If you see a handful of kids on bicycles out and about in East Harwich, they’re not just having a good time. They’re called the East Harwich Neighbors and they’re on a mission—helping those that need it most during the region’s COVID19 crisis.
For the past few weeks, roughly since schools closed, Mercy McLardy, Abby McLardy, Paul McLardy, Caleb Escher, and Autumn Escher have been dropping off fliers around their East Harwich neighborhood offering to run errands for people concerned about venturing out. Clara McLardy, mom of Mercy, Abby and Paul, who are homeschooled, said the idea came from reading a biography of William Penn, founder of the Pennsylvania.
“He was a wealthy nobleman who, in the last big outbreak of bubonic plague in London, was moved by the Quakers who were purposely staying in the city to help people in the slums,” McLardy said. “Ours is a totally different statement and we’re not being heroic like that, but I was thinking about why I like that story and what it is that they had that they were sharing.”
So far, they’ve only had a few takers, and the kids have ridden their bikes to nearby Stop and Shop to pick up flour, cat litter, tea, and toilet paper.
“We thought it would be nice to help neighbors who needed help during this time,” said Mercy McLardy. “Our parents and guardians had the idea and we carried through the plan and wrote the papers. We can bike to Stop and Shop and Ace Hardware, and our mother can bring us to stores farther out.”
Mercy said that the neighborly service is especially helpful for people who don’t have computers or the technology necessary to use online ordering.
“We know some people don’t have internet so it’s nice that they have someone local they can depend on,” she said.
Autumn Escher, who with her brother attends the Monomoy schools, said she liked riding around the neighborhood before, but that it’s taken on new significance through helping people.
“It makes me feel good because I’m helping someone who maybe can’t get to the grocery store,” she said. “Maybe their family lives far away and they are afraid to go out, and they don’t have someone to call. It’s nice to have someone local they can just rely on.”
“It made me feel invigorated because I feel I could connect with the people I was delivering stuff to,” said Paul McLardy, who encouraged other kids to find ways they could help.
While part of Clara McLardy’s impetus was knowing she’d have lots of kids around with the school closures, she said she was mainly inspired to find a way to lift people’s spirits during a rough time.
“We can cheer each other, and we can help each other,” she said. “We’ll do what we can. There are a whole lot of online services and such, but this was something cheerful to encourage people to feel more connected.”
McLardy said that when the kids run errands, parents ensure their safety, from bicycling to hand washing.
“They’re pretty low risk compared to others,” she said. “We’re trying to be sensible and take precautions, but we understand it’s a lower risk for us.”
Charles “Buddy” Escher, dad of Autumn and Caleb, said he thinks what the kids are doing is awesome.
“You try to do a good job raising your kids, but you are never really sure if all the messages about being responsible, doing the right thing (etc.) are getting through,” he said. “They are going out of their way to help others out. I think it’s fantastic.”
McLardy said she’s proud of her children and their friends for stepping up. She hopes their actions offer others hope.
“I think it’s about courage and optimism and the idea that life is not meaningless,” she said. “Faith gives us a deep belief in the value of life, and that love is more powerful than fear.”