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An emergency COVID-19 fund in Delco fights to feed the newly needy in the ’burbs

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Via the Philadelphia Inquirer

By Maria Panaritis @panaritism |

There’s a perception problem about the suburbs. As though it is a Land of Plenty. Where bum luck happens only on Netflix in the living room of a detached house with a fenced-in yard.

But coronavirus economic carnage is piling up beyond Philadelphia proper. Now would be a good time to ditch the stereotype of suburban largesse and make sure our charitable donations match the reality of the need that surrounds us.

The suburbs need your help. Now. Especially the one many of us know best as “Delco.”

Delaware County is the poorest of the four counties that border Philadelphia, one of the nation’s most populous cities. One in 10 people were in poverty in Delco before the recent calamitous shutdown of economic activity in our region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people don’t know this.

With the county as home to many service-sector workers who’ve lost Philadelphia jobs due to the pandemic, the situation has only become worse, it seems.

If only raising the money, however, were easier than it’s shaping up to be.

Food banks from Chester to Upper Darby are dealing with growing lines filled with faces they’ve never before seen. The county itself, with its relatively meager commercial tax base, had to furlough 400 government workers a few weeks ago due to the pandemic.

Charity is essential right now. But the perception that donors have — and the ways they typically spend their charity — often means that this county of 567,000 is not among the first, or the last, to get charitable checks.

“I think people who are comfortable have no idea how much poverty there is in the county and how many people there are who literally do not have a dime in savings and not through any fault of their own. They may be working a minimum-wage job. Minimum wage is not even $10 an hour in Pennsylvania,” said Frances Sheehan, who as president of the three-year-old Foundation for Delaware County has established a Delaware County COVID-19 Response Fund to help with immediate food aid in recent weeks.