Community in the time of COVID
I’ve been reflecting on the word gather over the past few months. This word, along with grateful and thanksgiving seem to be synonymous with the month of November. Animals gather nuts to prepare for the long winter. We gather leaves and rake them into the street for pick up. My favorite Thanksgiving hymn opens with, We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.
But this year continues to change so much of what we’ve always been able to count on and look forward to with anticipation. The gatherings that signified special moments throughout the year have been halted or, at the very least, adapted. For the better part of a year, we’ve been saying some form of, When it’s safe for us to gather once again….
Each of us identifies with different events, moments, or places throughout the year that makes our communities home. For some, it may be the fall festivals held throughout Wayne County. For others, it may be events, such as the Fourth of July fireworks, Easter egg hunt or Meltdown. Still others (like myself) enjoy the fundraising events. One event that I miss is the opening of the Dairy Queen in February. My husband always referred to it as a “Richmond holiday”. We would stand in line in the bitter cold to get that treat that was missed over the past four months.
I believe how folks come together is a manifestation of community that creates identity. No matter what you enjoy and what fills your soul, so much of what makes these moments special are the gatherings they create – the coming together with others.
But there is another definition of gather that I think is special to Wayne County in the month November – to draw and hold together. That is the gift of the Wayne County Foundation Challenge Match. The match period is a time when I am reminded of the love this community has for its own and the faith it has in the work and impact of the social sector. This time of giving creates its own opportunity to gather in honoring the work of the nonprofit community. It has been a year that has forced creativity and a re-imagining of how to fully live out missions. It has forced the cancellation of in-person programming or performances, and in some cases, temporarily closed doors. Some organizations had increased responsibility over the past eight months – those meeting basic human needs. Others had greater foot traffic and visitation as they provided outdoor spaces that are so important to our mental health.
But in every case, the spirit of each nonprofit lived on. They found ways to provide programming for youth and adults to enjoy in their homes; to gather outdoors in safe socially distanced ways; to stay in touch with patrons. I am so proud of the response the social sector has had to the pandemic.
Now it’s our turn. Please consider gathering together to honor the work of the nonprofit organizations in Wayne County with a gift or two of support!
Monica, Executive Director