Overwhelmed. I think if there was one word that could encapsulate what many people are feeling right now as we take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, that word could do it.
Businesses are having to shut down or severely limit hours and access. People are not working either because of those limits, furloughs and layoffs, guidelines regarding the number of people who can be in the same location, or they have to stay home with their children because of the closure of schools and childcare facilities.
The panic that led people to stockpile resources has led to shortages of necessities and made the search for them like a treasure hunt. It’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s a pack of toilet paper, a loaf of bread, or baby wipes and diapers. I will say it has been heartening to see people sharing updates on social media when they find resources people have been looking for and share the locations.
We are constantly being told to stay away from people for their safety and ours in a time many people wish they could just have a comforting hug. People who so much as cough are looked at as if they are lepers.
One after another, the events that bring us together as a community are being canceled or postponed. School activities and sports, community meetings, dinner out with friends, festivals, and so much more are off the table for the foreseeable future with no known end in sight.
Like I said, it’s overwhelming.
But, in the face of all that, we also are seeing heart-warming stories coming out about how the community is trying to help one another. As soon as news about Powhatan County Public Schools being closed began circulating, there was an effort led by volunteers with Backpacks of Love to get at-risk children food to help their families make it through.
Teachers need to be given major kudos for putting together a basic two-week lesson plan essentially overnight to help students while they were out of school. Were the results perfect? No. I did hear about confusing instructions and assignments, parents feeling inundated with too much information, and there is always the ever-present issue of many families not having the internet access they need to finish their work. But considering how quickly all of this has snowballed, they deserve some leniency.
The schools also stepped up to help families by preparing four days worth of meals last week and five days worth for this week for any child under 18. They gave out 273 bags of prepared meals in the first week and were planning for even more this week as more people heard about the effort.
Feeding Powhatan also stepped up with the meals they are giving out twice a week while schools are out of session. The Powhatan Community Action Agency reached out to the local nonprofit on March 16 and asked if they would take on the task of preparing food bags, and they didn’t hesitate. The next day they had volunteers ready to pack up, and, the day after that, they held their first drive-thru event.
There are people putting out constant reminders to support local businesses in the ways that are still available, such as ordering take-out from local restaurants and still tipping as if you ate in their dining rooms.
These are just some of the bigger instances. There also are small kindnesses such as reaching out to seniors who are self-isolating. Please remember them in the weeks and months ahead. As one official put it, they are an already vulnerable population that just got more isolated. Give them a call to make sure they have necessities or just to chat. If you think you are going stir crazy, they are probably feeling the same way.
We don’t know what is ahead for this county, this nation, and this world, but I think Powhatan has proven many times over that it is a strong community. I am not going to repeat all of the warnings about what you should or should not be doing to stop the spread of the disease. I will simply ask people to be as kind and patient as they can to help us all get through this overwhelming situation as best as we can.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.