The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown daily life across the U.S. into chaos. Families suddenly losing loved ones cannot come together to mourn. Health care professionals are putting their lives at risk to treat the untreatable. And the leaders to whom we turn in times of crisis don’t have all the answers.
One bit of good news is there is still good news: Self-isolating Americans are rising to this unprecedented challenge to bring relief, comfort, moments of joy and glimpses of normalcy to a locked-down world.
In this week’s edition: Merciful landlords, a dedicated schoolteacher, a cul-de-sac troubadour, hundreds of Teddy bears and more.
‘Don’t Worry About Paying Me’: NYC landlord Mario Salerno, 59, owns roughly 80 apartments with 200 tenants spread out across the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods in Brooklyn. After hearing from tenants who were having trouble making ends meet because of the virus, Salerno posted a notice on the front doors of all his buildings stating that rent would be waived for the month of April. “For me, it was more important for people’s health and worrying about who could put food on whose table,” Salerno said. “I say, don’t worry about paying me, worry about your neighbor and worry about your family.” Meanwhile, in Manhattan, all of the pies getting made at Sauce Pizzeria — as many as 400 per day — are going straight to hospitals to feed front line health care workers pulling 14- or 18-hour shifts. And when Sauce owner Adam Elzer's landlord heard what he was doing at the slice shop, he jumped into help — freezing rent payments for the next three months.
"I saw what Adam was doing on social media, honestly, and when we noticed what he was doing it was very clear that we needed to help him," said Ben Kraus of A&E Real Estate Management. The group also donated more than $20,000 to help Adam get more pizzas to more medical workers.
'I'm Still Going To Be There for Them': Story Time Finds New Life Online
A first-grade teacher at Chandler Elementary School in Duxbury, Massachusetts, is using daily story time online as a way to keep in touch with her homebound first graders. "If they're stuck in their house, they have a place to go when they're reading a book," teacher Jennifer Reardon said. She says the regular story time lets her students know that "even though we can't physically see each other, I'm still going to be there for them." Those who aren't in Mrs. Reardon's first grade class have options, too: Country music legend Dolly Parton is offering video of her reading kids bedtime stories.
Letters of Love: With many nursing home residents living in isolation now forbidden to accept visitors for fear of spreading the virus, life can be lonelier than usual. Now pen pal programs are popping up around the U.S. to help the homebound elderly and homebound students stay socially connected while socially distanced.
'Shopping Angels,’ 'Invisible Hands' Bring Essential Supplies to the Most Vulnerable: Networks of volunteers around the country are making a difference by helping the most vulnerable people in their communities. They're delivering groceries and medicine to the elderly and other vulnerable people, and they do something else in the process: provide human contact and comfort – at a safe distance. “People are scared, and people are lonely,” college junior Liam Elkind said. “We’re all so separated, and one of the things we need is that social cohesiveness. This is one opportunity to get them that social connection they’re looking for.”
'Like a Magical Adventure': Neighborhoods Put on Teddy 'Bear Hunts' for Kids Stuck at Home: Empty neighborhood streets might be a dour scene for parents walking with their kids these days, but some communities are looking to brighten the stroll with a Teddy bear scavenger hunt. Those who want to get involved in the "bear hunt" place the stuffed toys in their front windows, on porches and in other spots visible from the street, turning a passerby’s stroll into a game that can be played at a social distance.
'Stay Safe & Take What You Need': A woman, deemed high-risk for contracting the virus, is under doctor’s orders to stay home. She showed her appreciation for the delivery drivers she depends on by leaving out a care package full of pandemic essentials.
Musician Offers Curbside Concerts for Coronavirus Blues: With a microphone and passion for music, Chris Lomeli is spreading joy throughout California’s Coachella Valley during coronavirus social distancing. After the pandemic shut down venues, Lomeli decided to take his talents on the road, performing for families outside of their homes. "It may not seem like it's much, but the fact that they can smile for at least a minute or two – it's that much more time that they're not thinking about anything else," Lomeli said.
NY Symphony Conducted Remotely Amid COVID-19 Cancellation: The New York Youth Symphony Orchestra, led by music director Michael Repper, had to cancel its concert at Carnegie Hall this spring. So instead, 71 members of the orchestra came together virtually from their isolation points across the country to perform an uplifting movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 1, "Titan."
Honk for Love: Wedding Guests Give Couple Well Wishes From a Distance: A Virginia couple came up with some creative ways to share their wedding day with loved ones while still following social distancing rules. Meanwhile, other communities have started holding drive-by birthday celebrations so social distancing kids don't miss out on their special days.