When I learned that 60 children at Compass Broadview, an affordable housing community for low-income residents in my neighborhood who depend on free school, would have a gap in services due to coronavirus closure, I wanted to help. Less than 24 hours after posting a call to action on Facebook community groups, we delivered 65 meals to Compass. I was amazed by how many people were willing to show up (at a safe social distance) and rally for our community when given the opportunity.
“We need ‘social distancing approved’ community activities and events to remind us that we are all still together during this time of separation. We’re not alone, but it sure feels that way at times,” writes Stacey Koutlas, a local real-estate agent and Broadview mother of two young boys.
For St. Patrick’s Day last month, Koutlas and other Seattleites organized Shamrock Scavenger Hunts in their neighborhoods. Homebound seniors and other participants trying to stay safe, posted green clovers on their windows, chairs, and even cars for kids to spot. This simple, impromptu community effort raised the spirits of families out on walks and the seniors who waved from behind windows or screened doors.
While practicing social distancing can result in the feeling of complete isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still strive to build community safely and effectively. Here are some more ideas to get you started:
Launch a food or supplies drive for neighbors in need. Contact low-income housing developments, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations to identify a specific need and begin a food or supplies drive. You can then initiate a call to action to your neighbors via email or posted signs, via your Buy Nothing Project Facebook Group, or on Facebook groups like the Seattle Help for Parents & Caregivers During the COVID-19 Outbreak, to collect essential items from neighbors’ front doorsteps, or set out a bin for people to drop off donations on your porch.
Hold a community event. Like the Shamrock Scavenger Hunt, ask neighbors to post pictures of rainbows on their street-facing windows or cars on National Find a Rainbow Day, April 3. Do the same on National High Five Day, April 16, by inviting neighbors to trace their handprints on a sheet of paper to post. Another idea is to invite your block or building to step outside or in the hallway at a particular date and time to enjoy a communal toast.
Embrace snail mail. Invite your children to practice the craft of writing informal letters to a classmate, relative, or elderly neighbor at a senior living facility which has recently restricted visitors. Typing letters promotes keyboard skills, while handwritten ones encourage handwriting skills. It’s a win-win!
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
A fairy garden is ready for viewing in a Broadview neighborhood tour.
Coordinate a fairy, dinosaur, edible, or flower garden tour. Celebrate National Gardening Day on Tuesday, April 14, by informing your neighbors via social media and posted signs around your neighborhood about holding a community garden tour. Encourage participants to email you their addresses, then create a custom map specific to your neighborhood using Google My Maps, with the locations of the different types of gardens, or choose to focus on one theme. Then share the maps electronically or post printed copies throughout your neighborhood, stored inside page protectors, for people to retrieve.
Hold a neighborhood art walk. Similar to the garden tour described above, hold a neighborhood art walk. Ask participants of all ages to display their own artwork, from clay sculptures to paintings outside on their front yards, or on mailboxes for others to enjoy. You can also create an outdoor gallery by using painter’s tape to hang artwork inside a page protector onto a neighbor’s long fence or wall (with their permission, of course).
Schedule a virtual hangout. Virtual meetups are commonplace, and these days essential, on various platforms like Google Hangouts, Facebook Live or Zoom. Take questions from out-of-state loved ones about current life in Seattle, or ask someone experienced to lead a yoga, tai chi, or mindfulness session through video conferencing.
Kindness rocks. Paint kindness rocks with encouraging messages and leave them along walking paths throughout your neighborhood for people to seek and find. Include cheerful notes using permanent markers, like “We’ve got this, Seattle” because together, we do.