After Meals on Wheels in Longmont, Colorado resumed services for hot meal delivery, they also began the process of recruiting volunteers. While we are still dealing with a pandemic here in Colorado, they are eager to see their clients face-to-face. When they stopped delivering meals in March due to the coronavirus, they knew they would need to make some drastic changes to protect the clients and their staff and volunteers.
They went from delivering hot meals to one-day drop off frozen meals. Even this took effort on their part, which required them to partner with local restaurants to create the frozen meals that would be delivered. A spokesperson for Longmont Meal on Wheels, Katie Wiser, admitted that she is eager that they are closer to things getting back to normal.
Longmont Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that offers affordable meals to people who are homebound. The cost of their meals is based on a sliding scale. The nonprofit provides approximately 500 meals a day, five days a week, and currently serves those living in Longmont and Niwot. They also help out the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund, a human services nonprofit. They provide meals to residents in Lyons and those in Hygiene.
Since providing them with assistance, the demand for help has increased. Just in March and April, the organization received 100 new clients who need free food services. The demand has only risen since then. With the increase in people in need of food and the fear of COVID-19, it leaves them in need of volunteers to make the food deliveries. Currently, the organization needs at least 10 delivery drivers to commit to delivering meals at least once-a-week. Volunteers are not required to work any set amount of time, they can help as often as they would like; once a week or monthly.
Reaching out for volunteers only became possible once the Centers for Disease Control and Boulder County Public Health released its guidelines. This meant that Meals on Wheels could put the proper protocol into places, such as temperature checks, face coverings, and social distancing, to safely go back into the building where nonprofit meals are prepared. Since allowing them back into the building, two kitchen volunteers have been allowed to cook and assemble the meals for delivery. So far, only these two Longmont Meals on Wheels volunteers have been allowed back into the building.
Volunteer delivery drivers will be permitted to stay in their cars, and the meals will be brought to them for delivery. The drivers will be required to use hand sanitizer after every delivery. In addition to offering food to those in need, Meals on Wheels volunteers offer some connection between the clients they serve in isolation, knowing someone is checking on them. The clients are excited to have Meals on Wheels back and look forward to their visit, as much as they look forward to the hot food they are delivering.
Businesses have suffered in Colorado college towns the hardest. Those who once had so much business that they had to outsource it to others, can barely get by due to the lack of business. Since May, one shop in the Campus West area saw sales drop by 80%. Without the students attending Colorado State University, it hasn’t proven beneficial to keep the doors of most businesses open since there is no one to use or buy their services. Without students or their family visiting and no graduations, the businesses have suffered tremendously.
Since the city of Fort Collins receives a portion of sales tax revenue, it has also suffered right along with many of the merchants in the college areas. Since there is so much uncertainty about whether or not the students will return to campus, there is no way of knowing how the economy in these areas will hold up. A lot will depend on whether there will be another COVID-19 surge in cases and whether or not students will be forced to resume classes online this fall.
The coronavirus has undoubtedly turned lives upside down. People have suffered as a result; businesses have suffered. The cities of Greeley, Boulder, and Fort Collins used to have a thriving and bustling entertainment and restaurant scene. When the University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado-Boulder, and CSU students were dismissed in March, the economy in their cities have suffered tremendously.
The cities had a combined university student population of roughly 83,000. Since those students have not returned to classes. Sales taxes in April have dropped more than 21% from the previous year. Although not every city in Colorado has suffered, they too have seen a significant economic downturn. Loveland saw a reduction in sales taxes of only 11.3%, with Longmont only falling to 12.1%. Although these are all significant losses, they are not as much as those experienced in the college towns.
A diverse economy that a university is capable of offering is usually a good thing. However, when at least 16% of the town's population suddenly leaves the marketplace, this means that thousands of students are not there to spend money in the local stores, shopping for goods and services, or ordering takeout from nearby restaurants.
Unfortunately, the restaurants and bars that are in and near these college towns receiving the biggest shock due to the sudden closures and lack of business. Unfortunately, many will not and cannot survive the current pandemic.
Even though the exact amount of students who had to leave is unknown, it was a large enough number of them that the economy shifted quickly and without warning. There has been a sharp decline in student enrollment, even for remote classes.
Many cities in Colorado have a mix of businesses that contribute to their economy, unfortunately, those cities that are primarily made up of students, have suffered the most. There is no ‘business as usual’ in a small college town, at least; not for now.