COVID-19 part four: Community support

Over the past several weeks, the nation has been faced with a worldwide crisis. With people isolated in their homes and facing increased levels of stress, it is important that communities stick together and support each other during this difficult time. One way that a sense of community is being formed in town is through the Facebook group, “Newton Community Support.”
The Facebook group was created on March 17, the same day that Kansas Governor Laura Kelly ordered the closings of all K-12 school buildings for the remainder of the academic year. According to the groups “About” page, it was created to serve as a “one-stop-shop where Newton area businesses and individuals can post their services, discounts and ideas on supporting each other over the next few months of social distancing.”
“It is a great way for community members to be together while being apart,” math teacher Jennifer Horn said. “It’s hard to say what life will look like next year, but my hope is that we continue to support each other. Love is what will get us through this.”
Another intent of the group is to promote positive interaction in the community. Some of the ideas that have been shared include placing a stuffed bear in your window for children to see while walking, writing letters to those in retirement homes, recognition yard signs for high school seniors and cruising down Main Street.
“The group was created in order to share ideas, resources, and generally help keep each other positive. Chalk drawing, masks ideas, restaurants that are serving curbside, resources for families, sharing important dates for school,” Horn said.
After three weeks of operation, the group currently has over 2,500 members. The group is open to the public and the group is visible to everyone. The only requirement to joining the group is having an active Facebook account.
“I would definitely recommend joining this group if you want to stay informed,” freshman Megan Rice said. “I was recommended to join the group by my aunt.”
Rice expresses her appreciation for the group’s “one-stop-shop” goal. She explains that with the increasing size of the group, the less false information could be spread. The idea that if there was one stop to find all needed information less incorrect assumptions would be made.
“I feel like this group is important because you can stay informed as a community in what is happening,” Rice said. “The impact on the community could be great if more people were to join because everyone would know what is happening and they would have more information and less false information.”
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local restaurants have been forced to close sit-down spaces, therefore closing their doors, or take up a new forum of online takeout and delivery orders. The group has been able to provide knowledge thus far on the changes of these businesses and updates frequently with new information.
“I joined the group because I wanted to know more about the changes/updates local businesses were doing as a response to the Coronavirus,” world history and ESL teacher Elizabeth Gunn said. “It’s been really rewarding to hear about how people are helping out the community, especially local small businesses. There’s been an effort within the group to keep things positive. This is really special, to see people pulling together.”
According to an article by Dr. Sanjay Prem, a positive attitude helps a person cope more easily. The people of Newton have utilized this idea and have created a resource to not only help influence positivity in their personal lives but also induce a sense of unity in the community.
“Lately, it seems like people have had a really poor opinion of Newton,” Gunn said. “We’ve had some tough years recently. Although this is not an easy time for everyone, it has been great to see the community pulling together to try and help each other. It reminds me of the Newton I grew up in. We are caring and looking out for each other.”