Home News COVID-19 Situation Pandemic increases demand for disaster relief service

Pandemic increases demand for disaster relief service

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Juno Ogle Photo Enrique Moreno unlocks the door of his emergency relief bus after buying supplies Thursday morning at Albertson’s, 900 W. Second St. Moreno, director of Roswell Community Relief Disaster Services, has seen an increase in the need for food, toiletries and hygiene supplies since the start of the pandemic.

When the novel coronavirus began to appear in Chaves County, Enrique Moreno thought demand for his Roswell Community Disaster Relief Service might slow down. Instead, it’s grown.

“We’ve probably seen an increase about three times what I’m used to seeing,” he said.

The demand is coming from older adults and others whose health conditions put them at greater risk of developing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

He also recently began providing no-contact deliveries for several households where a member has tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantined in their homes.

“Our seniors, our at-risk people are just as in need of help as those who are positive. They’re scared of going out, so they’re quarantining themselves even if they’re not positive,” Moreno said.

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He also recently began answering calls for assistance from law enforcement in some domestic abuse cases when a victim needs immediate help getting a hotel room, clothing and personal supplies.

Two senior living facilities also recently contacted him for help in obtaining more than 200 face masks for their residents.

“We’re running out of food faster. We’re running out of funds faster,” Moreno said.

“Last month, I think we didn’t have any monetary donations come through. It was kind of worrisome, except we made up for it at the beginning of this month,” he said.

“COVID has definitely affected us, except we’re still going out. We can’t stop. A lot of people are dependent on our ability to go to their doorsteps,” he said.

Moreno started a fund drive with a goal of $5,000 to help cover operations for August, September and October. As of Saturday, the organization has received $2,145.

Donations can be made at https://rcdrservices.givingfuel.com or by check or cash at the disaster relief bus in town.

Moreno started the disaster relief service in 2017, using his personal vehicle. He was a volunteer firefighter at the time and often wondered what happened to the families who lost their homes to a fire. He began delivering groceries and clothing donations to them.

The service has now grown to include a pickup truck and a former transportation bus outfitted with shelves — to hold the food and hygiene supplies he hands out — a small counter and even a restroom.

The vehicles, however, have been plagued with some mechanical issues since the pandemic began. As much as the breakdowns worried him, so did the idea of letting people down by not being able to make deliveries.

But, Moreno said, the community always came through in getting him back on the road.

“I have been very blessed whenever we’ve had mechanical issues,” he said. A local mechanic is one of the organization’s sponsors and performs the repairs at cost.

“And then we get people in the community who will donate to pay for the repairs, the parts,” Moreno said.

Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services is an unincorporated nonprofit. Donations to such organizations are tax-deductible.

Neither Moreno nor any of his 12 regular volunteers take payment for their work, and all donations go into the service, he said.

“I’m not sure if we would ever become a nonprofit (corporation) right now. It hasn’t stopped people from donating. They see the money working,” he said

“I post a lot on Facebook about what I do. I try to be transparent, let people know where their donations are going, how they’re being used. People are supportive. They understand that if they’re going to help pay for a new battery or a new tire, that it’s going to be for a good cause,” Moreno said.

In the early days of the pandemic this spring, Moreno was around town every day in his bus, making deliveries or parking at one of several churches he works with to help provide people with necessities.

Now, he has a regular routine. Each Wednesday evening, he will park in a different part of town for pick-up service, posting his location on Facebook. Thursdays are deliveries to the homebound and senior housing, and Fridays are curbside deliveries for those quarantined due to COVID-19.

For the quarantine deliveries, he leaves the packages at the curb, calls the recipient to notify them, and drives away for no-contact service. Often, he doesn’t even see the recipient.

“It’s all incomes. Some of them even entire families,” he said.

“COVID doesn’t discriminate. It’s everybody, all age groups,” Moreno said. “We’re trying our hardest to be able to make sure that we give them what they need.”

To that end, he is seeking the use of an unmarked vehicle to use for deliveries to those quarantined to help protect their privacy.

Moreno realizes he’s got to give himself what he needs, too, though, and went camping for his birthday in March at Ruidoso.

“When I came back, I felt recharged, re-energized,” he said.

His mother helped him buy a 1973 camper. He spent a month rebuilding it and took a three-day camping trip for the Fourth of July.

“I’m going to do it once a month. Since I don’t’ get a day off from doing this, that’s going to be my time off,” Moreno said.

He’s also been a member of this year’s class of Leadership Roswell, which delayed some of its classes due to the pandemic and conducted its graduation Saturday.

And even though he’s 37 and plans to keep the relief service going, he’s looking beyond his own years.

“The plan is to teach as many of the younger generation about service,” Moreno said. “I’m hoping that one day I can just pass the work on to somebody else and they can keep it going.”