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St. Vincent reopens after COVID-19 scare

St. Vincent de Paul will start serving low-income Jackson County residents again this week after a volunteer with COVID-19 forced the shutdown of its facilities earlier this month.

With stricter policies in place, St. Vincent will begin a phased reopening of its Medford thrift store and other facilities on North Pacific Highway.

“We were nervous when we closed down,” said Rich Hansen with St. Vincent. “We’ve been prepping for this day for the past 10 days.”

On July 16, one of the 300 volunteers who work for the organization tested positive for COVID-19, and a half dozen other volunteers who worked closely with the man tested negative.

The man, one of 312 who has contracted the virus in Jackson County, has recovered, Hansen said.

Working with Jackson County health officials, St. Vincent has stricter rules for its volunteers in order to get reopened and start serving low-income residents again.

“We’re going to lay down the law, and we’re going to wear masks,” Hansen said.

Even volunteers who work behind the scenes are required to wear masks or face coverings.

The Thrift Store, which provides much of the money needed to finance the operations, will open again Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and donations will be accepted until 3:30 p.m.

Sack lunches, which are handed out to the poor, will be offered again starting next Monday. Lunch will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The lunches are handed through the door of the dining room, which will remain closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Urban Rest Stop will reopen its laundry and shower operations next Tuesday from 8 a.m. until noon. It will also be open Fridays. Clients must check in at a table outside the facility and wait for their turn.

St. Vincent has handed out mail to homeless people and others, who depend on the service to receive checks and other important correspondence. Client mail is distributed Tuesday and Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Tuesday, a volunteer sat behind a Plexiglas shield while handing out the mail.

A locker room is also open because many homeless people store their prescription medicines in the facility.

Social services will resume by telephone only at 541-772-3828 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. beginning next Monday. Walk-in clients can be seen Tuesday and Thursday to obtain identifications, bus passes, camping gear, furniture vouchers, personal hygiene items, diapers and pet food.

The Family Emergency Shelter is closed, and no reopening date has been set.

Hansen said St. Vincent has received donations of masks and cleaning products, including from Providence Medford Medical Center.

“I think we’re more conscientious now,” Hansen said. “Our goal remains the same, to start feeding people and to help pay the rent for people in need.”

John Vinatieri, president of St. Vincent in Medford, said there was a sense of urgency after the COVID-19 scare to get reopened and start serving the poor again.

“It’s difficult to operate without our store because it is the main way we get our money,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Helen Smith, a volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul in Medford, processes oranges Tuesday at the facility.{ }Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune