Taking grassroots approach to helping in crisis

Pam Shay of Enon waits in the parking lot at London Christian Fellowship Church to collect donations from church members, friends and family. Shay put out a call for crossword puzzles, adult coloring books and more to take to area nursing homes. She also collected material and other items to make masks for first responders.

(Posted April 8, 2020)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

Humans are wired for connection with one another, and from our first steps on this earth, we instinctively reach out to others. When something like the coronavirus (COVID-19) threatens that connection, what can we do?

Pam Shay of Enon, who attends church in London, chose to get creative in response to the pandemic challenge and is reaching out to make a difference.

“When I listened to the news and kept hearing about the needs of those in our communities, such as the shut-ins, I wanted to do something,” she said. “I saw a video on Facebook about making care packages for nursing homes, and I thought, ‘Why can’t we do something like that here in London?’”

Shay contacted area nursing homes to find out what items were needed and would be appreciated.

“Bluebird Retirement Community called back and told me what they needed in the way of entertainment for their residents,” she said. “They have been on lockdown longer than the rest of us.”

She called on friends, neighbors and her church family to donate requested items like crossword books, puzzles, craft supplies, and adult coloring books for the care packages and then set up a day for people to drop off items at her church parking lot.

“I put bins in the back of my car, opened up the hatchback, and everyone came and put their donations into the bins while keeping a safe distance,” Shay said. “We got to talk, pray, and just see each other, which is a blessing in itself. I took the items home and used sanitizing wipes and spray all over each one and put them into plastic totes to deliver to London Health and Rehab Center, Madison Senior Living Community, and Bluebird Retirement Community.”

“I am so thankful we have something new for the residents to work on, because our supplies were running low on things for them to do,” said Jessica Couch, activities director at the Bluebird Retirement Community.

Donations for nursing home care packages and essential items to make masks for frontline responders await distribution to those in need.

The idea for Shay’s second project came as she kept hearing stories from nursing friends about the need for masks for frontline responders.

“I have a lot of friends who sew, so I put out a call for help from them,” Shay said. “I found a CDC-approved pattern online. I don’t sew, and I thought there might be others who don’t sew but still want to help, so I also put out a call for fabric, elastic and material donations and delivered those items I collected in sanitized bags to my seamstress friends to make the masks.”

A neighbor of Shay’s, Ada Monroe, reminds us that even one person can make a difference, and sometimes that difference comes in the form of the blessing they receive in the giving.

“Here I am, 86 years old, and the family and the government say I’m high risk and can’t go around nobody,” Monroe said. “I was feeling sorry for myself that I couldn’t help anyone, and then Pam comes along asking for people to sew. I’ll be honest, it’s been about five years since I used my sewing machine, but by golly, if I can help one person not get this 19-flu, then I can try my best.

“It felt good to be helping someone else rather than everyone always helping me. I’m old and arthritis makes it hard to do a lot. But God’s commandment to love thy neighbor is strong in my heart. I’m working on my second mask now. It takes me a while, but now I’ve got something to keep me going.”

To date, Shay has collected 250 masks which she ran through the washer, dried, put in zipper-lock bags and delivered to nursing homes, local hospital nurses she knows, and even to her family in Hazard, Ky., who delivered them to a nurse friend who works in a clinic there.

Shay recommends that neighbors and friends talk to one another to find out what needs there are and then create their own “task forces” to meet those needs.

“If one person reaches out to one more who reaches out to one more, we can all make a difference,” she said.

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