Redirecting the collective – and justifiable – fears that have emerged in direct response to the pandemic has been one verifiable byproduct of a group created to lend a hand to others in need during this very uncertain time in our world.
Galvanizing the Community through Social Media
The Facebook page for Coronavirus Mutual Aid Network of Brevard County, FL went live on March 14 and has been steadily attracting followers with more than 9,200 members since early May – about six weeks after launch. A website followed quickly (mutualaidbrevard.com) and serves as a clearinghouse of local, state and federal resources, tips, links to health information and much more.
The vision for this network was developed by husband and wife team, Stacey and Dev Patel, after Stacey “woke up one night in a panic thinking about how (the shelter in place orders and economic downturn) would affect people living in the margins of our community.” Stacey serves as the Committee Chair for the Democratic Party of Brevard County and Dev is a Field Manager for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign.
Together, they came up with the mission that drives the activities of the group:
“Share what you have. Ask for what you need. We’re all in this together.”
And helped they have. The group represents a broad audience of local residents, from business owners to homemakers, and from retirees to the recently unemployed. Everyone is welcomed and every act of kindness is acknowledged as much as Stacey has time to do so. (There’s so much goodness going on, it’s sometimes hard to keep it all straight!)
The GoFundMe page, created to help source financial support for the group, has raised more than $16,500 as of early May in funding that is directly funneled to help individuals and families with varying levels of needs, said Stacey. Families and individuals have been fed, clothed, and assisted with immediate needs such as beds, sheets, appliances, rent and mortgage payments. More than one family has been provided with the resources and support to move from homelessness to housing. Money drips in all day long in incremental amounts – anywhere from $15 to $200 – and is used to cover the requests for assistance that are verified and actionable.
Recently, she reported receiving a second donation of $1,200 through the crowdsourcing platform. “We were gifted these funds – pre-stimulus check – from people here who want to help. The response has been amazing,” she said. On the Facebook page she created for the network, Stacey pushes out constant updates of needs, as identified by followers, news reports and emails she is monitoring daily. Top of the county to bottom of the county – from Micco to Mims – volunteers work to collect and deliver needed supplies, most notably food and water, diapers, and other essentials to families and individuals in need. Local restaurants and grocers often chip in, donating food and labor to to help bag up weeks of meals at a time.
Some local businesses and organizations are feeling the effects of the #LoveBombs Stacey developed to ensure local businesses were not going to go under for lack of patronage.
To date, three #LoveBombs have been organized to tremendous response. Two directed hundreds of customers to visit and purchase meals from local restaurants who were doing their own acts of kindness feeding others during the public health crisis, and another collected and delivered meals to healthcare workers at area hospitals with donated and paid-for meals from local restaurateurs.
If you scroll through the comments on the Facebook page, the enthusiasm is unmistakable, and the engagement is high – in a month more than 248,000 posts/comments have been recorded on the site. “It’s helping restore a sense of power, when we feel we’ve lost so much of it in our own lives,” Stacey said.
"Compassion does not fatigue us - it is a source of strength and supports out thriving and benefits others."
- Roshi Joan Halifax, PH.D., Buddhist Teacher, Zen Priest and Anthropologist