Cray Youth & Family Services has found innovative ways to serve its many clients while exercising social distancing.

Its programs are up and running without human contact and are focused the most on providing food to the families it serves, said Don Kemerer, the agency’s executive director.

The agency has been creative in continuing to serve its clients through its food pantry, online education and video counseling and other programs. The Confluence, a downtown restaurant and coffee shop that benefits the agency, also remains open five days a week for lunch, but is take-out only.

“Mostly what we’re providing in all of our programs is food security, because a lot of our families are going to need it,” he said. The families are given nonperishable foods and groceries.  

“We’ve always had a food bank for any of our families, and we’re just reinforcing it,” Kemerer said. 

Cray works with close to 200 families every day who receive services or food or both from the agency, he said.

While Cray works largely with parents and families who have been separated from their children through court orders but have visitation rights, in-person visitation has been halted, but the services are all continuing, Kemerer said. “We’re not doing any face-to-face work. Our schools are now through online education and our staff can be reached by phone or by telecommunications for instruction and counseling.

Beginning Monday, Cray’s visitation will do video visitation, allowing parents to see their children through Skype and FaceTime and communicate that way, Kemerer said, emphasizing, “We’re not allowed to go into homes right now.”

“Our staff will continue to monitor the electronic visitation, but they can’t hug and touch their kids,” he said.

Kemerer noted Lawrence County Common Pleas President Judge Dominick Motto ordered that as of Tuesday he still wants visits to occur, but they have to be through telecommunication. 

The governor’s latest order is to allow only what is life-sustaining, but we’ve gotten permission from Children and Youth Services that Cray’s staff can provide counseling by phone and video.

“Everyone’s communicating with the families regularly, either daily  or every other day, and they can contact us by phone emergency numbers,” he said. In the offices, “We’re running a skeleton crew to keep numbers down. If employees can work from home, they will, and  we are splitting our staff to work shifts so they don’t all work at the same time. We’re limiting the number of people in our buildings. We’re all practicing social distancing.”  

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