When tragedy strikes, people band together in solidarity. Age, wealth, race, religion, politics and all the other things that make us who we are as individuals seem to matter a little less, and the fact that we are all human and in this world together comes to matter more.
The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down national economies, while also causing illness and death. Despite the fear and uncertainty we are currently facing, a silver lining has emerged: People want to help. One place they are pulling together to do that is on Nextdoor, the social network for neighborhoods. Below are four inspiring stories of people doing creative things on Nextdoor to support their communities in this challenging time. We hope that by telling these stories, it will inspire people to do similar things in their communities and help them realize that we will get through this together.
“No questions asked”
Andrea Pien, a 33-year-old college counselor at a high school in San Francisco, California, is working remotely now that the state’s schools are closed. She’s meeting with her students using Google Hangouts but anticipating fewer meetings than usual over the next few weeks. As a salaried worker, she doesn’t expect to be missing paychecks. And as someone who enjoys inherited wealth from her father’s successes in the biotech industry, she believes it’s important to give back—especially when times are tough.
On Sunday, she posted the following message on Nextdoor:
Courtesy NextdoorIf money is short, message me
“Hi neighbors, if you will be missing a paycheck/contract work, or if money is tight for food and supplies, message me your Venmo @ and I will send you 20 dollars, no questions asked,” she wrote.
She included a picture of her “very large dog,” Gus.
“Part of being a good ally is supporting my neighbors who maybe don’t have the same privilege I do,” she told our sister site, Reader’s Digest. “I added a picture of my dog for the algorithm [to ensure people see the post in their feeds] and because a lot of neighbors recognize my dog because it’s large.”
So far, she has given away about $400 to her neighbors and anticipates more to come.
Pien is a member of Resource Generation, an organization of “young people with wealth” who are “committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power.” She was initially inspired to action by her friend Jonah, whom she met through the group. She started on Facebook but quickly realized that many of her Facebook friends were people she grew up with and former classmates who already had resources.
So she posted on Nextdoor, where her neighbors are her network, and many of them are people who don’t get a regular paycheck or have much money. “Many people are contract workers or work in restaurants or the service industry or bars and their hours have been cut. There are a couple of students whose work-study hours have been cut,” she said of the people reaching out to take her up on her offer.
“With the hysteria around coronavirus, there is an inclination to feel a lot of scarcity, which results in hoarding, but there is also a way to look at it from a perspective of generosity, and that’s why I posted on Nextdoor,” she explained.
When Reader’s Digest asked Pien if there was anything she wanted to share as this crisis unfolds, here’s what she had to say: “One of the first responses I saw to this pandemic was my wealth advisor emailing me to reach out about my stock portfolio’s performance. This felt way off base to me. Rich people like me shouldn’t be worrying about their portfolios at this point—they should be thinking about how they can be in solidarity with poor and working-class people, who are at risk of being evicted, are uninsured and cannot afford adequate medical care, or [aren’t] able to feed their families.”
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Nonprofit takeout restaurant
Seni Felic has already lived through a crisis. He came to America in 1994 as a refugee from the war in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He was 29 years old at the time and alone.
These days, he owns a restaurant in San Francisco called Bistro SF Grill, and he is feeling optimistic despite the crisis. “We’re going to pool our resources and people will pull together, and it will have a strong impact on solving any problems,” he told Reader’s Digest.
With that philosophy in mind, he posted this on Nextdoor:
Nonprofit Lunches and Dinners Served by Bistro SF Grill
“We are inviting all to stop by Bistro SF Grill at 1305 Castro St. to grab a lunch or dinner prepackaged box beginning Tuesday, March 17, beginning at noon and every day after. Price is only $5.50 and it covers our expenses,” he wrote.
Bistro SF Grill will be offering three different meals: chicken, rice,and vegetables; fish, rice and vegetables; and vegan mushroom paella. All are gluten-free. The menu will change weekly.
“A lot of seniors, families [and] people who don’t know how to cook are in need of fresh, high-quality food daily,” Felic said. “I’ve seen much worse than this—hordes of people with guns and people killed. I was hungry for three years. Under these conditions, food is essential. Our idea was: Let’s try to help. We’d like to give for free, but we can’t afford it.”
The restaurant started a GoFundMe page to further lower the cost of the meals. So far, neighbors have pitched in over $7,000.
