Millions of people in the Great Lakes State are in self-isolation in a mass effort to stave off the coronavirus. Still, a spirit of volunteerism is flourishing in mid-Michigan.
I created it (the Facebook group) Friday morning, the day after Governor Whitmer announced that schools would be closed. I stayed up to watch her press conference. When she announced the schools are going to be closed, I woke up early the next morning, and I thought, we need to spring into action. Certainly, our administrators were already thinking about that, and they were working on their end, but we also wanted to rally community members to help; not just with pre-K-12, but also elderly members of the community. I know from my own students that college students would need support at this time, too. So (we’re) just trying to reach out to different populations that have been and will continue to be impacted.
So, you've become a sort of a general marshaling forces around the community in different areas.
Yeah, well, I've got a lot of help. A couple of folks became pretty active on the site pretty quickly and seem to be interested in certain populations. So, I reached out to them and I asked if they could be the point people just to help streamline some efforts and have better coordination. They agreed to do that. A lot of communities have stepped up. We have an (East Lansing) council member, Jessy Gregg, who has been helping to lead organizational efforts of creating homemade masks in the community. So we have a lot of other community members who have stepped up in many different ways.
How is Gov. Whitmer’s new stay at home order affecting all that? Has that put a strain on this effort?
With the pre-K12 effort, we were collecting children's books and grocery store gift cards and personal items such as shampoo and feminine hygiene products that the staff of the ELPS has been distributing along with the meals. They were distributing that three times a week and now they’re going to have to change the distribution system starting this week because of (the stay at home order). Actually, we had so many donations and such generosity from the community last week that we were already able to pause on the collection of donations for pre-K12 (families) and shift some of our effort elsewhere for the time being. But, in terms of distribution and getting people physical items, that’s definitely becoming more of a challenge.
Are you looking for ways to send supplies to people who are considered to be part of “critical infrastructure?” If you yourself maybe can't do it, are you trying to get that in the hands of people who can?
Yes, as I read the executive order, volunteer efforts to help vulnerable populations are exempt. So, it could still continue. There's also a Google Form that’s on the Facebook page, and it's intended for people to input their needs. So, we're asking people who fill out that form to connect with each other. So, they have this contact information on the form and if you see somebody who is offering something you need, you can call that person up and make the connection yourself or vice versa.
I just want to thank the community. I think they have been incredibly generous. We were able to raise $12,000 in grocery store gift cards that were mailed out last week by administrators and met the need of every free and reduced lunch student (FRL) in the district. The donations of personal items and books that came in; it’s just been really incredible. People have just really stepped up in this time and so I just want to thank the community for that.