Public services available as tri-county prepares for coronavirus

TRI-COUNTY — With or without the coronavirus, residents across the Big Bend region will still need help getting enough nutrition and meeting other essential needs.

Groups and officials across the region are stepping up to make sure vital nonprofits and assistance initiatives stay up-and-running. Here’s what residents should know about public services, from school lunches and panic buying to legal aid and court dates.

The city’s Meals on Wheels program switched to delivery-only on Monday, closing its dining room at the Nutrition Center in the MAC Building for at least a week. All dine-in patrons will instead be added to the Meals on Wheels delivery routes. Marfa Police Department is assisting in delivery, and Nutrition Center Director Ed Cobos said he could use an extra set of volunteer hands at 10:30 a.m. each morning, Monday through Friday, to assist in boxing up the food for delivery.

Federal and state authorities are working to ensure that low-income school kids still get no-cost lunches amid school closures. A waiver, requested by the Texas Department of Agriculture and approved by the USDA, will suspend rules requiring that schoolchildren eat such lunches in a group setting.

Alpine ISD, which will be closed through at least Friday, March 20, has already announced such plans. The school will provide curbside lunch service to students from 12 p.m. until 1 p.m. daily, the school district said last Friday.

The Food Pantry of Jeff Davis County has adopted special rules in response to coronavirus concerns. Visitors will be allowed inside one-by-one, and — while they’ll still get to choose food items — staff and volunteers will collect and bag those items, the group’s executive director said Friday.

Meanwhile, the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend has installed a Little Free Pantry at its Alpine location at 606 North 5th Street, the group said Monday evening.

In a statement, the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend said it will continue to provide resources to domestic violence and assault survivors during the coronavirus crisis and asks that people please call ahead to make an appointment. The numbers for assistance and appointments are 432-837-7254 for Alpine, 432-229-4297 for Presidio and 432-371-3147 for Terlingua. The group’s emergency hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-834-8256.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid also said they will “continue operations during this public health emergency but our offices will not be open to the public.” Applicants can reach the hotline at 888-988-9996.

Faced with emptying shelves on Friday, Porter’s has limited purchases on toilet paper, Clorox items and hand sanitizer to two items per customer at its Marfa location. The Jeff Davis County Commissioners Court urged locals not to panic buy or hoard goods, saying in a statement Friday: “That’s not the west Texas way.”

Pastor Ernesto Zubia at Iglesia Cristiana Jesus es Rey church in Marfa is asking churchgoers to stay home if they don’t feel well. If you’re an official, nonprofit worker or churchleader and would like to contact us regarding public services or other essential updates, please email [email protected].