Despite San Francisco’s “shelter-in-place” order, Felic said they still plan to distribute meals. The move addresses three problems in the community: getting a variety of high-quality food to people who may not be able to cook or who can’t afford high prices; keeping the business afloat and busy during the crisis; and paying some of the hourly workers who make the food, ensuring they can stay afloat as well.
He believes that working together and helping others will be the key to helping us—all of us—get through this. “This problem will be contained, and I just feel optimistic,” he added. “When people come together and cooperate, I think we can overcome almost anything.”
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Mobilizing a student-government response
Julia Lin, 16, is a junior at Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon. Until a few weeks ago, kids in her school were looking forward to senior prom, graduation and summer. Today, things are different. Classes have been canceled and the future is uncertain.
But as the crisis was brewing, Lin, the junior class president, decided to take action by organizing a food drive. She reached out to the Nextdoor community for support:
Courtesy NextdoorSupporting Students Within Our Community During Covid-19
“Hi! My name is Julia and I’m a Junior at Sunset! SHS student government is hosting a drive and collecting non-perishable foods (canned foods, boxed foods, etc.) for families in need. I know that during the time of school being canceled, many students and families of BSD [Beaverton School District] are not able to access regular meals without school. One-hundred percent of everything donated will go to students/families in need during this difficult time so it would be amazing if anybody could donate any extra food they have lying around the house. I would be so happy to come by and pick up anything that anyone has, just PM me and let me know! Thank you!!!” she wrote.
So far, the community has made some 400 donations, and Julia has picked up each one. They’re left in brown paper bags on porches, and she handles them with latex gloves. It’s all packaged food, and the packaging is cleaned with disinfectant wipes. Along with the rest of the student government, which brainstormed the idea last week, Lin is setting up distribution centers in the city so families can get what they need.
“On Nextdoor, I’ve seen so many people offering their help, and I’ve picked up so many donations from people in the community,” Lin said. “It’s nice to see people supporting each other in a time of crisis.”
Lin’s parents emigrated from China in the early 2000s. She was born after 9/11 and was a young child during the financial crisis in 2008. This is her first real experience seeing the United States come together during an emergency.
“I think it’s really good that we’re being more cautious, especially within the community,” she says. “Every individual is aware of how to take care of yourself, how to take care of your family and others around you. I don’t think we’ve felt more united over an issue.”
School is currently set to open again in Portland in mid-April, though that may change, depending on what happens over the next few weeks. In the meantime, Lin and her fellow classmates are committed to helping those in need.
“I’m not that worried about it for myself. I’m worried about it for my parents and elderly neighbors,” she explains. “Since I’m able to help, I want to help. As a teen, it’s my job to avoid being a part of the issue. I maintain social distance. I think it’s great that my generation has been able to step up as an activist generation. If you look at people like Greta Thunberg and all these teen activists, [like] David Hogg, it’s really inspiring. It’s what our generation embodies. We’re much more outspoken and able to address these issues.”
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Saving small businesses
After public health, the next crisis coming from the novel coronavirus pandemic will be economic. Among the hardest hit will be small businesses, especially local businesses with storefronts. With people staying in and many cities issuing “shelter-in-place” orders, restaurants and local stores are taking a big hit; employees included.
With dining in at a restaurant no longer an option in much of the United States and leaving the house to visit a store has been restricted to only for essentials, many are wondering what can be done? Joe Cain, 50, who lives in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, had an idea and posted the following on Nextdoor:
Courtesy NextdoorKeep supporting small businesses
“Just a friendly notice that while we all hunker down, the restaurants and small businesses in our neighborhood still need customers. A week of low sales can be hard and a few weeks can be devastating. Rent and payroll go on regardless, and a payroll tax break won’t help as much as customers’ cash.
“Consider getting takeout (not through an app), buying a gift card, or getting an extra something to put in the freezer. Keep the cash flowing in the local economy.”
He followed that with a long list of local businesses people can support.
“As soon as this stuff happened last week, I didn’t go out anymore,” Cain said. “And I can imagine these business owners sitting there, trying to pay their employees and rent, because they don’t have cash coming in, they’re in a bind.”
Since he wrote the post on March 12, he’s received some positive response and has done a little gift card buying himself. “I’m not a very wealthy person, so it’s not like I can buy gift cards from everybody, but I can at least broadcast that idea so people with more money can do some of this stuff,” he explained. “Like most people, we’re trying to figure out how to keep doing our jobs while there is an immediate issue in front of us that we really have to face and deal with. So it makes our long term seem less important.”
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