BYU community serves each other amid COVID-19 outbreak

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Jen Narra, a volunteer with John Lindsay’s COVID-19 response group, delivers groceries to an elderly Provo resident. (Preston Crawley)

BYU students and Utah County residents are stepping up to help their neighbors in need as more cases of COVID-19 emerge locally.

Checking in with friends on social media, offering to deliver groceries and sharing supplies not found in stores are just some ways people have found to serve each other.

“I feel like we have become more neighborly in social isolation than we were when we were all busy with our everyday lives,” Utah County resident Melissa Albee said.

Albee is a member of Facebook group Covid 19 (Corona Virus) Utah County: Community Support, Food, Care, Etc. Francis Dione Pierre-Louis and Lisa Marie Xochimitl created the group as “a dedicated funnel” for people to coordinate errands and share information, Pierre-Louis said.

Posts from group members include updates on which foods and supplies are in or out of stock in local stores, offers to share hard-to-find products and requests for grocery pickups.

“The sense of community and the way people have been lifting each other’s spirits by doing kind things for others has seemed to inspire others to do the same,” Pierre-Louis said.

Similar Facebook groups also exist for other areas, such as Salt Lake City and St. George.

Individuals have also been using social media as a means of offering their services. Utah County resident Camilla Dinkins said she has used social media to connect with her community and make sure everyone is taken care of.

“I’ve been checking with my neighbors through Facebook to make sure everyone has needed supplies,” she said. “We all have posted our needs and our excesses and shared with each other.”

BYU student Sam Cosgrove posted an offer on Facebook Marketplace to shop for and deliver groceries to anyone who is sick, immunocompromised, social distancing or otherwise unable to shop for themselves. He also tweeted and messaged his classes with the same offer.

“I firmly believe that those who have the ability to help have the moral obligation to,” he said. “I’m healthy — besides allergies — I’m not susceptible to dying from COVID-19 and I have a car, so I have the obligation to help others.”

Volunteers load groceries into a car to deliver them to neighbors in need. (Preston Crawley)

Other BYU students have also found ways to ensure people around them have their needs met. Biology senior John Lindsay, along with his cousin Andrew Lindsay and friend Cassidy Shively, have organized a group of volunteers to coordinate grocery and supply delivery to at-risk people who cannot leave their homes. They have coordinated with United Way, Y-Serve and local religious groups to gather volunteers.

“We could use all the support and volunteers we can get,” John Lindsay said, mentioning that they expect the need to increase in Utah County as the virus spreads. “We think it’s a pretty effective way to avoid contact with people who have coronavirus or are symptomatic or at risk while still providing a service.”

He said they expect many people to reach out as they raise awareness of their services and as the local need increases.

Other community members reported finding small ways to serve those around them — and many said they have also been recipients of kindness from strangers and others around them. Utah County residents Kendall Thomas Harris, Angelita Lopez Allan, Yvonne Russell and Wendy Lynne Parmley shared their experiences with service:

“I was at the store the other day picking up some medicine to keep on hand for my four young kids, including my infant daughter,” Harris said. “My card wasn’t working so I was getting ready to leave, when the woman the next line over handed her debit card over and paid for my medicine.”

Allan said she and her daughters have been helping their elderly family members find toilet paper, “as well as providing a snack basket for the staff at Stonehenge in American Fork,” the nursing facility where Allan’s mother is quarantined.

“I posted some formula recipes in one of my groups when I found out stores were emptying out of formula,” Russell said. She also helped deliver bottled breastmilk to a struggling nursing mother she connected with online.

“Woke up the other morning to toilet paper on my front porch,” Parmley said. “All of our neighbors received the same package. Blessed to be able to then share the blessing.”

These local acts of service reflect a budding sense of community and push to do good happening all across Utah.

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