As more Delawareans are spending time at home telecommuting or watching the kids, some are getting to know their neighbors better and finding out ways to help.
In communities such as Westover Hills Section C off Kennett Pike, senior citizens can avoid the harrowing trip to the supermarket or to pick up a prescription.
All it takes is reaching out.
According to Westover Hills ‘Section C’ Civic Association President Scott Luger, about 50-to-60 percent of residents in the community likely fit into that senior citizen category.
During the first days of the school closings in mid-March, one resident made an offer during the board meeting to pick up groceries for anyone who needed that service.
A neighborhood conference call resulted in more offers of assistance.
“When we brought that up, others said ‘put my name to the list, put my name to the list,’” Lugar said. Resident Michael Toth, who runs communications for the board, followed up with a letter to all residents sharing the formal plan with all residents.
Lugar added that the support network is prepared to conduct further awareness to make sure people who fit into the high-risk category of exposure to COVID-19 know what is available to them.
Will Mendez, a senior at Archmere Academy and a resident in the Westover Hills neighborhood, also offered to help and has already made runs to Walgreens for one older neighbor.
Mary Beth Thompson is a zone representative in Welshire, a Brandywine 100 neighborhood where she has lived for about 22 years. She was listed by the civic association as a contact person for Welshire residents who may be self-quarantining or who might have concerns about going out shopping for themselves.
One elderly couple has already asked her to pick up some things, and Thompson said they were grateful for the gesture.
“It’s a nice neighborhood, and it’s a nice group of people who always do try to look out for each other but especially at this point,” Thompson said.
She and other zone representatives in Welshire have agreed to volunteer or will find volunteers, to make deliveries in the future. “I have a feeling that the longer this goes on, the more it may become necessary,” Thompson said.
Civic associations are more normally associated with facilitating tasks such as snow removal and organizing neighborhood fun events.
This is a relatively new venture, but one that has started up quickly earlier in March, according to Welshire Civic Association (WCA) President Stephen McDonald. McDonald grew up in the neighborhood and moved back to Welshire several years ago.
In communication with its residents, the WCA did advise residents to first investigate home delivery options that are offered by supermarkets and that they consider family members and friends in the area to rely upon. It also suggested that residents reach out for volunteer assistance before their supplies drop to critically low levels.
“The WCA recognizes that both locally and nationally, we appear to be entering uncharted waters. We also know, however, that whatever difficulties may come, Welshire neighbors will continue to look out for and support one another,” the message from mid-March stated.
“Anything that one can do for their community, that’s one of the purposes of a civic association,” McDonald said. About ten households in the community of 81 homes had already put themselves on the list of available volunteers.
The Welshire Civic Association was also in the process of determining which residents had sewing machines and might be willing to assemble masks to address the shortage that’s affecting the medical community.
“We’ve got manpower. We’ve got great neighbors that want to help each other. They have the talent and, unfortunately, because we’re stuck here they have the time,” McDonald said. “It’s really thinking about ways we can anticipate problems before they happen.”
McDonald also said there may be opportunities to involve some of the older children in serving the neighborhood while they are home from school. These may be unique times, but Welshire has stepped up for people who need help in the past.
“We love our neighborhood, and we’re doing everything we can to look out for one another,” McDonald said. “We have older neighbors, we care for them and we’re doing what we can.”
The neighborhood mission has become more personal for Mary Beth Thompson, who has two children who are involved in healthcare. One of them is in New York. Both spent time in operating rooms over the past weekend.
Thompson says there are other benefits to staying connected to one’s neighbors. “I think it’s been healthy for not just the board but for entire Welshire community to sort of come together in this way, so that even during times you’re feeling lonely or alone or maybe even slightly depressed, the neighborhood and the people who make up the neighborhood are there for each other.”
“What we’re trying to do is just remain flexible and agile about what we can do to help,” Lugar added about the community effort in Westover Hills Section C. “What may be an option today might not be an option tomorrow. Just keep talking, collaborating and be flexible.”
“That’s all it is – just be out there, I think, is the best thing I can recommend.”