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TASCA: What have you been seeing these last couple of weeks as far as the community needs in West Warwick?

ST. JEAN: We have gone from serving about 100 people to 385 people a day.  At this point, we do ask for a donation of six dollars for three bags of groceries.  I think with everyone out of work, the price is right for them because they can't afford to go buy food at the big grocery stores.

TASCA: Are you concerned at all about Project Hand Up's ability to meet any additional demand in the coming weeks?  

ST. JEAN: Well, I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little worried about it.  If the numbers continue to go up, I don't know if there's enough time in the day to actually service all these people.  

Of course, we have changed the way we're doing things here so it will move along faster.  At this point now, we're going to drive up to the curb and put the groceries in (a car).  That should move things along a lot faster.  That's what we're hoping, anyway.  We're going to try to keep up with the demand for as long as we possibly can.  

TASCA: Talk about making these deliveries.  What is that like?

ST. JEAN: We put the food in wagons.  We take it to their car.  They open up their trunk, they put the food in their trunk.  I take a little information from them.  It's very efficient and safe for everyone.

TASCA: Has this been a daunting endeavor for yourself and your staff, this prospect of serving so many people in your local community that you haven't seen before?

ST. JEAN: It's very overwhelming sometimes to see what we're doing in the community.  Sometimes it takes me aback a little bit and I have to kind of regroup.  I'm glad that we can be here for everybody. That's all.  We'll be here for them for as long as we can.

TASCA: I'm sure there are people wondering, "How can I help Project Hand Up?" What would you say to them?

ST. JEAN: We are in need on non-perishable food.  We have a lot of fruits and vegetables and a lot of meat and dairy, but we're running very short on canned vegetables, peanut butter, tuna - the main staples.  Monetary donations are always welcome.  

[If you have a story you'd like to tell about your experience coping with the coronavirus pandemic, you can email Joe Tasca at jtasca@thepublicsradio.org]