While the practice of social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic has prevented neighbors all over the city from gathering for community events, many have creatively figured out how to come together in other ways to help and support each other through these challenging times.
The South End Community Board, a Facebook group moderated by the South End Forum’s Steve Fox, has been a place for Southenders to connect and provide ideas and suggestions to provide assistance to one another, as well as to local businesses. The page is typically used by residents to share information or concerns within the neighborhood, but lately it has turned into a place for people to ask for or deliver help in regards to the pandemic.
Several people on the page have offers on the table for things like running errands, getting groceries, and helping with the housebound or those with particular special needs, Fox told the Sun.
“Those offers have been seen as one of the great unifiers for the South End community,” he said. He added that it is still early and groceries are still available and people are not yet running out of essential items, but people are ready to help when it becomes necessary.
Others on the page have offered things like prepaying hair stylists for future appointments and dropping off tips to restaurant workers. Take-out menus, resources for small business owners and suggestions for working out at home after many gyms have closed their doors are also topics of conversation on the page. There are even daily sing-a-longs scheduled for 7 p.m., where residents sing together from their windows—much like videos that have circulated of people quarantined in Italy.
“I think the real measure of the community coming together will be when this becomes a little more acute,” he said, adding that a more strict organization of who needs help and who is willing to help should be implemented.
“I was asking for how we can create a format or a website or a Facebook page or something that would be a one-stop shop,” Fox said. “That, I think, is what we need to be prepping for at this time.”
Fox said that a South End support site will be created “that can act as a bridge between those who are willing to provide and those who are willing to ask.” The site would allow people to volunteer to do things at no cost, as well as offer their services for a fee, such as kitchen or hotel staff who have been downsized. Fox said this would be an opportunity for outreach for people who have excess time on their hands to assist with particular projects or needs within the community.
“Given the number of requests I’ve been getting to join the South End Facebook page, people are seeing it as an opportunity,” Fox said, adding that it’s a chance to “create a greater sense of cohesion and a greater sense of resources by putting tasks and people together.”
Restaurants and other small businesses are taking an especially hard hit, and Fox said that Southenders specifically want to support South End restaurants. With more restaurants starting to bring their menus online for pickup and/or delivery service, such as the South End Buttery and Stella, “we’re going to be seeing more and more of us encouraging to order delivery or to do pickup and this will be a really effective way to support the restaurants,” Fox said.
He said they will push for residents to support local restaurants who are struggling. “Anything we can do to make it happen is something that all Southenders are going to be willing to do,” Fox said.
“I think we’re in the place right now where we’re still reacting to the fact that this is happening to us,” he continued. “There’s still a little bit of disbelief that we’re actually in the position that we’re in.”
Until another site or group page gets set up, Fox said he is continually monitoring the South End Community board postings for abuse and scams to keep the South End community safe.
“I feel really, really positive about the response that I’ve seen from my fellow Southenders,” he said, as many have expressed wanting to help and support others rather than keeping to themselves.
“My sense is I’m seeing an opportunity that we fundamentally change the way that we as a neighborhood interact with one another,” Fox said. “It’s a different kind of respect.”