What I Know: Rick Alvis Of Wheeler Mission

AGE: 67  GIG: President and CEO of Wheeler Mission Ministries since 1990. WHEREABOUTS: Most likely on a video call at home in Greenwood. SUPERPOWER: Running an outreach shelter during a pandemic.

Right now, we’re running on a pretty skeleton crew at the Mission.

We’ve had six or eight staff members test positive for the coronavirus.

We sent everyone 60 and older home, which took more people than I expected off our front lines.

Our case managers and some of the childcare workers at our women’s center had to move to working directly with people coming in.

The people in our shelter are fearful. The first week, the guys at the Mission were wiping down the walls with Lysol wipes.

I’ve been sequestered at home because I’m in the over-60 group. The only people I’ve talked to for the past month have been on a computer screen. Oh, and my wife.

I have to rely on the eyes, feet, and hands of the people on my front lines to help me make the right decisions.

Quite honestly, I’ve been busier at home than I am in the office. I’m on video calls until 10 o’clock at night.

Our biggest challenge is protecting our clients and staff from getting sick.

We’re making sure everyone’s got masks on and people are getting tested.

Social distancing was nonexistent at the men’s shelter downtown, where we house most of our people. But a church and the Marion County Board of Health stepped up, and we were able to open four satellite locations.

We’re not allowing any volunteers inside our facilities, so we could really use funding to pay the additional people we’re having to hire to cover the people who got sick.

We’re pretty good on food, actually. We don’t have to worry too much about that because of Second Helpings, Gleaners, and Midwest Food Bank. Plus we’ve had a lot of volunteers making sandwiches for us.

We’re purely in emergency mode. It’s crisis after crisis.

It’s hard to say what the future looks like. Do we put masks on all our intake workers? Do we take the temperature of everyone who comes through the door?

I’m ready for it to be over—as I know millions of other people are, too.

The first thing I’m going to do is hug my grandkids. My granddaughter was born last month, and I haven’t gotten to hold her yet.