Harvard University awarded the Allston-Brighton Opportunity Center with funds through the Harvard University Allston-Brighton Emergency Response Grant Program to reinforce their efforts to support the community.
Put simply, the Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Opportunity Center (ABNOC) is a place where people can go and get help. But more than the help they receive, it’s where they can go to see a friendly face, someone they know is there to look out for them and help them during difficult times. To look out for everyone’s safety, that all had to change when COVID-19 hit.
“We help get community members get from point a to point b – help people who are stuck in one place and we have a lot of ways that we do that,” says Elaina Schreckenberger, a Neighborhood Client Services Coordinator at ABNOC. “We are on the ground doing whatever we can to help members of our community, and if we can’t directly help, we can help find those services.”
ABNOC’s main focus right now is helping their clients maintain food security through their food pantry, an aspect of their work that has been around for some time, but has seen a greater need over the last few months. The organization was awarded funds through the Harvard Emergency Grant to help with this increased demand.
Traditionally, the ABNOC food pantry operated as a walk-in space without the need for reservations or notice, a model they tried to continue at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We came to realize that wouldn’t be manageable as the volume of people got higher and higher,” says Schreckenberger. After trying a few different models, they moved to an appointment-based system, which Schreckenberger notes is working due in large part to their clients being understanding.
The staff at ABNOC take great pride in working closely with their clients, and the inability of being able to meet face-to-face has added an extra burden on staff and clients alike.
ABNOC is still serving their clients in ways other than their food pantry, either through direct supports, working with Action for Boston Community Development, and organization of which they are a part, or connecting clients with other support more closely aligned with needs. Schreckenberger credits the relationships and partnerships ABNOC has with other organizations throughout the city with allowing them to pivot and continue providing essential services to those in need of help.
“There is still a need for housing, for fuel assistance – people were looking for help with their taxes,” says Schreckenberger. She notes that the staff at ABNOC have been on the front lines, helping people with these essential tasks and that a major focus was how to keep everyone safe.