless shelter that also operates as a food pantry, soup kitchen, and thrift store, Switchpoint is open 24/7 and provides many services to those in need, from help with job searches and affordable housing to partnering with more than 20 other nonprofits and government agencies.
The non-profit depends on about 300 active volunteers each month to stay afloat, according to Switchpoint’s volunteer coordinator Morgan Barrick; but, when the pandemic hit in March, the center saw a dramatic drop in volunteers by about 90%. Most of its volunteers are elderly or retired and in that high-risk category, Barrick said.
“We are at risk of cutting our services,” Barrick said. “I get emotional because I see the good in this community, and I know people really want to help.”
February volunteer hours clocked in at 15,994. By August, they dropped to 1,643, according to development director Linda Stay.
Staff are now facing a huge financial burden on top of a lack of volunteers that’s slowed down their food pantry operations, feeding more than 500 families each week, and has put a strain on every department and service the non-profit offers.
If Switchpoint doesn’t see an uptick in volunteers in the next two weeks, they say they’ll need to begin cutting services they believe are essential to the nearly 18% of people in southern Utah living at or below the federal poverty line and the nearly 1000 children in the Washington County School District considered homeless.
“We are doing everything we can to keep those community members safe and healthy,” Barrick said. “We can come up with some creative and awesome opportunities for our volunteers and their families to really make a difference in our community and the beautiful people that we serve.”
Barrick said the services that would likely need to be cut first are the showers for the homeless and their computer lab, which allows people to work on resumes and apply for jobs and housing.