SPRINGDALE, Ark. — In a Facebook post on Friday, (Mar. 20) 5News asked the community to share their thoughts, experiences, hardships, and examples of community unity during the COVID-19 emergency.
With life being anything but normal, and this being a time of uncertainty like nothing we have experienced before, residents are feeling different emotions and have many unanswered questions.
But the overall sense is that the people in our community are strong, maintaining a positive attitude, and reaching out to others with acts of kindness and generosity.
Here are a few of the experiences and photos shared:
School employees and volunteers making big differences behind the scenes
Becky Warnock, a teacher at Alma Primary School sent this photo of a dedicated mom and Alma bus driver writing, "This is one of my students. He is doing his work on the school bus as he and his mother, who is the bus-driver, are delivering breakfast and lunch to other students."
Most local schools have provided lunch to their students during the COVID-19 school closures. The community is grateful for the hard work put in by school employees and volunteers to ensure students have meals.
Regina Lynn Pruett shared this photo with words of appreciation, "Lamar schools have provided lunch for all students this week! They are amazing."
Mountainburg Public Schools posted a show of gratitude to its custodial and maintenance staff on the school's Facebook page, "Huge 'thank you' to our maintenance and custodial staff for deep cleaning, sanitizing, repairing, and keeping us safe, warm, and dry with so much love for our teachers and students. Dragon Strong!"
Financial hardship from COVID-19 crisis already being felt by small business owners and employees
Small business owners are concerned they may not survive the financial hit brought by coronavirus. The domino effect of closures, cancellations, and social distancing is already being felt. Both employers and employees are worried.
Owner of South 28th Boutique in Van Buren, Melissa Defries commented, "Many local small businesses are having to temporarily close their doors or modify their business entirely in an attempt to keep their employees paid. We need to flatten the curve AND keep people gainfully employed but that is going to take creative measures."
Defries feels this could devastate many small businesses and has seen a huge decline in her own sales.
Rivervalley Artisan Market owner, Amanda Huggins wrote, "As of now we are not having market in April. With the uncertainty ahead, we don't know if we will get to have a season at all. We offer an affordable outdoor market to artists and crafters, as well as a few artisan food makers. For most of us, this is the income we use to support our families. Huggins added, "These are scary times for the self-employed and families that are impacted by business, factory, and all the closings. I'm currently working on developing a plan for virtual markets hosted through Facebook events. We're not totally sure what we are going to do if this doesn't end soon, but we won't give up!"
Many employees were forced into unemployment when businesses closed their doors in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Residents shared comments with us about the financial burden they are now under.
Margaret Davis shared, "The real damage is going to be economic. Already the job losses are staggering. My household of seven people is now facing a 100% loss of income and there's little that can be done about it."
Heather Michelle Halston wrote, "My entire household was laid off yesterday. Now I’ve spent two and a half hours trying to speak to unemployment and have yet to speak to a person."
Acts of kindness and community togetherness are seen across the area
Immediately after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in our state, negative effects were being felt in our community.
Seemingly overnight our grocery stores went from normal to apocalyptic. Recommendations for a two-week food supply paired with news of the virus making its way into Arkansas resulted in a mass amount of shoppers hitting the stores at once. Shelves once holding essential goods were wiped clean. This made it difficult for local food pantries to maintain the supply needed to feed seniors and families in need. As word got out, the community began to respond by donating food, money and time.
Shannon Gattis wrote, "This is a picture of my son filling the blessing box at our church, Caulksville Cumberland Presbyterian. This was part of a "show kindness" AMI assignment from his teacher, Mrs. Porter, at County Line High School. It was an excellent assignment for what our country is currently going through."
Many local restaurants have stepped up to help ensure children in the community are given lunch during school closures. Some are offering free meals to adults in need as well.
Paula Swing-Brackney, owner of a new sandwich and smoothie shop in Booneville shared this touching comment, "After we announced that we would be offering free pancakes and anything on our kid's menu to kids for free, I cannot tell you how many people have come in, bought a sandwich or shake, and left their change or a tip and said 'keep it for the food for the kids.' This small little town of Booneville is full of so many amazing, giving people. People that may or may not have enough for even themselves, who still give. I have been moved to tears many times over the last few days. We WILL make it through this, because of our community."
Lindsey Pipkins stepped into action when she saw there was a need for help and created the Facebook group COVID 19 Help Crawford County And Surrounding Areas.
Lindsey stated, "I’m trying to do anything I can. I literally broke down in tears at Walmart this morning. I was trying to buy groceries for the Alma Senior Center and they told me they had nothing in their pantry to feed people. I created the group in hopes I could help. I didn’t see one central place that people could join together to either help each other or ask for help. From what I’ve seen seniors are scared to come out of their homes and when they do, there aren’t enough supplies on shelves. I don’t think anyone should have to decide between eating and being exposed to a potentially fatal virus."
In northwest Arkansas a similar group was created, NWA Free Food for Kids.
Even during a time of self-isolation, we rely on people such as medical personnel, grocery store workers, emergency responders, utility workers, and gas station attendants. Many gave thanks in social media posts to those who are working and risking their health so the community can get through this crisis more comfortably and safely.
