After last summer's tornado, there was an outpouring of assistance for those unlucky enough to be caught in its path. Neighbors helped neighbors, food donations flooded emergency service providers, and there was a sense of pulling together in the face of a disaster. We've seen that before, after hurricanes and winter storms. Cape Codders look after each other.
The coronavirus pandemic is a disaster on an entirely different level. Not just a matter of cleaning up debris or getting along without modern conveniences, it's a more personal challenge in a number of ways. Humans are social animals, so the isolation proscribed by health officials runs counter to our natural behavior. And for many, not being able to work—and facing the threat of possible economic privations into the foreseeable future—has been a psychic toll as well as a very personal financial impact. As we heard from more than one source over the past several days, there's a lot of people out there who are hurting.
Fortunately, Cape Codders look after each other. Not only are the human services agencies already in place continuing their work despite concerns about social distancing and person-to-person interactions, but many have stepped up their game. The Family Pantry in Harwich is ready for a wave of additional clients forced to turn to the agency because of temporary job loss. To ensure students who depend on school breakfast and lunch for a significant part of their daily nutritional need can continue to get the food they need, the Monomoy Regional School District is providing free breakfast and lunch not just to the kids who usually get free or reduced-cost meals, but to all students in Harwich and Chatham, whatever their financial status, whether or not they attend the Monomoy schools. The community food pantry at Chatham Elementary School is continuing to provide food to the 220 families it serves regularly, thanks to a donation from the Chatham Wayside Inn.
Other businesses are also doing their part to help residents facing difficulties. Working with Monomoy Community Services, Hangar B restaurant is providing free meals to the agency's clients. Mahi Gold is leveraging its website and customer base to get donations of the sort of items families need, like diapers and other necessities, so those families can preserve scarce financial resources for other expenses like rents, mortgages and utilities. Even some youngsters are using their free time to help neighbors, like the group of East Harwich kids offering to run errands and help those who are unable to leave their homes.
Local towns should also consider allocating financial resources to programs that can help struggling residents in these unusual times. Each town has a reserve fund that can be tapped for emergencies. Harwich could increase funding for its Caleb Chase Fund. Chatham could add to its childcare voucher program, rather than waiting for the uncertainty of a town meeting vote. While our federal representatives haggle over aid packages, selectmen and town officials should review their options and make the right choice to direct resources toward existing services that can help bail out those currently in need.
The current situation is likely to continue for two more weeks—at least. We expect in the meantime to hear more stories about people, businesses and organizations going to great lengths to help their neighbors. Please feel free to share such stories with us; send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave us a voice message at 508-945-2220. We'll highlight these in the coming weeks, because Cape Codders look after each other, and we want to make sure to recognize those who go to extraordinary lengths at this extraordinary time.