Grand community coordinates volunteers during coronavirus outbreak

One volunteer’s Facebook post has quickly spread into a mass movement to help people affected by the novel coronavirus in Grand County.

Kristie DeLay posted on the community Facebook page, Grand County OnLine Garage Sale, offering her help to people who might need groceries or medications.

“If you have a parent, relative (or) friend here in Grand County who may need some assistance over the next few weeks, know that we are here to help,” she said in the post.

While there has not yet been a confirmed case in the county, the populations most vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, have been advised to reduce their public interactions as much as possible.

But that might be difficult when folks run low on food or medications. Beyond that, people who are told to or choose to self isolate also need those resources.

“Thanks for your help!” one commenter said on the post. “My health is severely compromised. I’m still doing just fine. But it sure is comforting to know there is help out there.”

Others who recognized that need started offering their assistance. That’s when folks at the Church of Eternal Hills, including Pastor Paula Steinbacher, realized the county was going to need a way to organize this.

Soon, Steinbacher posted two links on the same Facebook page: one for people requiring assistance and one for people able to provide that help.

“It’s really important for us to say that this is a response that is proactive,” Steinbacher said. “It’s not a fear based response. Before things get desperate, let’s get something in place. It’s also something to comfort people who may be experiencing the panic.”

A few hours after creating the links, Steinbacher was seeing responses from around the county — both from volunteers and from people asking for assistance.

“Everything has moved so fast,” said Cara McDonald, who is working with the Church of Eternal Hills on this effort to formalize the process and spread the word.

Agencies in Grand County, like the Rural Health Network, were already trying to coordinate a similar effort, so Executive Director Jen Fanning reached out to Steinbacher. She pointed to already-limited staff in resort communities now facing a surge of demand from the novel coronavirus. She sees these volunteers as a way to combat the strain on resources.

“Getting volunteers engaged to provide for that surge effect is a really important step,” Fanning said, “and something that’s really amazing about our community.”

The Rural Health Network is still trying to decide what the specifics of the effort will look like. Fanning said it’s important that volunteers are trained to take necessary precautions so that they themselves don’t get sick or spread the disease.

The network is trying to address the needs of all sorts of communities by working with human service agencies in the county to identify people who could use these services. Before the sign ups could be made, Fanning said 17 volunteers had already expressed interest to help out.

“If we get twice that, that goes a long way in expanding our workforce in general,” she said.

Steinbacher and Fanning both pointed to the need to get the word out to those who need the services most. They’re working to reach the seniors who might not use the internet or have a phone but need these resources. Spanish speakers in the county are another demographic Fanning wants to make sure knows about this.

While their efforts are still being coordinated, others have also been posting about available assistance to the Grand County community. It’s something McDonald said is going to help the county through this time.

“A lot of people don’t think they’re the one. They don’t think they have the special skills, they don’t know what to do or how to ask what to do,” McDonald said. “We all need to deputize ourselves. If every one of us in Grand County has that attitude, we’re going to be OK.”

More information and coverage on COVID-19:

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.