Milagro House Program Director Shiobhian Doherty, and Mason, 8, enjoy a lighthearted moment. (Photo: Fosterjfoster Productions)
Milagro House Program Director Shiobhian Doherty, and Mason, 8, enjoy a lighthearted moment. (Photo: Fosterjfoster Productions)

Chris Duncan, executive director, Milagro House. (Photo: Fosterjfoster Productions)

When companies began shutting down because of the spread of COVID-19, the staff at non-profits like Milagro House, that completely depend on private donations from individuals and businesses, worried about getting resources that would allow them to continue operating.

Chis Duncan, the executive director of Milagro House, wasn’t sure how the organization would get through the COVID-19 pandemic, how they would keep a roof over their heads and the lights on. But what she and her staff concentrated on was how to flatten the curve of the virus among one of the most vulnerable populations of Lancaster County which they serve – women with children in extreme poverty.

“We didn’t want them walking to a grocery store with their kids or the families going without food,” said Chris. “We decided we had to get the food to them.”

Milagro House partnered with Clare House, another organization that also works to empower women through education and jobs, to run a food access program.

They were one of the first organizations to benefit from the Lancaster Cares Fund with a $5,000 grant.

With seed money from the grant, the organizations and their volunteers packed boxes of food with milk, vegetables and other staples and began delivering the boxes to clients who are living independently but who get support from the organizations.

“We wanted our moms to stay put as much as possible,” said Chris. “We wanted to make sure our moms and their kids stayed healthy.”

With the Lancaster Cares grant, Milagro House was able to provide regular food deliveries to 56 women and children for three months. Clare House served another 27 women and children in the same manner through June 30.

“Many of our moms are in their first jobs and were laid off or furloughed,” Chris said, “Child-care centers were closed as well. The grant helped us purchase gift cards for necessities like diapers and wipes, and the food boxes.”

Chris said Milagro House survived during the tough months by being resourceful and having flexibility, something she said her staff is wonderful at.

“It was a good team effort as we continue to serve women who would otherwise be homeless,” Chris said. “We believe in education to move people out of poverty once and for all. It’s so important to break the cycle for the kids.”

Although the pandemic continues to be full of unknowns for organizations like Milagro House, Chris said the Lancaster Cares Fund showed what a tight-knit community Lancaster County proved to be.

“They knew they had to get money into the community,” she said. “They’ve made it very easy and quick to get the funds to the ones who needed it most.”

Susan Baldrige