ONEIDA — Volunteers of Karing Kitchen are setting aside a week to rest and look after their mental health after two straight years of work during the pandemic.
But families in need will not be left out in the cold. Karing Kitchen is making sure families are still getting the help they need while they take a pause.
“I am not leaving families out there adrift,” Karing Kitchen Coordinator Melissa King firmly stated. “We’re going to make sure things are in place while we are on pause. I don’t want these families to go without. And we’ve talked with all the different agencies in town, and they know that Karing Kitchen will be taking a mental health break, and we’ve connected them with resources.”
Karing Kitchen Coordinator Melissa King said the pandemic brought new challenges and difficulties their organization has had to face — leaving little time for volunteers to look after themselves.
“Karing Kitchen has always relied on volunteers, myself included, to run this organization. Without them, we would have had to fold. So we need to make sure we’re taking care of our volunteers,” King said. “We’ve tried to schedule time off for our volunteers in the past, but it just hasn’t worked. Something comes up like cases go up, or there’s a fire or something else we try to respond to.”
While it’s been stressful, King made it clear it wasn’t because of the families they serve. There’s just been so much more work because of the ongoing pandemic.
“No matter where you go, no matter the agency or business, people are overworked and understaffed,” she said. “And it has a ripple effect.”
Despite all this, Karing Kitchen has worked to ensure their families are getting the help they need, and food is getting out to the people who need it. But it has been a challenge as of late.
Several volunteers have had to quarantine, limiting how many hands were available. And just recently, three important people to the Karing Kitchen have passed.
“We lost three powerhouses recently: former Mayor Leo Matzke, [former Supervisor] Joseph Ostrander, and Randy Domes,” she said. “All three were important to our organization and great friends of Karing Kitchen, our clientele, and volunteers.”
Between the stresses of operating during the pandemic, working to overcome challenges, and little time to mark the recent passing of friends, Karing Kitchen made the decision to take a week off starting Monday, Jan. 17, and will return on Monday, Jan. 24.
King said she wanted to make sure volunteers don’t suffer from burnout and have time to look after their mental health — adding that while Karing Kitchen staff are looking after their mental health, people should do the same.
“If people need help, they should reach out,” she said. “There are so many resources in our community and Madison County. There are so many people going through a crisis right now and are afraid to reach out. They’re afraid to say they’re overwhelmed. How many employees are out there feeling pushed and don’t know what to do and aren’t talking to anyone? Having someone to talk to helps. Burdens shared are half the burden.”
Those looking to help can do so in a few ways. Currently, Karing Kitchen isn’t accepting any new volunteers while COVID-19 cases are surging, and King encourages people to check in within the month if and when numbers start to go down.
Until then, King said the Kitchen is working on a program to help the senior population during the winter months.
“We’re doing an event called ‘Labor of Love’ in February,” King said. “We’re looking for things like Jell-o packets, chapstick, socks, gloves, and those type of things that people might not have if they’re on a limited budget.”
People can drop off donations at Karing Kitchen, which is open Monday through Wednesday. People can also drop off donations at the YMCA, Catholic Charities, Enterprise, and AT&T.
For more information, visit: https://www.restaurantji.com/ny/oneida/karing-kitchen-/
Those in need of mental health services can call any one of the numbers listed as follows:
New York Project Hope Emotional Support Helpline — 1844-863-9314
Catholic Charities Counseling — 315-363-5274
Family Counseling Services — 315-280-0400
Madison County Mental Health — 315-366-2327
Liberty Resources — 315-363-0048
BRiDGES — 315-697-3947
PROS Clinic — 315-363-2451