‘We’ve been busy’: Switchpoint’s executive director reflects on challenges, highpoints of 2020 for nonprofit

ST. GEORGE — Despite a trying year that taxed resources and manpower as demand for services increased due to the pandemic, the Switchpoint Community Resource Center saw several high points throughout 2020 as it started new business ventures and opened an apartment complex.

Switchpoint Community Resource Center Executive Director Carol Hollowell pauses for a photo, St. George, Utah, Sept. 9, 2020 | File photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

“We’ve been busy. We’ve been really busy,” Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, said as she she reflected on 2020.

Switchpoint went into 2020 with various projects in the works. This included the ongoing construction on the RiverWalk Village apartments, moving ahead with plans to build a 24/7 child care facility and opening a substance abuse recovery center in Hildale.

The Crossroads Recovery Center opened in February, shortly before COVID-19 rolled in and complicated everything, Hollowell said.

Impacts of COVID-19

“When COVID hit, we had to do a pivot and open up a ‘quarantine hotel,’ if you will, so that we would keep the shelter safe,” she said.

The St. George Inn, on St. George Boulevard, started being used as Switchpoint’s quarantine hotel last March. Individuals who tested positive for the virus, or came in from out of town, were sent to the St. George Inn for two weeks before being allowed to use the shelter. This action has allowed Switchpoint to prevent an outbreak from occurring among shelter occupants, Hollowell said.

Stock image by Serhii Sobolevskyi/
iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Use of the quarantine hotel continues, as does the application of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended public health and safety practices. Social distancing and masks are required at Switchpoint and its satellite facilities, while shields of glass have been set up between Switchpoint personnel and clients where deemed necessary.

Hollowell stressed the use of health and safety measures, such as the constant wiping down of door knobs in high-traffic areas.

Since Switchpoint opened in fall 2014, it has relied heavily on volunteers to help keep overall costs down. This has allowed the community resource center to put funds into much-needed services and programs that benefit the homeless and impoverished in the community that Switchpoint aims to serve.

Shortly after the pandemic hit, Switchpoint lost 90% of its volunteers. The majority of these people were in their 70s and 80s, Hollowell said, which placed them in a higher risk category for the virus.

St. George News and ABC4 Utah reported on the drop in volunteers, which soon after resulted in an influx of 100 new volunteers, Morgan Barrick, Switchpoint’s director of marketing and volunteers, said in an email.

Of that 100, 60 volunteers remain, Barrick said, adding that the nonprofit could still use an additional 50 volunteers, if not more.

Volunteers fill boxes of food for those in need inside the Switchpoint food pantry during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. George, Utah, March 18, 2020 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We always have the need for more volunteers!” she said in the email.

Where volunteers are unavailable, Hollowell said Switchpoint has taken to hiring temporary employees. While this takes money away from some of the facility’s services and programs, it’s necessary, she said.

“We had to keep the doors open because we’re an essential service,” Hollowell said.

During 2020, Switchpoint moved the soup kitchen it manages during the week from Grace Episcopal Church to its main campus. Daily use of the soup kitchen by those in need has also gone up by 25%.

“That tells you the need that’s occurring,” Hollowell said. “Our pantry needs have also gone up, as have our housing assistance requests. What we saw in 2020 was a bigger demand on the services that we provide than any other year that we have been open …. There was just a real influx (of need) and we have not seen a slowdown on that unfortunately.”

Hollowell said she anticipates demands of Switchpoint services remaining high into 2021, at least until the use of recently introduced vaccines becomes more widespread. After that point, Switchpoint may be able to pivot back to something resembling pre-pandemic operations.

2020 highlights

Though 2020 was a challenging year, Switchpoint also experienced several milestones as it opened a substance abuse recovery center, expanded existing businesses and opened new ones, saw the completion of the RiverWalk Village and broke ground for its new daycare facility.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the RiverWalk Village apartments in St. George, Utah, Oct. 29, 2020 | File photo courtesy of Switchpoint Community Resource Center, St. George News

“We’ve gone through several individuals on Medicare who desperately need addiction services,” Hollowell said as she spoke of the Crossroads Recovery Center’s opening. “That’s important because it was filling a big gap.”

Filling gaps for particular services in the community that will also benefit Switchpoint’s clients is something Hollowell said Switchpoint’s board of directors is particularly good at.

“We’re able to visualize solutions to the gaps that are occurring and we’re not afraid to jump in and take action,” she said. “If we see a gap and we know we can fill it, we’re going to do that.”

Other highlights of the year include the relocation and expansion of the Bed-N-Biscuits Pet Village, a dog and cat daycare facility to a larger location just off Sunset Boulevard on Dixie Downs Drive. The nonprofit also opened a small engine repair shop in August and a second thrift store at the end of the year.

These business ventures are able to provides an additional source of funding for Switchpoint that isn’t tied to a particular program or service, while also providing jobs and job training for Switchpoint clients.

A rendering of what the Stepping Stones childcare facility will that broke ground in mid-October, St. George, Utah, Oct. 13, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Work on the 55-unit RiverWalk Village apartment complex also finished and opened in late October. The complex was filled within six weeks, Hollowell said.

Ground was also broken in October for Switchpoint’s new 24/7 daycare facility on 200 East in St. George that will cater to the children of parents who work non-traditional hours.

One of the biggest tasks Switchpoint undertook in 2020 was opening a new community resource center, thrift store, pantry and domestic violence shelter in Tooele County in July.

Switchpoint also opened two temporary shelters in Salt Lake City to help the area’s un-sheltered homeless population through the winter. Those facilities will be closing in April, Hollowell said.

“Even though we lost our largest fundraising events because of COVID, we’ve had to pivot and do things online, but it’s really about educating our community about what we do and how we can relieve some of the burdens that are facing our homeless population,” she said.

Switchpoint 2020 highlight statistics:

  • 5,400 people accessed services across all of Switchpoint’s programs, including over 2,200 women and children.
  • 169 previously unemployed adults reentered the workforce.
  • 648 individuals participated in education and employment programs.
  • 1,089 people accessed the emergency shelter.
  • 1.48 million pounds of food were distributed through the pantry and soup kitchen.
  • 424 Washington County family found housing and are no longer homeless.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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