By Agence France-Presse
From grocery shopping for the elderly to delivering meals or offering free classes online, acts of kindness during the coronavirus pandemic are providing uplifting moments of joy in a United States beset by anxiety.
In California, the most populous state in the nation and one of the hardest hit by the virus, thousands are using internet apps to offer their services to neighbors in need.
In San Diego, for example, a Facebook group created to coordinate volunteer efforts — San Diego Community Volunteers — said it has seen a huge uptick in the number of people offering to help, going from 50 members to 400 in a matter of days.
Elsewhere, the popular restaurant chain Puesto, which was forced to shut down because of the virus, gave away some 500 free care packages this week.
“We will come back strong with tacos for everyone,” the restaurant said in an Instagram post after announcing it was shutting down.
Supermarkets across the country have also reached out to help seniors, putting in place special hours for people 65 and over to ensure they avoid crowds.
The supermarket chain Raley’s, based in northern California, said that as of March 21, it was starting a special program offering a pre-selected bag of groceries at a reduced price for seniors and people in need.
In Walnut Creek, near San Francisco, where residents have been ordered to stay home, a dentist is offering free emergency dental services to ease the congestion at hospital emergency rooms.
David Nisenboyn said he first consults by phone and video before determining whether to receive a patient.
‘I’ve got plenty of time’
“I’ve got plenty of time to do consults if necessary … we’ve got three weeks of lockdowns!” he said.
Further north, in the neighboring state of Oregon, the Shine Spirits distillery is turning byproduct into a hand cleaning solution with 80 percent alcohol.
In the small town of Coos Bay, also in Oregon, coffee shop owner John Beane is hosting virtual story times for kids after shutting down his cafe.
“We come from the theatre and stories which are always a part of the shop,” Beane, the owner of So It Goes Coffeehouse, told AFP. “Some of the very best parts of our work are the brilliant and curious children that we see mostly every day.
“Their schools are closed for now, as we are, and we have a lot of parents now at home taking care of them,” he added. “This was something we thought we might be able to do well for them.”
In Washington state, the city of Seattle — the country’s coronavirus Ground Zero — music venues are trying to soothe fears over the pandemic by broadcasting live virtual concerts.
Celebrated Seattle-based author Ijeoma Oluo for her part has launched a relief fund to help artists who have been severely affected by the outbreak.
“I know that so far every speaking engagement I had for the next month has been cancelled or postponed, and I’m in the very rare and privileged position to be able to weather this financially,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“This fund is aimed at helping those in the greater Seattle arts community who have been financially impacted by cancellations due to COVID-19, with priority given to BIPOC artists, transgender & nonbinary artists, and disabled artists – but we will try to help as many artists with need in Seattle as we can,” she added.
As of Friday morning, the fund had raised nearly $200,000 of its $300,000 target.