COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing have created stress and uncertainty for many, but they have also resulted in a lot of creative, heartwarming efforts by those in our community to reach out to help one another. From food drives to porch portraits (see story in this issue) to schools and Binder Park Zoo donating surplus sanitizing supplies to hospitals, this pandemic has brought out the best in many people. And while it was hard to choose from so many great stories of kindness, the Encore staff each chose their favorite COVID community outreach efforts to share.
Schupan gives students Chromebooks
About one-third of Kalamazoo Public Schools students have limited or no access to technology outside of school, which presents a challenge for the district as it institutes online learning. This challenge is especially acute when it comes to high school seniors, who were mere months and one trimester from graduation. Schupan Asset Management, the electronics side of the the recycling company, removed this barrier to online learning by donating 430 refurbished Chromebooks to KPS as well as to Kalamazoo Covenant Academy. The Chromebooks were then distributed to high school students. Not only is Schupan helping a lot of kids in need, it is also being a great environmental steward by refurbishing the Chromebooks for new life in the hands of students.
— Marie Lee, editor
Museum asks public to share stories
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic is “history in the making,” so the museum is asking people in the community to help document and record this experience by sharing their stories of how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected them, their families, their work or schooling, and other areas of day-to-day life. As the museum’s website says, “Each individual perspective during this time is valuable and adds to our community’s story as a whole.” The public can share their stories through journals, images and more. If you want to share something with the museum, you can do so at tinyurl.com/yx6m8oej.
— Celeste Statler, advertising sales representative
‘Happy Birthday’ from police and firefighters
As someone who has a child with an April birthday, I found it hard to tell my son his grandparents and friends couldn’t come to celebrate his birthday. That’s why I liked it when I learned that the Portage Police and Fire Department offered another way to celebrate: For kids 10 and under celebrating a birthday, they drive by your home, wave and shout “Happy Birthday” from a safe distance. My son, Owen, who turned five on Easter, was thrilled to have a fire truck drive by that was just for him.
— Alexis Stubelt, graphic designer
Facebook page tracks takeout options
As the stay-at-home restrictions took effect, it became hard to keep track of which local restaurants were offering takeout and delivery. In an effort to help locally owned restaurants, a group of folks who like to eat out set up Kalamazoo Menu, a Facebook page that keeps people up-to-date on the locally owned establishments that are serving takeout food. After two weeks, the page had more than 24,000 members. Kalamazoo Menu has also created a website, kalamazoomenu.com, that allows visitors to search by food type or favorite restaurant to see what’s available.
— Hope Smith, office coordinator
Restaurateurs come to the rescue
The COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have resulted in a surge in domestic violence worldwide. To make sure YWCA Kalamazoo, which provides shelter to victims of domestic violence in our area and their children, was able to serve those who need help, several local restaurants stepped up.
AJ Danias, owner of Fuze, a fine-dining restaurant in downtown Kalamazoo, donated surplus food from his restaurant to the YWCA, including apples, beets, cauliflower, cream, yogurt, potatoes, onions, tofu, oranges and cucumbers, which were used to assemble a Sunday dinner for eight families. Black Rock Bar & Grill also delivered several carts of fresh produce for the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter at the very beginning of the coronavirus restrictions. Then, knowing it might be hard for the Easter Bunny to visit the YWCA, Stephen Blackwood, owner and operator of five local McDonald’s restaurants, delivered 20 Happy Meals for the kids and 20 combo meals for their mothers to the YWCA on Easter Sunday.
— Janis Clark, advertising sales representative