Josh Wilson thanked a Walmart employee with these words, "Ok world! This is Mandi, the store manager at a Springdale neighborhood market. I was in the store today and she was working tirelessly to make sure people have the food and supplies they need during this crazy time. I stopped and thanked her and said: 'thank you so much for working hard and helping keep the world going.' She teared up and said, 'this means so much, it has been crazy but we got this.' Please take a few minutes to stop and thank the Mandis of the world who are making sure we have what we need."
Chelcey Bitner wrote, "McKee foods donated almost 3000 snacks to Mercy Rogers yesterday!"
Kasey Garrison commented, "I work at a pharmacy, so we’re still going to work. We had a patient donate several N95 masks to us, to try to keep everyone safe! I cried. It meant more than he’ll ever know!"
Home healthcare workers cannot be appreciated enough. Many disabled and elderly citizens need care day and night. Dependable, dedicated home healthcare workers are necessary for the lives of those most susceptible to COVID-19 in our community.
Amanda Moore shared, "I am a home healthcare worker and my lady is on quarantine so I've been staying at her house taking care of her."
Some fear not knowing how to prepare or what is to come from COVID-19
Maggie Hopkins wrote, "For the time being, my family and I are doing fine. My fears are the uncertainty of this situation, the unknown, and that no one seems to know what to do."
Teachers show dedication to students and create ways to connect virtually
With schools being closed due to the coronavirus, children are being taught at home by parents. Administrators and teachers worry about students falling behind. In an effort to assist parents in at-home learning, teachers are sharing online educational resources. Many teachers are going the extra mile and making video recordings of themselves teaching lesson plans and reading books for their students to watch online.
Diann Voeller, a teacher at Mountainburg Schools shared a special video to Facebook for her students with this message, "Hello, Mountainburg Elementary students and parents! We have been missing you, so Mrs. Jones and I decided to get together in the library to read a few books to you! It was fun making these videos for you, and we hope you enjoy our storytime!"
Rosalinda Casanas Hyatt shared her appreciation for the Lavaca School District writing, "Lavaca school district, and in my opinion the high school principal, Ms. Owen are going way above and beyond!"
Rogers Public Schools posted a fun video containing clips of student-teacher virtual interaction with this message attached, "While the traditional classroom environment may not be available this week, our teachers and students are maintaining the education process. Keep shining."
To watch this inspiring video click on the following link: Rogers students shine
Bob Folsom Elementary in Farmington posted this to the school's Facebook page, "Mrs. Dooly’s kindergarten class made it through their first Zoom meeting! Mrs. Dooly said that it was so wonderful to see every sweet face and hear every sweet voice! I can’t wait to see you all again!
Many concerns regarding the welfare of local senior citizens
Debbie Atwell is worried about the impact this could have on senior citizen centers and the services they provide.
Atwell commented, "I am concerned with how this crisis will impact senior citizens community centers. Their funding hasn’t increased in the last decade while prices and wages have. Being barely funded for the services of socialization, transportation, and meal delivery, what is the potential impact if two out of these three services are halted? Some operational costs could decrease, such as transportation, but then that also means wages for those employees could stop. Will the centers have enough funds to purchase and prepare food for delivery through this? What happens when the three-dollar donations seniors pay for their daily meals during socialization are no longer collected? What happens when seniors who can't cook have no access to meals?"
Faith Shelton also shared concern for seniors and the food pantries many of them rely on writing, "Our food pantry at the senior center in Alma is bare. We prepared emergency meal packets for all of our seniors in the event that we had to shut down and unable to deliver their meals. For some of our seniors, the meals on wheels program is the ONLY meal they have all day. Now we are running off of crumbs with so many depending on us."
Senior citizens are experiencing other difficulties as well, one of which is loneliness due to the isolation of being self-quarantined.
COVID-19 is most dangerous for the elderly, and they have no choice but to take extreme caution in protecting themselves. Not being able to visit with loved ones in person isn't easy on them.
Aaron Ball shared his concern for his mom's welfare, stating "When my dad died three years ago he had me promise to him that I would take care of my mom. I see her two to three times a week and she is my life. Because of her age and her health conditions, she is at risk, and I am too afraid to go visit or check up on her. I am afraid of not knowing I have Coronavirus and passing it on to her. I can not lose her. This is my biggest concern."
Parents enjoy quality time with their children during school closures
One mom shared a photo of her sons enjoying a craft project. "Here’s a photo on St. Patty’s day. We made four-leaf clovers," said Sally Cadwell.
Cassandra Sisson shared this picture and wrote, "My oldest daughter and I are making masks. We practiced by making some for us and now we will make some for a few nurses."
Leeann Glass shared, "My son is six and he’s making a comic book!"
Bare streets amid self-isolation efforts
Billy Randolph Lewis Jr. shared this, "Midland Blvd. in Fort Smith - Empty."
Worthy of mention
Some in the community are just happy to have toilet paper. Toilet paper has been a hot topic on social media and a source of countless funny memes, but the struggle became real for many when the shortage hit our area.
Lisa Brewer wrapped up her experience of life amid the coronavirus outbreak with only a picture, which can be worth a thousand words.