Karen Patterson is a mediator, so when she saw the early effect COVID-19 fears were having on local residents, her natural reaction was to find a way to help.
On Friday, March 13, she created the Huntsville Community Help Out Group on Facebook.
“I hear a lot of fear and uncertainty in people’s voices and think that the antidote to fear can be connection and a sense of community. So, let’s use this group to create that connection!” she wrote in her opening post.
She shared the page with some of her contacts and as of this morning more than 200 had joined.
“People are panicking, parents are worried about this extra-long school break, people may have to work, they are concerned about their elders and how they’re going to get things. I thought, ‘Let’s lean in’,” Patterson told Doppler. “I thought, maybe if I do a community group that’s a place for Huntsville [residents]to feel ‘I’m not alone, I’m not isolated, I have some connections’. Maybe that’s going to help a bit.”
Offers of help have been rolling in.
Laura Janke posted that she was taking homemade bread orders and could deliver to those who can’t leave their homes.
Someone else wondered if the grocery stores could offer early shopping hours for seniors when they are newly stocked and disinfected.
Shelley Westgarth suggested linking up restaurant workers who aren’t working with parents who need childcare.
Jan Jacklin offered to pick up or deliver items for people who can’t get out.
Marie Turner wrote, “If the school closures have you concerned about your kids not being able to eat breakfast or lunch, PLEASE let me know. I will do what I can to help. A box of cereal, 4L of milk, bread, peanut butter, fruits and veggies – just let me know. Feel free to PM me – no judgement ever, and it’ll be our secret. It takes a village ♥️.”
Others have shared tips for keeping kids occupied while they are off school.
Melanie Barkwell Russell reminded people that they can purchase vouchers from their favourite small business to help them keep afloat as people self-isolate.
Patterson wasn’t the only one to have the idea. She found another group—Huntsville & Area Strong – Together we Stand Community COVID-19 Help Group—and they are cross-posting to help each other out.
“There are lots of people offering help. So far nobody’s asking for help…I don’t think things have hit hard enough yet that people are taking up on offers,” said Patterson. “What’s neat is I’m seeing people starting to connect with others—commenting to each other, commenting on threads. There hasn’t any nastiness…it’s all been really positive and a lot of altruistic thinking.”
If anyone would like to keep their offer or request more private, Patterson has suggested that they email her or send a private message through Facebook and she will post it to the group on their behalf.
One of the messages that she is promoting is “if there is a unique way that you are able to work with a small business, remember them,” she said. “They might be able to work with you in a creative way.”
Patterson appreciates all of the offers people have been posting. “I don’t think things have hit hard enough yet that people are taking up on the offers, but if we go along the same lines that this pandemic seems to follow, then I would imagine in a week-and-a-half to two weeks there going to be people who are feeling a bit more desperate.”
Anyone can join the group. You’ll find it here: Huntsville Community Help Out Group.
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