August 7, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – despite the devastation of Tropical Storm Isaias, the pantry took place as usual on Wednesday, although many volunteers and clients were without electricity.  Probably many on this list went through the same thing.  On Wednesday we served a total of 105 families (compared to 130 last week), including 217 adults, 137 children and 28 seniors.  We served 382 people Wednesday.  Last Wednesday it was 491.

          Our clients had been warned that as of this month we will be giving Stop & Shop gift cards out only on the second and last Wednesdays instead of every week.  We wondered if clients were coming mainly for the gift cards, but now we know that many of our clients are in need of food, whether it comes with a gift card or not.
          We’ve pretty much completed our transfer from one section of the church to another in preparation for the opening of the Community Nursery School and Days of Wonder.  This coming Wednesday we’ll be operating out of the sanctuary instead of near the office.  We’ve got some great minds among our volunteers who have figured this all out, and we all stayed in good spirits throughout!  That’s the kind of group we are.
          One of our greatest supporters is Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics (www.rivertownspeds.com, 914-330-8445).  He has kept us supplied with diapers and baby wipes for a very long time, and he has made financial donations to the pantry throughout the years.  It also helps that he’s a member of the Rivertowns Rotary.  They’ve had food drives for us at Stop & Shop, and other members of the Rotary Club, encouraged by Dr. Gupta, have been interested in helping us as well.  Thank you so much, Dr. Gupta.
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July 30, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – Yesterday we tied our all-time high by serving 130 families (last week 118 families), including 273 adults, 177 children and 41 seniors for a total of 491 people (the most people served ever).  On Wednesday, July 31, 2019 we served 46 families and 161 people.   We were expecting a big turnout because people were aware that beginning in August, sadly, we must give gift cards only twice a month instead of every week.  We averaged 121 families a week in July, and 451 people.  In July of 2019 we averaged 32 families and 114 people.

          This past Wednesday, in addition to the food we received from Feeding Westchester and the food purchased by us from Shoprite, Aldi and Harvest Field Market, we also gave out food that had been donated to us by Ardsley United Methodist Church, Cabrini of Westchester and a neighborhood collection done by families living on Belden Avenue in Dobbs Ferry.  My block of Ogden Place did a food drive, and now we’ve been matched by the folks on Belden Avenue.  It takes many neighborhoods to run a pantry.  Thank you, Belden!
          We also received another beautiful box of vegetables from the garden at the Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings.  Liz has been delivering vegetables to us every week since the beginning of the summer.  Thanks so much to Liz and to all the parishioners who till that garden.  We’ve always been served on Wednesday mornings with fragrant offerings from our own Roots & Wings kitchen garden, and now our cup runneth over with more offerings from Hastings!
          This week we also got a donation of food and cat food from a family whose daughter was attending an entrepreneurship camp.  It turned out that as an entrepreneur, her daughter made and sold delicious flans, some to us volunteers.  She divided the proceeds from the sale of her flans and donated half to the pantry!  What an entrepreneur!  And what a supportive mother, too, who helped her daughter deliver the flans to us at the pantry on Wednesday!
          Every week I attend a Zoom meeting run by Feeding Westchester, the umbrella organization over most of the food pantries and soup kitchens in Westchester.  It’s turned into sort of a support group as we all struggle with how to help many more people under the strictures imposed by COVID.  Feeding Westchester has its own problems  – today Monique McCoy, who runs the meetings, said that this summer they’ve provided pantries and soup kitchens with 2 million pounds of food, in comparison with last summer’s 800,000.  Delivering all that food throughout the county has been a particular challenge, and they’ve actually had help this summer from the National Guard!
          Have I mentioned on this blog how much we’ve been supported by SPRING Community Partners?  Yes, I have, so I won’t repeat myself.  Thanks, SPRING.  Thanks, Robin and Ellen.
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July 27, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – It looks like we’ve actually plateaued, but at a high number.  This past Wednesday we served 118 families.  Last week it was 113, the week before it was 118 and the week before it was 124.  We’ll see in the next few weeks if people are called back to work and won’t need help from us after that.  Otherwise, we’ll continue as we have been for as long as we can.

