Brooke Connors is a local mom to two teenage daughters, 18 and 17 years old, and a 21 year old son. When things began to shut down due to COVID-19, she and her family decided to use the time to do good. So, she launched a chapter of Pandemic of Love in Fairfield County.
Pandemic of Love is a national organization that started in Florida in mid-March by Shelly Tygielski, a teacher and community organizer who called for help via social media.
The organization meets the essential needs of families who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing resources for things like groceries, gas, medicine or utilities. The grassroots, volunteer-led mutual aid organization now has more than 350 full-time volunteers and has made over 50,000 matches and has provided more than $5.5 million in aid, between those in need and those willing to help.
Brooke explains that she wanted to get involved after seeing someone close to her struggle because she could no longer work. “I knew she couldn’t be alone. Thus, I saw the potential for thousands of struggling people in my own community,” she says.
Also, Brooke says her daughters were extremely upset about the changes in their lives due to COVID-19 and she wanted to find a way to show gratitude. “We have a roof over our heads, food on the table, the ability to even think about college in their future. We all decided it would be really beneficial to do something bigger than ourselves and use our energy to be productive versus disappointed. And, as is the concept behind mutual aid, in helping others we are also being helped.”
She says the goal is to keep their effort alive and helping others for as long as it’s necessary. “Initially I’d like to provide support for the remaining 50+ families on our list and then continue to offer support for anyone else who requests it,” says Brooke.
So, how can you help?
They also need support spreading the word.
“This movement only works and continues if friends tell friends and help us keep our patron list full,” explains Brooke.
Make neighbors in need aware of this resource.
You or someone you know can request help, here. Brooke says they contact everyone who reaches out via email and she follows up via text as well.
“If we cannot help immediately we provide resources where people can find information about their rights regarding rent, mortgage and utility payments, or other organizations where they might be able to get some support. We try to let people know they’ve been heard and that we know they are there even if we cannot send aid immediately. Of course, we wish we could help everyone within hours and frankly that’s a goal; we don’t want anyone who is hungry, afraid or desperate to hear we cannot help them,” she explains.
She also hope that in the long run, the COVID-19 pandemic brings us together, even if we’re apart right now. “I’d hope this pandemic makes us all more aware of our neighbors, more thoughtful about their potential struggles, more sensitive to how isolation can affect one’s mental well-being, and more aware that we have the power to help people if we try,” she says. “People are inherently good and generous and that’s become extremely clear during this awful time.”