A feature from Growing Home CEO, Karen Fox Elwell.
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown many challenges at Growing Home. I am so proud that we have risen to the occasion and persevered throughout this time. We continue to fulfill our mission and vision and have a meaningful impact in the lives of children, their families, and their community. I was recently asked what Growing Home has learned from this time, and I want to share some of my reflections on the topic.
- Innovation – As I’ve been told many times, “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” Growing Home has done just that. When social distancing made our food pantry shopping model, home visits, and in person community meetings not possible, we quickly innovated to determine new, safer ways of operating. This time has challenged our normal operations in so many ways and opened up our eyes to new ways of accomplishing our work that we may not have even considered – and might even have thought impossible – had it not been for this time. We have been wonderfully surprised that through our new drive thru food distribution we can provide food access to significantly more households in the same amount of time. We have been able to provide 91 households food during a two-hour window! That never would have been possible in our shopping model. We also have utilized an autonomous vehicle to transport food from an offsite distribution to create more room for social distancing and reduce our onsite footprint for food storage. These are just some of the many examples of how we have innovated during this time. Even once we are beyond this time, this experience will encourage us to always ask ourselves if there is a new and better way of doing things that can help us have an even greater impact. This experience will give us the courage to challenge the status quo and innovate.
- Continuous Learning – I am in awe of the resiliency of the Growing Home team and their ability to continually adapt to the ever-changing circumstances around us. Each week seems to throw new challenges at us, and the team accepts each new challenge as an opportunity to reflect, adapt, and improve. Throughout this time, we have continually reflected on how things are going, what the data is telling us, what we can learn from others, and how we can continue to adapt and improve. This refined focus on continuous learning and improvement is now embedded into our organizational DNA.
- New Uses of Technology – COVID-19 has challenged our assumptions and beliefs that for our work to be impactful that it must occur in person. While the digital divide that our community faces is real and the transition to offering televisits for our Parents as Teachers program or community meetings for our Community Organizing work hasn’t been without its hurdles, three months in, we can proudly say that we have continued to have a significant impact via technology. Using technology has even had some cost savings and created more bandwidth for staff, as they don’t have to dedicate time to driving from appointment to appointment. Even for our in-person services, the need to social distance and minimize shared touched surfaces has provided
- opportunities to use technology for check-in procedures and transportation of food. Our eyes are now more open to new uses of technology that could improve how we fulfill our mission. We will keep asking ourselves how technology could help us accomplish our goals.
- The Power of Partnerships – While Growing Home has always been a strong believer in partnerships, the past three months have proved more than ever the power of collaboration. In mid-March, as we noticed a large spike in demand for food access, we knew we had an important role to play for our community and that we needed help. We reached out to our community and were blown away by the outpouring of support. Partnerships with the City of Westminster, City of Thornton, Adams County, Tri Country Health Department, the faith-based community, and the community at large have been critical to Growing Home’s ability to meet the increased demand for food and other services over the past 3 months.
The past three months have been transformative for Growing Home. As we continue to persevere and adapt to the ever-changing environment, we know we will continue to learn more. Additionally, as time goes on, it will become more apparent how these critical lessons learned will play out beyond the pandemic and help us achieve our vision of our community working together to ensure all children and their families have a place to call home, food on the table, and the opportunities to pursue their dreams.