          Included in those 118 families were 251 adults, 165 children and 30 seniors, for a total of 446 people served.  Last week it was 423 and the week before it was 440.
          This week our clients took home a Stop & Shop gift card (in varying amounts depending on the size of the family); a box of shelf-stable food from Feeding Westchester and our pantry; a bag of produce from Fable Farm, the Roots & Wings kitchen garden, Harvest Market in Tarrytown and the Unitarian Society of Westchester’s garden;  homemade soup and bread from MadeByRK; and a new offering of potato salad, coleslaw and tuna salad from Whitsons Culinary Group, which provides food to Children’s Village.  We’ll stay in touch with Whitsons in hopes that they can help us again.
          Harpers/On The Line will be back at a future point with prepared food for our clients, but Renee Kashuba of MadeByRK (www.foodmadebyrk.com, 914-231-7999) is changing her operation and will no longer be able to bring soup and bread for our clients.  The effort she has made to provide gourmet soups and homemade breads for upwards of 120 families every week is astounding.  Thank you so much for all your help, Renee.  Dobbs Ferry is lucky to have you.
          Beginning in August we’ll no longer be able to offer gift cards every week to our families.  We like the gift card model because it ensures that our clients will have some choice in what foods they choose for their families, but we’ll be cutting back to providing gift cards twice a month instead of every week.
          When clients take home a box of food and a bag of produce they have no choice in what they get.  We won’t be able to go back to allowing client choice for some time, though, since we’ll be operating out of doors as long as we can.  Gathering inside the church and looking through our shelves will be impossible during the pandemic.  This week we’re beginning to switch from one section of South Church to another in preparation for the fact that the Community Nursery School, Days of Wonder daycare and Creative Hearts arts program will be resuming their activities in the church this coming September.
          One bright spot is Ardsley United Methodist Church.  This past Saturday they again held a food drive for the pantry at church, and again ended up with a huge number of bags and boxes of shelf-stable foods for us to offer to the clients.  Special thanks to Judy Whelan and the Ardsley Methodist Women’s Group for making this tremendous effort for us.  We’ll start giving out the food this week.
          This past Wednesday, in addition to offering food and gift cards, a Spring Community Partners volunteer was on hand to go over a questionnaire that had been sent to Dobbs Ferry families from the School District, asking their preferences about whether they’d be comfortable with children attending school in person, continuing with remote learning, or a hybrid of the two.  Quite a few parents were helped by the volunteer, Milagros, who speaks both English and Spanish.  Twenty questionnaires were filled out with Milagros’s help and will be forwarded to the District as they wrestle with how to start the school year in September.
          The people in this list have constantly been generous to the pantry through all the years we’ve been in operation.  Please remember us now as we continue to serve the many people who  need our help.  There’s a PayPal feature on our website (www.dobbsferrypantry.org) or you can send us a check made out to the pantry and sent to us at South Presbyterian Church, 343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522.  Thanks in advance to everybody who stands by us.

 

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July 17, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – The volunteers served slightly fewer families again this week.  Hopefully it means people are returning to work.  This week they served 113 families (last week it was 118 and the week before it was 124), including 235 adults, 155 children and 33 seniors, for a total of 423 people served.  Last week it was 440 people served and the week before it was 453.

