Interview with Marilyn Neal, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Service Center
EEDC: Tell us a bit about your organization?
Marilyn Neal: Neighborhood Service Center (NSC), Inc. is the designated Community Action Agency for Talbot County and has served low-income families and individuals for over 50 years.
The purpose of NSC is to provide a wide range of services that will assist individuals in crisis while removing barriers to self-sufficiency. NSC takes a holistic look at the individual or family in need with issues such as food, housing, transportation, health, youth development, family environment, job skills, employment/income, social supports, and community involvement.
Through Emergency Services, customers are provided with hotel stays, medication assistance, transportation, and other critical daily living expenses.
EEDC: What is happening on the ground in Talbot County since COVID-19?
Marilyn Neal: We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the need for food. We anticipate that with the lifting of the Governor’s Stay at Home Executive Orders, we will see that shift to a need for assistance with rent, utilities, and foreclosure issues.
There is a new influx of those recently unemployed, residents that are furloughed (from out-of-area federal jobs), and those that have reduced/modified schedules. Some newly unemployed residents are now without either health insurance and/or daily living expenses.
EEDC: What kind of changes did NSC have to make in response to these increased need for services?
Marilyn Neal: NSC has expanded its shelter services to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Before, we were open Monday through Friday from 4 pm through 8 am and 24 hours Saturday and Sunday.
Another huge change we’ve seen is the expansion of our food pantry services. For the first three months of the year, January through March combined, we served 384 households and 566 individuals. Since COVID, and for the month of April alone, NSC has assisted 1, 883 individuals, and 7,827 households.
EEDC: Besides food pantry and shelters, what other requests for services is your organization dealing with?
Marilyn Neal: Mobile food service, which extend to seniors, disabled, and those living in remote areas without transportation. We’ve seen an increase in housing needs due to domestic violence. Medical supplies/equipment and medication have been one of the priorities. We’ve been coordinating and establishing links for transportation, referrals, planning, and other types of information such as how to obtain adequate housing. There are requests for diapers, sanitary napkins, Ensure, clothing and supplies for children.
EEDC: Sounds like a monumental job. How many people are making this happen?
We usually have 18 staff members, including myself, however, currently, we have four staff members teleworking three days a week. We also have wonderful volunteers helping to bag groceries and do the logistical work of taking pictures of IDs and forms.
EEDC: What do you need?
Marilyn Neal: A continuation of support is necessary to assist families and individuals of Talbot County to stay afloat during these challenging times. We can always use donations, both food and monetary, and volunteers. Masks, gloves, sanitizer, and anti-bacterial hand soap, and toiletries are in short supply.