The masks and hand sanitizers have largely been put away, and pretty much everyone from world leaders to schoolchildren sees the COVID-19 pandemic in past-tense terms.
But most everyone also can point to one or two things that have made post-pandemic life challenging.
For Sand Springs Community Services, it’s a bit like having double vision — leaders of the agency see clients struggling with inflation and the rising cost of living, but the organization itself is dealing with those same challenges, according to Executive Director Nathan Woodmansee.
During the pandemic, Sand Springs Community Services saw an influx of clients who had never before sought assistance from the agency.
Many of those have fallen off the roster lately, but as a variety of pandemic-related aid programs dry up, the agency is seeing a more familiar clientele facing some familiar challenges and some new ones.
People are also reading…
“We haven’t seen a spike so much as a shift” from people who had never needed help before the pandemic back to what might seem like more-typical clients, Woodmansee said.
This includes low-income seniors, many of whom stayed out of sight during the pandemic for health reasons but who getting back out now.
What they’re finding is that the general economic instability left in the pandemic’s wake is making many things difficult, including grocery shopping, where a recent explosion in egg prices has now calmed, only to be replaced in rising costs for leaf lettuce, for example.
And the same unstable food supplies that plague average shoppers are also a struggle for food pantries such as Sand Springs Community Services, Woodmansee said.
He said unreliable provisions from the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma have led to challenges in providing basic pantry items, such as fortified juices and canned chicken, donations of both of which the agency could use, he said.
Financial donations are always appreciated, too, because they allow the agency to meet whatever need is lacking in the moment.
While things are tough all over, Woodmansee points out that Sand Springs was already hurting when the pandemic hit just 10 months after a swollen Arkansas River submerged hundreds of homes and businesses from west of Sand Springs east toward downtown Tulsa, as well as elsewhere across the metropolitan area and state.
The May 2019 flooding wreaked havoc across a dozen counties in four states, with more than a thousand homes inundated, including more than 300 in and around Sand Springs, largely in the Meadow Valley and Town and Country subdivisions.
Many Sand Springs Community Services clients were among the hardest-hit, and many were still digging out from that disaster when the COVID-19 pandemic blew in, Woodmansee said.
One local family just recently got back in their home, four years after the flood, he said.
“We haven’t had that moment of great relief,” he said, but neither is the agency in a particular crisis.
“It’s just that the need never ends,” Woodmansee said.
That’s where annual fundraisers such as December’s Winter Glow and this month’s Margaritaville come into play.
Although many people are basking in the closing days of the school year and the start of summer, Sand Springs Community Services is already working on being prepared for August’s return to school.
Proceeds from Margaritaville primarily help fund the agency’s back-to-school programming, which generally assists students who receive free — not reduced-price — lunches.
Shelly Shoemaker, the human resources manager at Webco, one of the sponsors of the event, is on the Margaritaville planning committee and appreciates that the money raised locally is helping people locally.
“Every bit of the money that is made from that turns right around and goes back into our community, and I feel like you don’t see that very often these days,” she said.