          In addition to our own Roots & Wings kitchen garden and our CSA shares from Fable Farm, we’ve been receiving beautiful produce from the Unitarian Society in Hastings as well as produce sold to us at a discount by Harvest Market in Tarrytown.  Robin has been going every week for the last few weeks to pick up fruits and vegetables from the very caring people at Harvest Market so that our clients can continue to have fresh produce every week.
          This past week in addition to a box of shelf-stable food from Feeding Westchester and the pantry, and in addition to their bag of produce, the clients went home with homemade chicken soup and bread from Renee Kashuba of MadeByRK.  Harpers/OnTheLine will be returning soon with more prepared meals for several more weeks.
          This past Monday Benny and I picked up 1,000 cotton masks from Hanes, donated by State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins.  They came in packets of five, and we gave out quite a few to our clients as they stepped up to the table for their food.
          Robin, Marc and I had a zoom meeting with staff from South Church yesterday to explore how we’re going to function once the Community Nursery School, Days of Wonder and Creative Hearts resume their activities in the fall.  Over the spring and summer the pantry, due to the huge increase in clients we’ve been serving, has expanded into just about every corner of the church.  Assuming we won’t be serving quite as many people in the fall, one plan is for us to operate out of the church sanctuary, with food stored in a nearby room.  We’re going to try to maintain our outside operations as long as possible, since if clients need to be inside due to bad weather they’ll all need to have their temperatures checked and they’ll all have to answer a series of questions relating to contact with the COVID virus.  Plus it’s not ideal to have a lot of people crowded into an indoor space.  We may also try offering appointments to clients so that everybody doesn’t come at the same time.  These are all things we’re thinking about and experimenting with.  We’ll keep you posted about how it works out.
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July 10, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – Hopefully we’ve plateaued, although at a pretty high level.  This past Wednesday we served a total of 118 families (last week it was 124, and the week before that it was 129).  This included 241 adults, 163 children and 36 seniors.  We served 440 people (last week it was 453 and the week before 479).

          It takes a village to run a food pantry.  Last week we had so much lettuce that we couldn’t fit it into our two refrigerators.  Robin, Ellen C. and Anilla first approached Hudson Social down at the train station because they’ve helped us before, but they had no refrigerator space.  The next stop was to call Abby Connett, the Director of the Dobbs Ferry Seniors.  She moved heaven and earth for us to be able to store the extra lettuce in the refrigerator space in the basement of Village Hall.  This space is usually used by the firemen, and has been used by the Seniors while waiting for the Embassy Club to be finished.  Thanks to Abby and the Village, we were able to give fresh lettuce to every one of those 118 families.  Not every pantry in Westchester is so lovingly supported by its village.
          We’ve been worried about our clients’ nutrition now that they aren’t receiving the free breakfasts and lunches from the school district over the summer; however, Feeding Westchester sent us a flyer from an organization by the name of HungerSolutionsNY.org, which seems to be a consortium of New York State, the FDA, Walmart, and an organization called Share Our Strength.  They’ll be applying a one- or two-time payment to an EBT card for every family whose children qualify for a free or reduced-fee lunch, including children who attend schools where all the students get a free meal.  We’ll have a pile of flyers in English and Spanish on the sign-in table this Wednesday for people to take home and read.
          This coming Monday I’ll be picking up 1,000 masks, made available free of charge to local businesses and nonprofits by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.  It takes a state legislature to run a pantry.
          I’ll also be picking up more Stop & Shop gift cards for our clients.  We’re hoping to keep making these cards available for a few more weeks, until people go back to work and the children get started (somehow) in school.  The monetary donations from people on this list and others have made it possible for our clients, in addition to the pre-packaged food and produce from us, to have a chance to choose what foods they want from Stop & Shop.  This week again clients went home with prepared meals from Harpers/OnTheLine and homemade soup and bread from MadeByRK.  Harpers and Renee Kashuba (MadeByRK) have been faithful providers for our hungry clients.
          I don’t know what the pantry would have done if SPRING Community Partners hadn’t stepped in.  I think we might have had to close.  The consistent, loving attention from Co-Directors Robin Larkins and Ellen Crane, and all the help from the parents and members of SPRING (I didn’t realize what a huge and successfully-run organization it is) made it possible for us to serve four times as many clients every single week.  And they’ll be there again this Wednesday, even though they have lives of their own!  It’s mind-boggling!  Someday someone will have to make a documentary about what it was like for a pantry to suddenly explode in size, look around, and see so many people rushing to the rescue.  It brings a tear to the eye.

