By Aaron Eley
No matter where you are, you have probably felt the effects of COVID-19. The past few months have been a challenging time, to say the least. However, it is often during the most challenging times that communities show both their strength and capacity for kindness. People around the world are working together to help those who are struggling, and the folks in Northwest Arkansas are no different. Here are some ways our community is supporting those impacted by COVID-19.
Fighting Food Insecurity
One of the biggest problems right now is the immediate need for food. Some families cannot afford groceries due to layoffs, and some relied on school lunch programs to help feed their children. Fortunately, the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and other local organizations have stepped up to meet this need.
The Food Bank is operating 13 mobile food pantries across NWA, where volunteers can place goods directly in the vehicles of those who need assistance. Additionally, the organization is working with over 20 public school systems to provide free, healthy meals for students while schools remain closed.
Local business Clean Cookin’ Meal Prep and the Van Buren police department are also working hard to provide affordable meals for families. The catering company produces over 5000 protein-and-vegetable-packed meals a day, each as low as $4, which Van Buren officers are then delivering to kids in need. Even University of Arkansas students are lending a hand, like the Young Democrats organization hosting a volunteer food pantry on Dickson Street.
Besides this, there are mini food pantries available for anyone in need along the nature trail in Fayetteville and elsewhere in NWA. Some of the free lending libraries have now been converted to pantries where people can place canned and non-perishable food items they wish to donate. Anyone in need can make use of the food pantries and anyone willing to donate is welcome to keep the pantries stocked up!
During this difficult time, the University of Arkansas is also helping international and domestic students in Fayetteville through the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry, that offers students pre-made Full Circle Fast Bags filled with pantry staples and essentials.
Helping However We Can
Arkansans are supporting each other with more than just food; members of the community are tackling a number of problems in compassionate, creative ways. Dress for Success, which has helped women in poverty achieve successful careers since 2013, is continuing its mission through quarantine. The NWA nonprofit is offering virtual seminars and is delivering donated professional attire, hoping to combat the recent spike in unemployment by helping clients find new jobs.
Another challenge, the shortage of masks and face coverings for healthcare workers during the pandemic, is being addressed by nonprofit TheatreSquared. Using fabric from the wardrobe/costume storage closets, employees Ruby Kemph and Jennifer McClory have stitched together over 150 masks to donate to Washington Regional Medical Center.
Some businesses are simply doing what they can to spread joy during this challenging time, such as ZuZu’s Petals in Fayetteville, which teamed up with Meals on Wheels to deliver free flower arrangements to the quarantined elderly.
Here’s How You Can Help in NWA
Northwest Arkansas is a wonderful, supportive community, and together we can make it through this difficult period. Do you live in NWA and are wondering how you can help? Here are links to donate to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, to donate to Dress for Success, and to donate a flower arrangement through ZuZu’s Petals.
If you are healthy and able, you might also consider donating blood through the American Red Cross, as medical centers across the country are experiencing a dangerous shortage.
Visit the University of Arkansas website here to find out more about how U of A faculty, staff, students, and alumni are joining together to help the Northwest Arkansas community.