Island seeks to support those susceptible

Churches, schools, and other organizations come together to provide essential services.

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During this difficult and uncertain time, the Island community is coming together (while staying apart) to support those who would be affected most by novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

The elderly, the disabled, and the immunocompromised make up the balance of the population that will experience severe symptoms, and are most likely to be put in detriment due to isolation.

Those most susceptible to the disease are being advised to self-isolate and avoid unnecessary contact with other people. 

But folks who are staying in their homes will be unable to buy groceries for themselves or pick up their medications they desperately need. Luckily, there are organizations and individuals on the Island who are looking to help in any way they can.

According to Rev. Stephen Harding of Grace Episcopal Church, their strategy is to plan multiple steps ahead and adapt to information as it becomes available. “At the moment, we are taking today to figure out what the needs of our parishioners are,” Harding said. “If they need people to run errands, go to the post office, put gas in the car, anything they need.”

During this difficult and uncertain time, the Island community is coming together (while staying apart) to support those who would be affected most by novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

The elderly, the disabled, and the immunocompromised make up the balance of the population that will experience severe symptoms, and are most likely to feel the detriment of isolation.

Those most susceptible to the disease are being advised to self-isolate and avoid unnecessary contact with other people. 

But people who are staying in their homes will be unable to buy groceries for themselves, or pick up medications they desperately need. Luckily, there are organizations and individuals on the Island who are looking to help in any way they can.

According to the Rev. Stephen Harding of Grace Episcopal Church, their strategy is to plan multiple steps ahead, and adapt to information as it becomes available. “At the moment, we are taking today to figure out what the needs of our parishioners are,” Harding said. “If they need people to run errands, go to the Post Office, put gas in the car, anything they need.”

Even though the unprecedented nature of the situation has proved challenging for churches and other benevolent institutions on the Island, Harding said, he hopes there will be a period of stability where the Grace Church care team can consolidate time and resources, and establish a more coordinated effort. 

Harding said he commends all high-risk parishioners for calling in to the church to let them know their status.

Currently, the church is making a list of all parishioners who are at the highest risk, and coming up with ways to make sure they get the resources they need, and don’t feel alone or hopeless.

To reduce the sense of aloneness for those who are self-quarantined or self-isolating in their homes, a daily telephone call will be held at noon. The church has also offered shopping or errand-running for those who need it most. Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 2 pm, folks can call the church at 508-693-0332, and request help. Parishioners who are in the high-risk category can also arrange for a pastoral visit if they are feeling alone or helpless. 

The First Congregational Church of West Tisbury is also actively involved in supporting the Island community. According to the Rev. Cathlin Baker, folks can contact the care team at 508-693-2842 if they are concerned about someone who might be isolated.

The church is in correspondence with the Island Grown Initiative team, talking about ways to utilize its food equity network and strategize around food and susceptible populations, such as low-income residents and older people. “We are particularly interested in getting good lists of names and contact information to see what people need,” Baker said, “asking people what they need and accordingly putting systems in place to support those needs.”

Baker said she plans on holding virtual church and office hours, most likely using Zoom or Facebook Live, to make sure that people can still worship and ask questions during this trying time. “All the Island clergy members are comparing notes on how to deal with this,” Baker said. 

And for the Island community, Baker has a message of hope: “You aren’t alone in this; we are in this together, and will be stronger that way.”

The church will be looking at ways to continue hosting its community suppers by offering takeaway meals, or making doorstep deliveries. 

Churches and other organizations aren’t the only ones looking to help. Marc Doyle posted on Islanders Talk offering his support to anyone who can’t leave home to go shopping and is being told to stay inside to avoid being infected. “My buddy off-Island was doing the same thing, trying to help people who are elderly or disabled get enough food to eat,” Doyle told The Times. 

Doyle is relatively new to the Island, and is a police officer in Oak Bluffs.

He said just by hearing from friends and family, and by watching the news, he could tell that panic was beginning to spread across the Island. “I see it all over the place on the Island. People are really freaked out, and I am just trying to help people and provide them peace of mind,” Doyle said. He said he is going to reach out to the Island Council on Aging to hopefully create a more structured approach to food delivery and other errands. 

As other Island schools prepare to provide lunches to students in need, the Charter School was handing out bagged meals Monday. The bags were filled with lunch for the day, and also included breakfast and lunch for the following day. “As a chef, I feel happy to be able to provide food for people,” said Charter School kitchen manager Betsy Carnie. “These are trying times, and I want to do whatever I can to alleviate people’s anxieties.”