 

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July 3, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – the pantry served fewer people this week than last week!  Maybe we’ve plateaued!  We were expecting more people because the schools are no longer giving free breakfasts and lunches, but it didn’t happen.  Let’s see how the next couple of weeks roll out.  This week the volunteers served 124 families (last week 130), including 253 adults, 165 children and 35 seniors.  A total of 453 people were served on Wednesday (last week 479).  We’re determined to continue to be open every week and to continue giving gift cards every week as long as we can.

          As an extra safety precaution we’ll be taking the temperatures of the volunteers every Wednesday, and also on Mondays while they’re waiting for deliveries from Feeding Westchester.  This is part of the New York State NY Forward Safety Plan, which South Church has asked us to fill out and maintain.  If someone ever has a temperature of over 100.4 they have to go home and be tested.  We’ve been very lucky all this time, but we’re always prepared.  Both the volunteers and the clients wear masks (and we keep extra masks to give anyone who doesn’t have one), and the volunteers wear gloves.  While the pantry is in operation the registration tables are sanitized regularly, and before the pantry is closed the volunteers thoroughly clean and disinfect every surface.  They leave the church absolutely clean.  It’s a lot of work, but the work has paid off.
          Speaking of masks, the office of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has made free masks available to businesses and nonprofit organizations.  We ordered a big supply so that we’ll always have plenty of masks available for clients and volunteers.
          Another innovation is the introduction of two registration tables instead of one.  This has speeded up the process and the clients don’t have to wait as long to be served.  The pantry is now starting at 9:30 instead of 10:00, specifically for seniors who can’t stand in a long line.
          We’re having a lot of discussions, both among ourselves and with church staff, about how to continue once the weather grows cold.  In the past the clients gathered in the sanctuary to await their turn, but we believe we’ll never go back to serving only 35-40 families a week.  We can’t pack a lot of people into the sanctuary and maintain social distancing.  It’s an ongoing conundrum, and we’ll keep you posted.
          A special shout-out to two families who have been especially nurturing towards the pantry – the Baron family and the McKellar family.  These two families have taken very good care of us, and it seems that both families have cared for Dobbs Ferry in so many different ways.  Thanks to both families, and we’re lucky you live in Dobbs Ferry.
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June 25, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – Well, the pantry set another record yesterday.  We thought the numbers were going down once Westchester moved into Phase 2, but we were wrong.  Yesterday in the morning the volunteers served 121 families, including 247 adults, 158 children and 36 seniors.  Then in the evening they served another 9 families with 23 adults, 13 children and 2 seniors.  This brought us to a total of 130 families served, including 270 adults, 171 children and 38 seniors.  More than any other week.  479 individuals were served yesterday.  In the month of June we averaged 125 families and 464 people served per week.  In May it was 117 families and 438 people served.  In June of 2019 we averaged 39 families and 132 people per week.

          The good news is that we received a small grant from the United Way CARES program, and the Westchester County Department of Planning has made another grant available to pantries.  We need this money because our plan is to continue giving Stop & Shop gift cards to local families, in varying denominations according to the size of the family.  It’s important for us to continue this for now since this is the final week when families in Dobbs Ferry will be receiving free breakfasts and lunches from the School District.  We’re anticipating that the number of people coming to the pantry may increase in the coming weeks, due to the loss of these meals.
          Speaking of grants, thanks so much to those of you, on this list and elsewhere, who have kept us going with your monetary and food donations.  People in the area have been more than generous, which has made it possible for us to continue to help so many needy families.
          As an example, the Ardsley Middle School Student Council did a food drive among the students.  This past Monday while the volunteers were waiting for a delivery from Feeding Westchester two vans pulled up and the students dropped off bag after bag of food, gathered by the students from their families and elsewhere.  Special thanks to Bianca Ozdoba, President of the Council, for carrying this out.  Those donations will carry us for quite some time.
          In addition to their gift cards, the clients went home with food from Feeding Westchester, the Pantry and the Fable Farm CSA; prepared food from the On The Line consortium of restaurants, soup and bread from MadeByRK, and another bag of food from the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills.  The Stone Barns restaurant, Blue Hill, will be opening and they’ll need their resources for the restaurant.  The staff members who brought the food, though, said that Stone Barns is committed to continue helping pantries and soup kitchens who are helping many more people than previously.  They’ll get food to us as often as they can.  Our clients have definitely been well-served by caterers and restaurants in the community.  A virtual hug to them all!
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June 21, 2020

Good morning, everybody – This past Wednesday the pantry served slightly fewer people than in the last two weeks.  I hope this means that people are being called back to work.  Maybe some of these people will now donate to the pantry.  On Wednesday the volunteers served 119 families (last week 121 and the week before 129), consisting of 254 adults, 162 children and 32 seniors.  A total of 448 people were served.

