In times of crisis, it’s the ones working behind the scenes who mend the fallen pieces.
While doctors, teachers, first responders, nonprofits and other groups continue fighting the COVID-19 outbreak in their fields, individuals are coming out of the woodwork to do their part in the Hall County community.
Fred Rogers, creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, once said, “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.’”
Next time you’re on social media or taking a stroll in your neighborhood, peer a little closer. You just may see the helpers at work.
Angel in a mask
Lee Highsmith, Good News Clinics’ development director, recently lost hope in resupplying the nonprofit’s doctors and nurses with N95 masks.
The masks have been in high demand since fear of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 started bubbling up in the United States.
“I had been trying to call around, but I had no luck with construction companies,” she said.
The clinics treat more than 3,500 people without insurance annually, with a roster of doctors providing voluntary services.
Without N95 masks, Highsmith said Good News’ staff would be at a larger risk for COVID-19.
While driving around on Thursday, March 19, she saw a construction worker on the side of the road. She noticed he was wearing a mask.
“I rolled down my window and called to him, ‘Is that an N95 mask?’” Highsmith recounted. “I asked him if he had one extra he could spare.”
The man talked to his supervisor, then returned to her holding a box of N95 masks.
“He looked at me and said he used to be a patient at Good News Clinics,” Highsmith said. “He told me, ‘You can have the whole box.’”
Highsmith was overwhelmed with emotion and began to tear up. Good News was once there for the man in his time of need, and now he was paying the service forward, she said.
"I could only see his eyes above his mask, but they were the eyes of an angel at that moment to me,” Highsmith said.
A servant’s heart
Chalvia Simpson’s cafe job was put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Instead of working to conserve her resources, she looked to others in need.
Every day since Monday, March 16, Simpson has found ways to feed people and help the elderly in Hall County.
“Whoever needs anything that I can possibly do, I just do it,” Simpson said. “I’m healthy and able. Why not give my time so I can get out and help when I can?”
Simpson said she keeps a close eye on Facebook to see when people need volunteers.
On Tuesday, March 17, she helped Level Up Haircuts feed people at the Gainesville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8452. Throughout the week she has also delivered food to children in Gainesville, and is in the process of helping senior citizens pay their bills in person.
“A lot of people don’t trust me because they don’t know me, but it’s hard for the elderly to pay their bills right now,” Simpson said. “I’m looking into going to the offices to pay their bills for them.”
For those wanting to support others during the outbreak, she recommends asking neighbors if they need help or monitoring social media.
“I do feel like I’m making a difference, even if it’s just one person that is grateful,” Simpson said.
One crisis doesn’t cancel another
Christine Osasu, Hall County Habitat for Humanity community outreach director, decided now was the time to step out of her comfort zone.
On Monday, March 16, Osasu helped feed over 50 people at Good News at Noon’s evening meal.
Osasu said she saw a Facebook post about a church dropping out of serving the shelter, and felt compelled to lend a hand.
Each day the meal ministry hosts the community for a free lunch at noon and dinner at 7 p.m. on weekdays. All of Good News at Noon’s meals are prepared, donated and served by churches, organizations, families and other volunteers.
Osasu said she had an incredible experience helping the hungry in Hall.
“It was cool because it didn’t require a lot of training,” she said. “I just showed up, washed my hands and put on gloves.”
While serving plates of food to people, Osasu said she had eye-opening conversations.
With the fears of COVID-19 dictating her life, she forgot to stop and think about those who will keep struggling, with or without the pandemic.
"I’m continuing to be cautious and careful, but it just refocused my perspective,” Osasu said. “It’s a scary time and a lot to be cautious about, but there’s still a lot of need. These people’s lives didn't stop because the coronavirus became a danger. They’re still hungry and need someone to feed them."