Random acts of kindness, generosity help calm uncertainty
Amy Coyne Bredeson
Many people in the Lowcountry - and around the world - have stepped up for the greater good, following the CDC's recommendations to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Those who can't distance themselves from the sick -healthcare workers and first responders - are risking their own safety to save the lives of others.
In "The Mister Rogers Parenting Book," Fred Rogers wrote, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"
During this age of the coronavirus, these helpers can be seen caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the broken-hearted and bringing joy to a world filled with so much uncertainty.
School administrators, teachers and staff are working hard to keep kids learning while they are away from school. School bus drivers and Sodexo employees are delivering meals daily to children in Beaufort County so they don't go hungry while schools are closed.
Of course, there are the farmers, truck drivers and grocery store employees who are keeping everyone fed, and the utility workers who are keeping the water, electricity, phones and internet running.
And those who are able to work from home are often doing so while caring for or educating their children.
Occupational, speech and physical therapists are providing their services via the internet when possible. Dance and yoga studios are streaming classes online for their clients. Bluffton School of Dance is offering free online classes to the public. The Art of Massage and Yoga Therapy is offering pre-recorded and live online yoga classes, and is asking for donations for their instructors. Alliance Dance Academy is providing classes online for its students and also for children at a special needs orphanage in Haiti.
Churches, synagogues and mosques have canceled services and events that could spread the virus. Many have moved to online services and studies.
Some are giving away food to people in need.
Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen at Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton will host an outdoor food pantry tentatively from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. Call the church at 843-757-3652 for details. Soup Kitchen director Constance Martin-Witter said anyone may call her at 248-390-1798 if they know of elderly or others who cannot leave their homes and need food delivered.
Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Bluffton is offering curbside pickup of lunches at 11 a.m. Saturdays. To donate food or for more information, call Pastor Paul Hamilton at 843-304-3198 or Bridgette Frazier at 561-452-3703.
Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head canceled its Passover Seder, but Friday Shabbat services will be live-streamed at venue.streamspot.com/c3408706 this month: April 3 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., April 10 at 6 p.m., and April 24 at 6:30 p.m. Visit BethYam.org for more Passover information.
Chabad of Greater Hilton Head had to cancel its community-wide Passover Seder as well. So, Rabbi Mendel Hertz plans to distribute hundreds of boxes of handmade Shmurah Matzah. The matzahs can be requested at jewishhiltonhead.org/seder.
Local businesses are stepping up as well. Piggly Wiggly Coligny is collecting money and non-perishable items for the Deep Well Project, which offers emergency assistance to the local community. Restaurants that have had to close their doors, including the Old Oyster Factory and May River Grill, are donating to food pantries.
Downtown Catering Company has partnered with the Lowcountry Strong Foundation to launch the Hungry Heart Restaurant Worker Relief Fund. Participating restaurants will take turns providing free lunch and dinner to restaurant workers who have lost their jobs or severely lost wages.
"Our hearts are broken for our hospitality community," Downtown Catering co-owner Leah McCarthy posted March 19 on her Facebook page. "If you can donate and reference Hungry Hearts, 100% of your money will make a meal."
Check Downtown Catering's Instagram and Facebook pages to see which restaurants are participating on which days. Restaurant workers must mention Hungry Heart to get a free meal. Donations can be made at lowcountrystrong.com.
Like restaurant workers, local musicians have lost income from the closure of restaurants and bars. To help them recoup some of that income, Coligny Theater is hosting nightly concerts via Facebook Live. Viewers are encouraged to tip the musicians via Venmo or PayPal. The concerts start at 7 p.m. nightly.
The theater's general manager, Matt Stock, said in the first five nights of online shows, they had 22,000 views and the artists had made about $5,000.
"It's a testament to our community's local music fans," Stock said. "They share the streams, they tune in nightly, and they're being very generous at an uncertain time."
While businesses and groups around the Lowcountry are doing all of this to help meet the needs of the community, individuals are also doing their part. Residents are supporting local businesses, offering to purchase and deliver food to the elderly and sewing face masks for healthcare workers.
Others are performing acts of kindness to bring some much-needed cheer. Children are decorating their driveways and sidewalks with chalk drawings so other kids in their neighborhoods can enjoy some artwork on a walk. Others are putting teddy bears or rainbows in their windows, and having scavenger hunts around their neighborhoods.
Hilton Head Heroes president and director Lindy Russell has been making greeting cards to mail to people, especially elders, who could use some encouragement. Russell's nonprofit organization, Hilton Head Heroes, also sent gift cards to people in the food and beverage industry who are struggling financially.
Terry Simmons and Dakotah Terrace of Jardiniere Events created a "Flower Flash" arrangement at Coligny Beach Park, using flowers donated by brides who had to cancel their weddings due to coronavirus restrictions.
Heather Price, founder of the Bluffton/Hilton Head Ask and Answer (original) group on Facebook, and Home Helpers of the Lowcountry are putting together safety health kits for elderly residents who can't get out to buy supplies. Price and Melissa Driscoll, a member of the page, along with their daughters, also took a cake and flowers to a Bluffton woman who was celebrating her 90th birthday.
"I think it really just shows the true nature of why our area is such a sought-after area, why it's such a special place for so many people," said Bluffton Town Council member Bridgette Frazier. "Everyone steps up and pitches in, and really lives up to what it means to be a good neighbor or a good steward to your neighbor."
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.