Many helpers step up in COVID-19 emergency

By The Editorial Board | Mar 20, 2020

The last week has been unprecedented in the lives of many in the Midcoast. A public health crisis, long-awaited, suddenly became frighteningly real and close at hand, as our neighbors became sick, events of all kinds were canceled, schools closed and our governor declared a civil emergency.

As we have scrambled to cover the flood of news coming at all of us, we have been reminded of a story told by beloved educator and TV personality the late Fred Rogers. He said that when he was worried about some frightening event in the news as a little boy, his mother would comfort him, saying that in any crisis there would be some people trying to help others. "Look for the helpers," she said.

We have been impressed to see a large number of helpers in Waldo County in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency. Leading the way have been the educators in regional school units 71, 20 and 3. From the superintendents on down, they have communicated with families in a timely way about what was going on, turned remote lesson plans around on a dime, found ways to provide needed equipment to those who don't have it. And on top of all that, they have arranged to keep the subsidized breakfast and lunch programs — on which many students and their families depend — going, even to the point of delivering meals to families lacking transportation.

These people are community heroes, from the teachers creating lesson plans to keep students learning online while their schools are closed to the bus drivers delivering meals (and sometimes school materials too) to families unable to pick them up.

But there are other helpers among us as well. There are restaurants, including Front Street Pub, Harborwalk Restaurant and Delvinos Grill and Pasta House, that, though they are not open to diners, are offering free pizzas to families who haven't much cash. There are Cornerspring Montessori School and the Waldo County YMCA, both of which, according to Belfast City Manager Erin Herbig, are working on plans to make childcare available to police, firefighters, EMS personnel and health care workers.

Steve Ryan, executive director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, cited an initiative of the city of Belfast called Ring of Caring, which is being coordinated by the city's general assistance office. Older adults and people with disabilities who need help with shopping, medication pickup, or just a sympathetic ear can call Jodie Stout at 338-3370, extension 120, or email generalassistance@cityofbelfast.org to be connected with the service. She is coordinating with Waldo County Hospice Volunteers to provide the assistance, Stout said.

Ryan also mentioned a new program called Mainers Together, an initiative of the Maine People's Alliance, that has been set up to match people in need of help with those who want to volunteer. You can seek assistance, offer it, or donate in support of the project at mainerstogether.com. Here is an opportunity for anyone with a car and a bit of free time to join the ranks of the heroes helping our community weather this crisis.

We invite everyone to do what they can to help, while taking necessary precautions to keep themselves and those around them healthy. We hope you will also let us know about any community heroes you encounter so we can share their stories and recognize them.

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