July 13, 2020

Physical Distance & Social Solidarity: Greetings from Center for Community Engagement

A message from the Center for Community Engagement. 

Hi UMW colleagues,

How are you doing? We wanted to reach out, even during this confusing, unsettling, rapidly changing time – because we wanted to share ideas for you – and your students – about staying engaged with community & civic life. Believe it or not, there’s a lot going on that we can still attend to that can help strengthen our communities.

a. Social distancing: Of course the big one, the one on all of our minds, is complying with social distancing recommendations. We aren’t the public health experts – and we are confident you’re already getting this info other places. But as many a circulating Facebook post indicates, doing this work is a powerful form of solidarity.

b. Volunteering, just not in person: There are virtual volunteering opportunities, we’ve attached a document Volunteering in the Time of COVID 19 with some ideas & links on this front. And we have also been collecting suggestions for people who could use some kind words right now. For example – we are still gathering best contact information, but our social networks tell us that some of our residents at the Falls Run Nursing Home would like letters or cards, and there are efforts to send supporting words to our local hospital workers. (Please stay in touch with me or with Sarah if you want updates on this, as we get it.)

c. Supporting our community institutions: Many of our community institutions, including nonprofits and small businesses, need our help. In Fredericksburg:

• Micah Ministries has requested gift cards from grocery stores or cash donations: https://micahfredericksburg.networkforgood.com/projects/95553-covid-19-support. You can mail them gift cards for grocery stores (Giant is best) or donations to purchase them, they are doing that instead of community dinners. Mail them to Micah/Amy Ridderhoff, 226 Princess Anne Street, Fred VA 22401

You can buy gift cards to support local restaurants: Just google the restaurant, and see if they have online gift cards. For example, to help Orofino, visit: https://www.toasttab.com/orofino/giftcards.

d. THE CENSUS!!! As many of you know, Census mailers are arriving at homes right now – in the midst of a lot of change and confusion. We have a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help guide people. And in general, you can go to www.2020census.gov and complete the census on any computer, smartphone, or tablet (click on “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” if needed). Encourage your students, and their parents, to do so, following the guidelines outlined in the Frequently Asked Questions. The most important message: Students are counted where they reside on April 1, 2020 AND spend most of their time, which means that the majority of students should be counted in their college community.

e. Voting: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voters are being asked for vote using an absentee ballot. If you are voting in the City of Fredericksburg, please follow these steps. For other voting districts, you can follow these directions, but choose your locality when filling out the online form.

f. Community partners, resilience, the awesome power of working together: I just wanted to share some info with you also about how some of our community partners are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. These are amazing groups, struggling with such challenging circumstances. This is in no way representative, but rather a snapshot of a corner of our communities:

*Our local emergency food systems have had to refocus & redirect. Many food pantries have had to close (but please check with the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank as they post a weekly schedule of operating pantries.) And I’m sure you seen the news of how school districts throughout our region – and our country – have worked to provide food to students in need while school is closed.

*People who are homeless – or at risk of becoming so – face particular challenges with social distancing. (Where can you go to be distant, and safe?) There’s been a concerted effort by our local homeless service providers, the Continuum of Care, and the State Department of Housing and Community Development to try to assist efforts to get the most vulnerable people without housing into motels; and to try to keep those only tenuously housed in their places until we come through this crisis.

*And partly to that end, there’s recognition that evictions & foreclosures are especially dangerous right now. The Supreme Court of Virginia declared a judicial emergency, calling for the postponement of non-emergency cases until at least April 6. This means we should not see new eviction filings, notices, etc. – hopefully preventing further vulnerability to homelessness.

This was way too long – please excuse me for carrying on! But these are times when the strength of our communities really shines through – and times when it is even more important to be sure our communities stay strong. Please let us know how we can help.

Best,
Leslie Martin & Sarah Dewees
Center for Community Engagement