By Donna Sines:
When was the last time we recognized everyday heroes? As a society, creatively showing appreciation to people on the front lines in this historic war is celebrated and promoted by the media, and its encouraging people to share their experiences.
It began with the doctors and nurses. People gather in hospital parking lights to blow their horns and flash their lights so that the exhausted medical personnel, putting themselves in peril, know we are behind them. It spilled over to all first responders, fire, and police, dealing with families as well as terrified patients. Mental health professionals have stepped in calming frayed nerves when tempers boil over. This is new territory for those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. Let’s face it, we are all on edge. With social distancing, the marking of birthdays, adoptions, and other milestones could involve a car parade through the neighborhood, posted and shared through social media.
It did not take long before we began to look at the grocery store cashier, restaurant delivery person, farm worker and truck driver as essential to our food supply. They show up for work and do their part while everyone stays home to do theirs. And, that act is far from easy. Nursing homes and grandparents are off limits. Sporting events, festivals, and fundraisers are canceled indefinitely. Proms, quinceanera and those rite of passage moments for teens including graduations are in jeopardy. At the same time, wedding celebrations and mourning our dead have a participation limit of 10.
In this pandemic, the troops on the front lines are the people we know – the doctor that stitched up your grandson’s knee and the woman down the street who meets the school bus in green scrubs each day. Children make chalk rainbows on the sidewalk to encourage adults and adults place teddy bears in windows to encourage children. In a matter of weeks, celebrities were on board raising money, doing PSAs, and telling us repeatedly in words and song that “We Are Not Alone”.
Businesses do what businesses do – adapt. Those with access to 3D printers are partnering with others to manufacture facemasks. Even breweries are cranking out bottles of sanitizer versus beer and spirits.
Seniors watching TV interviews donated their stimulus checks to stressed-out single moms, brave enough to tell their stories of struggle on camera. Those same stories of desperation and worry could be retold many times over from Four Corners to Yeehaw Junction and everywhere in between.
There has never been more appreciation for our dedicated educators, as parents had to become partners in their kid’s education on a whole new level. Teachers, who in short order, adapted curriculum to keep their students, (now relegated to small boxes around a computer screen), engaged and on track. Parents carved out room for a computer in a sometimes-crowded apartment or hotel room. Parents have utilized those same computers at 3 a.m. to apply, again and again for unemployment. Despite all the obstacles, parents, teachers and students all had to step up, bridging the digital divide in the process.
Also, on the homefront, motivated women brushed the cobwebs off their sewing machines to make medical masks out of left-over fabric. One woman asked why she is spending every waking minute in front of a sewing machine while awaiting chemo. She sincerely replied, “I don’t think I have ever felt more useful.” What an amazing reason to do something for someone else.
Community Vision has been a nonprofit operating in Osceola County for 25 years. During a quarter of a century, surveying over 1,000-plus residents annually, this is what we learned. Osceola people are tough! Give our community a drop of hope and a small measure of resources and those dollars will be leveraged to the max. Osceola people dig deep when a neighbor is in need or when a call goes out for volunteers. Creativity and collaboration is the nonprofit business model. All three legs of the societal stool; government, business and non-profit sector know how to come together. Osceola County has its share of challenges, but it has more than its share of heroes. Generosity abounds as a greater burden is placed on those with any degree of wealth. Osceola has the region’s greatest percentage of working poor, yet all too frequently finds itself at the end of the line when regional dollars are divvied up. Out of necessity, there is a proud tradition of taking care of each other. Hopefully, good things will come out of this unprecedented time in history. However, currently, additional hardship is layered on those who can least afford it. The federal programs are impressive, but the local spirit of community and goodwill will still be necessary ingredients to get us through. Faith in one another, optimism and courage need not be in short supply.
Community Vision provides a comprehensive Community Resource Guide where those in need can connect to valuable service providers. Vice versa, the guide provides information and links to a myriad of community organizations, agencies and associations dealing with a double whammy. Funding, all but dried up, at a time the need is tenfold. But the dedicated warriors who represent a last resort for some will bend over backward, connecting with partners and collaborators if necessary. A current version of the resource guild is available on line or via a cell phone by category www.communityvision.org
The turn of events of 2020 put a spotlight on the importance of individual action during a global crisis. Individual action will be just as important post virus. Recovery will not happen overnight. The whole world has been sick together, and many have died. It will take a world of effort and innovation to create another new normal. In 3020, when they study the great pandemic of 2020, I hope the story told is of the small towns and villages, including Osceola County, who emerged from this the stronger. There has been politics from the beginning of time. In an election year nationally, it is something we have grown to accept. What we should not accept in ourselves or others, is apathy. Browse the guide as all organizations need monetary gifts, but if you are not in a position, here are some specific items that could really help. Have a sewing machine? The Community Hope Center could sure use facemasks for their homeless clients because the virus can spread like wildfire among that population. Lots of tutorials online related to “how to”.
Food donations would be appreciated by the Osceola Council on Aging and St. Cloud Food Pantry.
Toiletry items are needed by Transition House, Children’s Advocacy Center and Christian Ministries, as well as Help Now Domestic Abuse shelter.
Baby diapers are needed by Healthy Start, larger sizes, and Pull Ups by the Community Hope Center.
Sadly, the Osceola Opportunity Center for adults with developmental disabilities had to close because they could not get enough sanitizer or disinfectant spray to remain open.
Your faith community may be able to connect you with individual families in need.
While it is true, we are not alone, in a community like Osceola we all must be in this together, today, and always.
Donna Sines is the executive director of Community Vision.