Author: Stefanie Adams,
Board Member, New Hanover County Schools

On December 31, 2019, many of us were sharing 2020 resolutions; we promised ourselves we would spend more time at the gym, less time on social media, read more, stop a bad habit, or maybe even learn a new skill.  We had goals, plans, and were super excited to kick off a new decade with energy and determination…then came COVID-19, and the world stopped.

Our lives have changed in so many ways in such a short time frame, and we are all experiencing grief, loss, fear, and varying levels of isolation to do what needs to be done to stop the spread of a virus that kills.  It is hard, but in times of crisis and sadness, I find hope in a quote from Fred Rogers, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people helping.”  This simple statement personifies Wilmington; we are an incredibly resilient community full of helpers!  We roll up our sleeves, support each other, raise money, find resources, and push through tragedy as a community; we have not been broken by hurricanes, and we will not be broken by a global pandemic.  That being said, “helping” takes on a whole new meaning in the age of social distancing.  How do you give back when you can’t stand beside each other?  You find new ways to give, because now more than ever, our community needs us.

Overnight, 16 million people have lost their jobs nationally due to our country’s shut down caused by the coronavirus; of that total, about 500,000 are here in North Carolina.  As we stay home to stop the spread, those that do not have the ability to work remotely, or those whose jobs have become obsolete, find themselves in a new reality, no work, no food.  I watched a segment on the Today Show over the weekend that shared a staggering statistic from one Food Bank in Nebraska; their monthly food expenses have gone from $73,000 a month to $675,000 a month.  That’s a 900% increase, and there is no relief in sight; it feels overwhelming and hopeless.

Look for the helpers.

Our community will not let statistics scare us; we stand up and fight harder.  New Hanover County Schools has stepped in to support over 6000 students a day by providing lunch and breakfast through curbside pickup and bus delivery to neighborhoods, non-profit organizations like NourishNC and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina are working overtime to provide meals to families, churches are collecting and distributing options for those in need, and various other community groups have developed programs to assure that that no bellies are empty.  We appreciate their efforts, but they need our help to continue doing this important work.

Whatever your 2020 resolution was, I encourage you to make a new one…let no New Hanover Country resident go hungry.  If you have the means, make a monetary donation to a local non-profit organization that is helping to feed our neighbors; they are wizzes at stretching a dollar, and each one can go a LONG way.  Money is great, but food works too!  Next time you go to the grocery store, check the “most wanted” items list at NourishNC, pick up a few, and drop them off at the warehouse.  Lastly, if you are healthy, get out and volunteer to pack and/or distribute food to those that need it.  Since North Carolina shut down, I have delivered meals and packed boxes with various groups.  Safety is of the upmost importance, and non-profits are doing their due diligence to protect volunteers and meal recipients; masks, gloves, distancing, and sanitization are required.  BONUS, the extrovert in me LOVES getting to see people taking care of other people… even if it’s from across a room.

Don’t just look for the helpers…BE a helper.  We’re all in this together, and our resilient community will survive and emerge stronger if we continue to support each other.

Be Kind.  Stay Healthy.

Stefanie Adams,
Board Member, New Hanover County Schools

**Editor’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual, nor to NourishNC.**