Monday June 22, SW Rotary had a great presentation from Interfaith's Executive Director Kris Gossom.  Normally this time of year, she be asking us to commit to serving meals during the Hotter 'n Hell bicycle races in August.  Instead with those races moving to virtual events, Interfaith lost one of their fundraisers.
COVID has changed their work flow while increasing the need from the community.  In the last 3 months, Interfaith has served 530 households of 1258 people -half lost their job, the others lost hours.  Of those helped, 234 are new clients, who never came to Interfaith before.
Interfaith Outreach Services provides appropriate temporary assistance to individuals and families of Archer and Wichita Counties who are threatened with homelessness, loss of utilities, food insecurity or other temporary financial emergencies in an atmosphere of compassion and respect.  
Interfaith started after the April 10th, 1979 tornado. In a first for our community, Twenty-five churches pledged to support Interfaith Ministries, Inc. (IMI). Their purpose was to eliminate families' going from congregation to congregation to ask for food and financial assistance. Having a central location supported by many congregations enabled resources to be pooled, eliminated duplication of effort and assistance, and saved families a lot of time and frustration trying to find help.
Kris Gossom is the executive director of Interfaith Outreach Services, where she has served since July of 2014.


Interfaith serves short teams needs vs other program; emergency assistance rather than ongoing needs, bridging families through a tough time, providing help in the form of:

  • Diapers
  • Help with Rent and/or Utilities
  • Food - Food Pantries

Many Interfaith clients are overwhelmed. Consider a family whose car breaks down, do they pay rent or fix the car to get to/from work?  Interfaith looks at their need and the cause, recently most causes have been COVID or economic disaster

For example in April, Interfaith was working with a client whose heart surgery had been delayed by COVID.  Her sister died, then her mother died, now she has no family resources available.  With her surgery in Plano scheduled and no family to help, Interfaith is paying her rent for July and August.

Kris got a question “What about services to help a family work their way out of poverty?  Do you offer life skills, or work skills?”  Kris shared that Catholic Charities does some skills training. And for substance abuse, Faith Mission and Hope Ministries offer recovery and life skills.


In response to the COVID challenge to our community, in the last 13 weeks Interfaith has:

  • - provided Diapers (multiple sets) to 95 families with 159 children,
  • - helped with Housing by providing $13,000 to over 40 households, with 81 people,
  • - helped with Utilities, providing $4,000 to 26 households

All in all, Interfaith has served 530 households of 1258 people - ½ lost job, others lost hours.  Of those helped, 234 are new clients, who never came to Interfaith before

Kris got another question, “Have you had critical needs where you couldn’t respond?” Kris shared that Interfaith has been blessed with donations, the right things at the right time:

  • - 1,000s of diapers, wondered how will use, stored everywhere . . 
  • - And as Walmart bought a company facility, they called, lots of baby wipes were donated.  

Client requests have worked through much of this inventor and Interfaith is uust getting to last of these diapers and wipes for those families in need.  


What changes were needed to deal with COVID?  First considerations started in early March as a volunteer asked what our plans were to deal with COVID.  Two weeks later the realities of the situation hit:

  • Interfaith has 24 volunteers / day and 3 staff
  • The staff is older than 50, and all but 3 of volunteers are over 70

Work flow presented a challenge to provide Confidentiality and accommodate Social distancing.  Intake counseling moved from in person to over the phone, and operations were cut back to 11 am to 2 pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday with 10 volunteers. By Mid May Interfaith had become better organized. 

One big concern is upcoming Utility disconnects -- Anticipated to become an issue as the grace period is ending. Expect it to be challenging as some may have $300 water bills after not paying for a few months, vs a $75/mo bill prior to COVID.

Now covering 2 shifts (2 hours / shift) 9am - 2pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Serving clients by phone with a few more volunteers.  Hope to add one more shift and then get to Monday to Friday service.

Disheartened as the number of cased increases.  Lot of volunteers in their 80’s and their families aren’t comfortable with them volunteering and coming into contact with others.  Making sure to connect to all Volunteers, the Volunteer coordinator and Kris visited ALL volunteers - sat in yard, talked to volunteers on their porches.  One of the volunteer benefits is the relationships between the volunteers.

Setting up the facility to be safe -- ordered masks, and everyone wears a mask. Ordering protective plexiglass shields, had to look around to get the best pricing for this unbudgeted but necessary expense.  Have also moved phones from common space to interview rooms for privacy

Partnering has always been important, but new partnerships have happened to better support clients:

  • Met Community Church, partnered to deliver food. Synergy was they didn’t have food,  Interfaith didn’t deliver.
  • A silver lining, COVID highlighted need for coordination.  15 non-profit leaders get together to share notes.  In some cases found they could share resources and inventories to better take care of community.

Food sources have changed for the better

  • Continue to have food coming from church member’s donations, e.g. 2nd Sundays at United Methodist, 1st Christian, etc.,
  • As well as from Wichita Falls Area Food Bank where a donation has paid for the “handling” cost normally charged by the Food Bank.

Fundraising is different too:

  • With Hotter ’n Hell going virtual, there will be no funds raised from the traditional Spaghetti Dinner,
  • Texoma Gives is an important fund raiser. Plan to participate in September,
  • Foundations are helping,
  • Two grants were approved providing Increased funding. 
SW Rotarians salute the great works and community assistance provided by Interfaith Outreach Services. Kris, thank you for sharing your update today!