As people deal with changes in daily life due to the coronavirus, area residents are creating Facebook pages that allow them to help each other.
Justin Quinn, of Chalk Hill, launched the Fayette Area Coronavirus Assistance/Needs Availability page March 16 while Brittany Sepkovic, of Connellsville, started the Fayette County Fights Covid-19!! on March 18.
“I put the Facebook page together in about five minutes and went to work. I thought it would be cool at the end of the day if it had 100 members,’’ said Justin. “There were 1,200 when I went to bed.’’
By the time of this interview, membership was at 2,600 and continuing to grow.
Justin works in the IT department at Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services Inc. where his father, Mike Quinn, is chief executive officer.
“My dad, a while back, brought to my attention the idea for a needs-sharing platform in the community,’’ said Justin. “When this hit, I thought at least I could make a Facebook page.’’
Brittany, a photographer, said she started a similar page when Connellsville experienced a flood in 2016. In five days since she started the coronavirus help page, she had 2,000 members.
“I figured it was a good thing to do for this,’’ said Brittany of the coronavirus page, “especially since we’re not able to interact physically. It’s pertinent information so anybody can see it and not have to go all over the place.’’
The Facebook pages offer information on coronavirus and local testing sites, where to find free take-home meals from schools and businesses for students, take-out fish fries, business announcements and news reports, including from the Herald-Standard.
Brittany, who has two children, added activities - “things for a kid to do, things I see that are useful for someone, like Universal releasing movies to stream for rent.’’
Justin noted, “It’s been a great community resource to connect people with agencies that can help and individuals who are willing to help.’’
There are posts from individuals offering to pick up free lunches for families who can’t access schools or restaurants, about a pharmacy offering curbside service and where to buy disinfectant.
“We’ve had a really good response from the community,’’ said Justin. “A lot of individuals who are not working are offering to get groceries for people, and offering to babysit. We’re able to connect people who are out of work with agencies who need volunteers. We have a lot of people offering to help.’’
Justin referred to one woman who needed help with groceries: “Thankfully, someone was able to help get her groceries within a few hours.’’
Brittany said, “A lady who runs a nursing home had no masks. We were able to find somebody with masks and a lady is hand-making masks. There are a few people in the area making masks.’’
Mike Quinn said he was unaware his son had created the page until someone asked him to join.
“What speaks to me is how do you help people in this era with the tools you have?’’ asked Mike. “People can connect very quickly to meet needs.’’
Mike is also behind a recently launched effort to honor human services and health care workers called Blue Out Fridays.
“We came up with the idea for people to wear blue on Fridays to support health care workers,’’ explained Mike. “We’re trying to stress that it’s doctors, nurses, mental health therapists, aides, receptionists. The whole social service network and health care system is doing our best to handle this crisis.’’
A post for Blue Out Fridays can also be seen on the Facebook page, noting, “We’re all in this together.’’
Justin is pleased with the response to the Facebook page, saying, “I think there’s a need for this type of solution nationally.’’
And while the situation is becoming more intense, Justin said people on the Facebook page have remained in good spirits.
“In all honesty, this is a bummer of a situation but even people asking for help are not stressed,’’ he said.
That attitude is shared by many.
“Our area gets a bad reputation but when it comes to things like this, everybody pulls together and helps each other,’’ said Brittany. “I think we have a nice community.’’
Justin noted his technology background provides him with a way to help during this crisis.
“People are giving me the credit but I’m just the catalyst,’’ said Justin. “Credit should be given to the wonderful people who reach out and give help.’’