          I must boast about Ogden Place – the block where I live in Dobbs Ferry.  We did a food drive for the pantry, and ended up with 17 bags and 2 boxes full of food, plus 2 boxes of diapers!  All from one short street!  One of our neighbors – Krisanne Bayer – is adept at organizing activities, and she’s loved by everyone, so all she had to do was send a text around and everybody gathered food for us.  I have a feeling that other blocks in Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington or Greenburgh might have the same spirit.
          And on Friday, when we brought the food to the pantry, we also received another entire collection of food from a combination of the Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church and the Dobbs Ferry Christian Preschool, which is located at DFLC.  The congregation has cared for us for years, and this time it was augmented by the parents of the children who were graduating from the Preschool.  The parents did a drive-by that day, and Director Barbara Mertens asked them to bring something for the pantry at the same time.  Thanks to everybody at DFLC, and to the Preschool parents also.  And special thanks to Director Barbara Mertens!
          For the last few months we’ve only been open on Wednesday mornings because hardly any clients were coming to the evening pantry on the last Wednesday of the month.  But now that people are back to work, we’ll be open again this coming Wednesday evening, June 24, from 5:30 to 7:00 in addition to the morning pantry.
          Today was the first day of the CSA!  We’ll be getting fresh, organic produce from Fable Farm in Ossining for the rest of the summer and fall!  And as luck would have it, volunteer Marc Taiano, who is the soul and body of the pantry as well as the Roots & Wings kitchen garden, will be at Fable every Tuesday and will bring us our two shares (together with whatever else farmer Tom Deacon can donate) right to the pantry on Tuesday evening, to be given out the following day.
          Speaking of the kitchen garden, on Wednesday the gardeners provided more tomato plants for the clients to take home to grow their own tomatoes.  Again, it was Marc who brought these from the garden to the pantry.
          On Wednesday, in addition to their provisions from the pantry, clients took home prepared food from Harpers/OnTheLine and soup and bread from MadeByRK.  Then a van arrived from the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY.  Their restaurant, Blue Hill, is not open now, but they’re sending food and produce from the farm to pantries and soup kitchens.  And this past week the pantry was the recipient of their kindness.  Everyone took home an extra box of food, and the staff have promised that they’ll be back from time to time with more delicious food from their farm.
          The pantry’s cup runneth over.  But there’s always a need for more.  Deepest thanks to everyone who has either sent us food or made a monetary donation on our website.  We’re continuing to meet the needs of the people in our area because of the generosity of the residents of the Rivertowns.  This is a wonderful place to live.
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June 11, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday the volunteers served fewer families than last week.  Maybe we’re finally plateauing!  This week the volunteers served 121 families (compared to 129 last week), including 255 adults, 168 children and 35 seniors, for a total of 458 people (471 last week).  Let’s hope that maybe some people have been called back to work.  My hope is that once they go back to work, the people we served will then turn around and make a donation to the pantry to keep things going.

