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'We want to serve our city, we just want to prepare' | Volunteers face demand increase from DC's new COVID-19 hotline

Mayor Bowser said callers who did not meet hotline criteria were referred to community groups, but volunteers say they were not told to expect increased calls.

WASHINGTON — Some D.C. volunteer groups helping feed their neighbors during the pandemic are seeing a spike in service calls they say are coming from the new D.C. COVID-19 hotline.  

Starting April 13, the District advised that anyone who was homebound or quarantined could call the hotline and request help obtaining essential items. 

"We’re obviously providing what the district can't," April Goggans, a volunteer from Black Lives Matter, which is part of DC Mutual Aid, said. 

Goggans said Wards 7 and 8 alone received 1,200 additional calls that they can attribute to the Mayor’s new hotline.  

"We do ask, 'okay, how did you hear about us?' and most people say, ‘I saw a flyer and my cousin told me,'" Goggans said. "But then people started calling and saying, 'I went through the Mayor's line.'" 

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a recent news conference that anyone who called the hotline and did not meet the criteria of being homebound or quarantined were referred out to more specific volunteer groups or nonprofit organizations.   

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According to Goggans, in the last five weeks, the neighborhood groups that make up DC Mutual Aid have delivered thousands of pounds of fresh produce and served 55,000 hot meals to neighbors in need. They don’t intend on stopping, despite the increasing demand.  

"We continue to make every delivery no matter how late it is, no matter what we have to get," she said. "We continue to raise money to be able to do that." 

Over on Capitol Hill, volunteers at Care at the Table Church run errands and buy groceries, thanks to donations. They’re not sure if they’re getting referrals from the hotline, but have seen a spike since the Mayor announced it. 

"If they have presented themselves as helping people in need or helping the hungry, then they would have gotten a referral," Bowser said. "If they’re not doing that or helping, we need to take them down from our referral list." 

Allison McGill, director of Care at the Table Church, said they will continue if there’s a need.  

"We want to serve our city, we just want to prepare," she said. "We just also want to know what is going on and have some transparency to the process of the hotline, and for it not to be assumed that we don't want the requests." 

WUSA9 asked Boswer's office how many nonprofits and volunteer groups are on the referral list and if they will receive additional resources as a result, but we are still waiting to hear back.

"People should know, first, where they can get reliable services," Goggans said. "But also who actually follows through and who's providing those services."

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