I just want to use this post to talk about how a bunch of people doing smaller actions can make a huge impact on a community.
Back in March when covid started in my community, I came home to a flyer in my mailbox. A couple moms in a local Facebook group had a side discussion about what they could do to help. So they started a group. Anyone on the community could join, and initial things we were doing were like grocery drop offs for high-risk folks. Organizing birthday chalk messages. Someone’s glucometer broke and needed to know if anyone had a spare.
Then someone posted they had a friend moving in a rush to get out of a bad situation and she didn’t have anything for her apartment. Over the course of a weekend, we came up with lots of stuff to help her out. Furniture, towels, clothes for her kids. And it was so empowering for all of us randos (I would recognize maybe 2 people from the group if I saw them at Target) to come together to help someone. That weekend felt like a catalyst to go from “oh that old person needs groceries picked up” or “let’s do chalk birthday messages for some kid” to “oh we’re fucking doing shit and getting shit done.”
The group organized people to make cloth masks. People donated fabric and elastic. People donated their time sewing. Those of us who don’t sew donated funds. Other people did drop-offs. For weeks before you could find a cloth mask in a store, they were dropping them off to people who needed them. Masks are now being stocked at a few local bus shelters since St. Louis is requiring people to wear masks if they ride the bus.
Meanwhile, there’s this super awesome lady several streets over from me, Shana. Shana had 10 members of her friends and family pass away from coronavirus in Albany, Georgia. I can’t fucking imagine the grief and pain she suffers. She lives right behind a major shopping center with a decent amount of car and foot traffic.
Shana decided to put out a table with free food for people who needed it. She saw that the school district had to suspend the meal dropoff for local families because one of the employees was sick. She didn’t want people to starve, so she set out the table with a big handwritten “HELP YOURSELF” sign.
So Shana posts on the Facebook group when the tables are out at her house (sometimes weather isn’t feasible). Someone in the group says “hey do you want some tents to put over the tables?” and now Shana has shaded tables. Someone else says “hey I got some big coolers, you want to use them to put out stuff that can’t get too warm?” Other people come by regularly with ice for the coolers.
Shana’s such a genuinely kind lady that she organized an Easter egg hunt on her lawn where all the eggs had candy. Kids came by all day on Easter to get an egg.
Shana’s food pantry now has fresh fruit and veg. People are picking up some extra stuff and dropping it off for her tables. People are donating cash to her venmo. And the need is there. Food does not sit around long enough to go bad.
A few months ago, the facebook group also heard about how some places repurposed their little free libraries as food pantries. So we’re doing that now. We have 4 tiny food pantries and people post updates when they are low. People post about how their kids are asking when they can go fill up the libraries with food for people. We had a discussion about how people need toiletries, too, and a few people had those yard storage bins they weren’t using and they got permission from 2 churches to put out hygiene boxes for people. Today I saw how we’re putting in another little pantry as soon as the hutch being repurposed for food gets repainted and this one will be at a bus shelter.
We’ve been doing care packages for local hospitals for a few months. If you had told me 6 months ago that medical staff didn’t always have access to even basic snacks while working all fucking day, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I’m wrong about a lot of things. So we have a family with bins on their porch and we can drop off snack foods they can throw in a pocket and grab a snack during a long day. It started because a few people had friends working in the hospitals talking about how they didn’t have time to take breaks and they didn’t always have money for vending machines. So they asked if given a bag of snacks, would they take them to work for their coworkers.
It’s just so fucking neat that this community group is just identifying a need and going at it. This isn’t waiting around for a church group or local leaders to decide to do something, people are just stepping up to help strangers. And that’s the kicker - because people can be fucking assholes when it comes to helping strangers and I am not seeing that in the group. There’s no “well what if people who take food don’t really need it” or that sort of bullshit. It’s just “hey the pantry at ___ is low if you are able to help” or “hygiene boxes are super low on shampoo and soap, you can drop off at my house if you don’t live near the hygiene box” etc etc.
I realize this might sound like a complete well duh post to some people; maybe you live in cities where folks are very involved in community activities.. But where I used to live in South County suburbia, this would never had happened. Not only would the asshole rich people not think there was a need for it, if people tried to do it they would throw a fit about “the wrong kind” of people coming to get “handouts.”
tl;dr I live in an awesome community and I am grateful that I moved here. Small actions by lots of people can help a lot with a little bit of decentralized organization.
Happy Saturday night, folks. Yes the world is full of fucking shitheads, but there are some people working to help, too.