          The husband of one of our clients was called back to work at a restaurant, and he sent several pizzas to the volunteers as a thank-you.  We’re not sure which restaurant it was, but the pizza was delicious.
          Both Ellen Klein and I were at the pantry yesterday for the first time in months.  It’s become a completely different operation due to serving so many people and not having access to the church.  It was so efficiently run that I was amazed.  I was like a stranger in a strange land.
          Team Rubicon and the COVID-19 Emergency Food Assistance Program are offering a $500 one-time grant for food and delivery of food to people with certain medical diagnoses.  It turns out that several of the pantry’s clients have one of those diagnoses, and we’ve been able to either provide the information so that they themselves can apply or, as I did this afternoon, help them to complete and submit the application.  There’s no deadline, but the information says they’ll keep doing it until they run out of money.  It seems Bristol-Myers-Squibb gave them a large donation to use to help people with these diagnoses during the pandemic.
          The Roots & Wings kitchen garden behind the church is making progress.  The gardeners gather regularly to work on their own plots and on the plot designated for the Pantry.  Yesterday Marc brought ten little tomato plants to offer to the clients, and all ten were eagerly accepted.  There may be more tomato plants next week, and more clients will be able to take them home and begin to grow their own tomatoes!
          This coming Wednesday we’ll have another partner for our clients in addition to the prepared food from Harpers/Meritage/OnTheLine and soup and bread from MadeBy RK.  Stone Barns will be sending several boxes of food, including produce, for our clients.  Stone Barns has been providing food since the beginning of the pandemic to hospitals, clinics and other first responders.  Happily, some of the providers no longer need the food, and Stone Barns is beginning to reach out to food pantries and soup kitchens.  Our pantry will be happy to partake of their generosity.
          Yesterday for the first time the pantry served clients from two separate lines.  One line was specifically for seniors or disabled clients, and it started at 9:30.  Although it was a new effort, it went very smoothly, and nobody minded that the seniors got to go first.  We’ve got a good group of clients, and a good, very hard-working group of volunteers!
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June 7, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – last Wednesday the Pantry set another record – 129 families served, including 259 adults, 177 children and 36 seniors, bringing us to 471 people served in a two-hour period.  129 families is a 268.6% increase from the numbers we used to serve.  We have several families to whom we deliver food also, because they’re immunocompromised, disabled, or for some other reason.  Wednesdays are busy days.  And we wrap it all up by having a Zoom meeting in the afternoon to figure how to manage in the coming weeks.

          One thing we’re concerned about is the fact that the breakfast-and-lunch program, which has been providing free meals to all Dobbs Ferry students and their families, will stop as of June 26.  We were hoping the program could continue through the summer, but it will have to stop when the school year ends.  And there will be no camp this summer either.  So, things will be harder for our pantry clients.  Let’s hope that some people can get back to work once Phase 2 starts this week.
          Thanks to volunteer Duke Coffey for concocting a bleach solution to use on all the tables that are used for assembling the bags and boxes of food we give out.  By the time the volunteers leave the church on Wednesday at noon the pantry is squeaky clean.  This is in addition to all the sanitary wipes, sprays, gloves and masks we’ve always been using.
          A special shout-out to community members who have provided our clients with diapers and baby wipes, including Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics and Spring Community Partners volunteer Suzy Barnett.  Today she left a pile of diapers and wipes at my house, which we’ll start giving out this coming Wednesday.  And she had to wait on a long line at Costco to do this.
          And another shout-out to Ron DiRusso and Matt Kay at Hudson Social in Dobbs Ferry for lending the pantry some refrigerator space for extra milk we had received from Fable Farm.  They were life savers!
          We heard from the Ardsley Middle School Student Council!  They’re going to do a food collection for us and we’ve asked them to drop it off on a Monday, when the volunteers are gathered for a Feeding Westchester delivery.  And I’m going to try to do a food drive on my block, too.  If anybody wants to do a block or neighborhood food drive for us we need these foods:
canned green vegetables
canned fruit
canned tomatoes
pasta sauce (in a plastic jar if possible so it doesn’t break in the bag)
individual juice packets or boxes
unsweetened cereal
canned hearty soups
individual raisin packets
shelf-stable milk
oatmeal
rice
peanut butter
size 6 diapers.
          This past Wednesday the clients went home with a box of food, a gift card, prepared food from Hudson Social/On The Line, bread and soup from MadeByRK, and beautiful produce from Fable Farm.  With help from us around food and diapers, hopefully the clients can use what income they have to come up with rent payments, etc. until this pandemic comes to an end.
 

 

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