The COVID-19 crisis began with a flurry of people raiding cleaning supply aisles and stockpiling toilet paper. Stories surfaced of scammers buying cases of hand sanitizer in order to price gouge later.
For some, stock up and hunker down was their choice in crisis. But others took a different approach by lending a hand. Even if it was at a distance.
Whether through baking cupcakes for health care workers or looking out for the homeless, community members stepped up to use their powers for good during the crisis.
Food for the Frontline
We hear a lot about the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. More professionals are called in, more supplies are needed, and more patients are being treated there. Harrisburg-area hospitals face the same difficulties, but many have tasted a moment of sweet relief.
Alisha Perry, owner of That Cupcake Lady in Harrisburg, stepped into some of the most dangerous areas during the pandemic to provide essential workers a dessert break.
“I wanted to do something to bring them some joy,” Perry said. “If a cupcake can do it, that’s what I can do.”
During her first week of “Cupcakes for a Cause,” Perry baked and delivered 400 cupcakes to 10 locations on the east and west shores, including Hershey Medical Center, UPMC Pinnacle and the Harrisburg Police Bureau.
Strawberry shortcake, banana pudding and red velvet were a few of the flavors she brought. Community donations helped Perry purchase ingredients.
“It’s a small thing, but it’s a big deal to them in this time,” she said.
Not only are essential workers getting cupcakes, but, through the “Grub for Scrubs” fundraiser, local restaurants are making deliveries as well.
Local Harrisburg design company andculture and its startup accelerator, Catamaran, wanted to find a way to put meals in the hands of healthcare workers at UPMC Pinnacle.
“We have a lot of friends and colleagues working in health care,” CEO David Hickethier said. “It’s a really challenging service they’re providing.”
Over 20 local restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries joined the initiative to provide hot meals to essential workers at both Harrisburg Hospital and UPMC Pinnacle Community Osteopathic.
Community members donated to their local favorites, and, every time $1,000 was raised for a restaurant, meals were provided. Over $11,000 was raised by early May.
“Our team of caregivers is working around the clock to ensure the health and safety of our patients and each other,” said Andrea Potteiger, vice president of nursing operations at UPMC Pinnacle. “A hot meal gives us time to step away from the frontline, replenish and recharge. It really means a lot.”
andculture’s goal was to simultaneously help those on the frontlines and give restaurants some business in difficult times.
“The community has got to pull together, and we’ve got to find ways to support each other,” Hickethier said.
Sam Fullam is no stranger to tough times. After facing abuse as a teenager, she fell into a life she wasn’t proud of. Fortunately, she had a support system of people who helped her get back on her feet. Now, Fullam works hard to give back to those in her community facing difficult situations.
“It was hurtful to me that not everyone has that support system,” she said. “I wanted to make sure people have the capability to live their best life.”
Already helping the York community through various projects, Fullam knew she needed to do something for the most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis.
So, she launched the South Central PA COVID-19 Response Group to provide care package deliveries to people in York, Dauphin, Lancaster and Cumberland counties.
“When this pandemic started, I knew so many people would be out of work and struggling,” Fullam said. “I thought—how can we provide help to people without reinventing the wheel?”
She knew of many organizations and food banks that were giving food to people in need, but she wondered how the homebound would get what they needed. She decided the best way to fill the gap would be to deliver food straight to homes.
Organized through a Facebook group, the response team has eight hubs—volunteers’ houses where donated food is collected and stored. Over 200 people signed up to assemble and distribute packages containing food, hygiene items and other necessities. On average, 100 care packages are delivered each week. Volunteers will also grocery shop and run errands for people.
“People who were in the situation where they never had to ask for help are now in the situation where they need help,” Fullam said.
For some communities in Harrisburg, the crisis is making worse an already difficult living situation.
What are people supposed to do with a stay-at-home order when they don’t have a home?
Todd Vander Woude, executive director of Harrisburg’s Downtown Improvement District (HDID), had the same concern.
Harrisburg’s under-housed and transient community relied largely on public restrooms in restaurants and bars. With businesses closing, these people would have nowhere to wash or use the bathroom.
HDID and Harristown Enterprises joined up to provide comfort stations in the downtown area. Four Port-a-Potties and two wash stations were placed near a Market Street office building.
“It was our small way to really help those who are less fortunate,” Vander Woude said. “It’s something we felt we could do to make things a little bit easier for them.”
Feeling the Love
These people and organizations are in it for the long haul. No matter how long it takes for things to start getting back to normal, they plan to keep helping their neighbors.
“The risk of going out to do this is worth it,” Perry said. “Seeing the pictures of those smiles compared to what I had previously seen—it’s gratifying.”
These are just a few of many examples of local heroes helping their community in one of its greatest times of need. In a time full of fear and uncertainty, neighbors have stepped up to strive for the common good.
“Whenever you have a situation like this, you see the good that comes out in people,” Vander Woude said.
For more information about Harrisburg’s Downtown Improvement District, visit www.harrisburgdid.com. To contact or place an order at That Cupcake Lady, visit www.truestoryevents.com. To reach out to the South Central PA COVID-19 Response Group, visit their Facebook page. For more information about the Grub For Scrubs fundraiser, visit www.grubforscrubs.com.