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I knew if I waited I could find some badly needed good news amid the negative virus coverage we've been living with for several weeks now.

Thankfully, some factories are retooling to begin mass-producing items such as hand sanitizers and ventilators to treat the 20 percent of so among us who become sickened enough to be hospitalized.

A bright ray of sunshine in northwest Arkansas poked through the gloomy clouds the other day thanks to an uplifting story by Becca Martin-Brown.

She told of noble efforts underway in Bella Vista and elsewhere to staff a neighborhood pantry with foodstuffs and necessities, as well as offers posted on the Supporting Bella Vista Facebook page from those willing to assist others with various needs such as delivering their prescriptions and groceries.

In these weeks when so many have chosen to self-isolate as coronavirus circulates, such compassion tells me there is indeed an abundance of good people who would choose to share packages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer with others rather than hoarding for themselves.

The story also revealed others' caring efforts, including Jessica McClard, who founded the Little Free Pantry movement. She was pictured restocking the outdoor pantry in front of Fayetteville's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

These outdoor pantries are regularly restocked by caring residents with food for anyone in need. They have proven helpful during the ongoing pandemic.

One beauty of McClard's compassionate idea is that it's encouraged others worldwide to follow suit with pantries of their own. In other words, it's been contagious.

The concept of people reaching out to help others continues to spread, especially with the popularity of social media. Denene McBride, a disabled Air Force veteran, launched the Bella Vista Facebook support page earlier this month as worries over the virus began widening.

As one who knows the demands of having to stock up with groceries on the days she feels well enough to make up for those when she's not, McBride could identify with those whose day-to-day lives are difficult when it comes to making ends meet.

She said she arrived in Arkansas after living in a small Ohio town where people routinely look out for one another (sounds a lot like some Arkansas communities like my hometown Harrison). So she asked herself what she might do here and came up with the idea of creating a public space for concerned people to come together to offer assistance.

Thus far, her goal has been to allow others to offer assistance in different forms online. She hopes those living with food insecurity will reach out. And she told Martin-Brown she hopes neighbors will reach out to neighbors in helpful ways, including perhaps preparing an extra meal to deliver to them or an elderly friend.

McBride said she believes people by and large need to feel connected and want to do the right thing while knowing their efforts are valued. I find it refreshing that this woman with difficulties of her own to overcome has clearly done the right thing here. She is helping enrich other lives in various ways.

Then there's Luke Gould in Fayetteville, who is an organizer of NWA Mutual Aid, aimed at serving the needs of others during the pandemic. As with McBride, these postings offer to help others, for instance by running errands for those reluctant to leave their homes.

He told Martin-Brown he wanted to develop an effective way to connect people with those wanting to help. Hence the Facebook page was launched. Soon one Facebook friend became another, then another, until before long there were more friends than lived in the town where Luke was born.

The Facebook group (as with McBride's) is devoted to establishing community connections and coordinate volunteer efforts. While formally known as NWA Mutual Aid, the Facebook page by the humorous name of "Y'Allidarity" is his Ozarks take on "solidarity."

Gould's group offers a registration sheet for volunteers who can help with a variety of tasks and one for people needing to request deliveries or learn about local resources. Both are written in English and Spanish.

Among his biggest problems is having an abundance of volunteers but relatively few direct requests. Although his group doesn't provide financial or material support, he said people have been using Y'Allidarity, also managed by Laura Bell Phillips, to connect with each other and meet their needs ranging from baby-sitting to seed swapping and tutoring, "which is wonderful," Gould said. "We've seen the community come together in some pretty astounding ways."

Well, I'd say these examples of selflessness and giving all are admirable while adding some welcome positive news to the past three weeks. Just please, I implore you, don't get me started again on those toilet paper and hand-sanitizer hoggers.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]

Editorial on 03/24/2020

Print Headline: Rays of sunshine

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