Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Neighbors step up to help during the coronavirus outbreak


March 18, 2020

Emily Long

Area residents are offering to shop or run other errands for their neighbors who are in self-quarantine or otherwise unable to get out of their homes.

Who needs help? That's what some community members are asking, providing a bright spot amid the fear and uncertainty around the coronavirus.

A Gunbarrel woman has offered to go grocery shopping or run errands for free for people who are older, have underlying illnesses or are afraid to go out in public for other reasons.

"No judgment if someone is too scared to go shopping," said Rachel Isaacs, who posted her offer on Nextdoor, the social network that connects people with their neighbors and local communities.

She was inspired to help when she read about an elderly couple that was afraid to go into a grocery store because of the coronavirus. She started wondering about people in the local area who might be hunkered down in their home because they are at a higher risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"Why put a lot of compromised people at risk when there are people who can help out?" said Isaacs, who is 42.

It wasn't long before Isaacs heard from a woman with cancer who needed Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, products that she depends on to protect her immune system from all sorts of germs. Grocery stores have mostly been out of stock but, because of Isaacs' post, a number of people said they'd share what they already have at home. Isaacs gathered and delivered the items to Raquel Cagan, who put her need in perspective when she posted a response.

"Thank you, Rachel and all the community who chipped in to help me. You may have saved a life," wrote Cagan.

Isaacs also did some grocery shopping for Cagan, who was grateful for that too. Others have said they may have her shop for them in the future. She's happy to help, but knows she's just one person. She wants the idea to spread throughout the community, asking people to check on neighbors who may feel isolated and fearful of going out.

Dozens of people have responded to Isaacs' post. Some also volunteered to help. Others were heartened by what they read.

"This is how we get through this by being there for each other. Beautiful," wrote Kate Head who also said she was going to check on one of her neighbors who is in the highest risk group.

"Thank you to all the very thoughtful kind people who have graciously offered to run an errand for people like me," wrote Kathleen Ferguson. "I am overwhelmed by your generous spirit."

One person on Nextdoor posted information on an organization called Cultivate, which grocery shops for elderly people. The organization's website, Cultivate.ngo, lists information for people who need their services and for those who want to volunteer.

It's great that people want to help, but they also have to be extremely cautious with at-risk populations. It's important to remember that people can harbor the virus and not yet be symptomatic.

Isaacs and others on Nextdoor remind helpers to strictly follow health precautions to minimize the risk of transmission when shopping and delivering items, starting with washing their own hands before going to the store. Once the helper is done shopping, Isaacs said they could leave the groceries outside the front door or ask the receiver to go into another room if they need the items put inside. Either the helper or the receiver could then dump out the grocery bag and use soap or sanitizing wipes on the items, the bags and any surfaces touched by the bags or grocery items. The receiver and helper should wash or sanitize their hands afterward.

Issacs is a geography instructor and closely follows what health professionals and other scientists are saying. "It's all about flattening out the curve of the infection," she said. "Whatever we can do to minimize the number of people out in the stores the better."

"I know we're all scared right now, but it's not affecting those who are young and healthy as much," she said. "We're still going out grocery shopping. Helping others is a nice thing to do."

The owners of Niwot Tavern feel the same way. They are approaching the crisis in a different way, helping children and families who depend on free or low-cost school lunches. They want to fill the gap while schools are closed and help workers who are fearful of lost income while so many businesses shut down for an undetermined amount of time.

The restaurant is becoming a make-shift food bank. Community members can drop off food at the Cottonwood Square location and families are invited to pick up what they need.

"We have heard a lot of people saying it's a hardship for their kids to be out of school and a lot of kids do depend on school lunches to eat," said owner Stacy Szydlek. "I, myself, have been in that situation. If you're not working it makes it even tougher. Everybody feels helpless so we're trying to help any way we can."

Supporting one another is a way people are taking positive action in these uncertain times.


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