Acts of kindness seen across state in face of coronavirus troubles

Jeremy Blayock gives out free breakfast to Elrose Prokopec at Granny’s Restaurant on Saturday. The restaurant opened for a few hours to provide food for those in need. Photo by Lauren Modler, Cody Enterprise.

As Wyoming residents dealt with the problems created by the coronavirus epidemic, the state was replete with stories of people reaching out to help their neighbors cope. 

From armies of people sewing masks for health care providers to restaurants providing free meals for those in need, stories of people helping others streamed from every corner of the state.

Group helps collect, distribute needed items to Evanston residents

EVANSTON — The changes associated with the COVID-19 outbreak can be anxiety producing at best, but for the most vulnerable it can be terrifying. 

A new group is forming to try to help the most vulnerable in Evanston, comprised of local realtors, churches and others working in collaboration with the Uinta Senior Center and the Lord’s Storehouse food pantry. COVID-19 Relief is hoping to collect needed items and distribute them to those in need.

Uinta Senior Center Director Aimee Ottley says the center was been inundated with calls from people in need. She explained that many senior citizens or other people on fixed incomes, such as those on disability benefits, get paid once a month and are unable to shop until that time. However, when they are able to make it to the store, they’ve been finding it difficult or impossible to get the items they need.

To help address these needs, COVID-19 Relief is asking for the community’s help. Ottley said people are in need of toilet paper, detergent, personal hygiene items, nonperishable food and even batteries and light bulbs, while the Lord’s Storehouse is in need of any food in general. — Uinta County Herald

Casper residents collect masks

CASPER — Mitch Fickel put out the call, and the masks rolled in.

Fickel had been browsing Facebook last week when he saw a post about a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment. He’s a painter with a business here in Casper. He had masks — N95s, the kind that have become a household name because of their growing scarcity. So he put out his own call: If you’ve got masks, give ‘em here.

As of Monday afternoon, Fickel — an empathetic guy who doesn’t want the spotlight — estimates he’s donated 400 face masks to Wyoming Medical Center, the University of Wyoming’s family practice clinic and the local community health center. Some were his own. Others came from other contractors.

The painter, whose wife is a nurse at the UW clinic, said he’s going to continue gathering the masks as long as there’s a need.

While Fickel has rounded up hundreds of masks from contractors, Joyce Hawley has taken to making masks herself. She’s a quilter and because she’s older — “76, well, 75 and soon to be 76” — she’s trying to stay inside. So she started making masks herself, after hearing about the shortages.

“They don’t take long to make at all, and if they can use them, that’s what little bit I can do to help,” she said. She’s made 12 American-flag patterned masks so far and is hard at work at more. She ran out of elastic for the ear straps and sneaked out of her house to buy more. She’s told her quilter friends they could do it too.

Fickel said the way to minimize the hurt brought by the virus is to band together and find ways to help.

“The only way you beat something like this,” he said, “you get together as a team and you kick its butt.” — Casper Star-Tribune

Cheyenne residents help match needs with supplies

CHEYENNE — Some residents are having a hard time getting their hands on essentials - milk, diapers and cleaning supplies. But when the residents of Cheyenne have a need, the community steps up to try and meet it.

Stormy Bacon, a stay-at-home mom who has given gallons of milk to people who haven't been able to buy any, said, "Whenever anything bad happens, you just have to look for the good."

Utilizing social media has allowed residents with goods to share with those without. Facebook groups like "Oops... I ran out of..." and "Laramie County Community Shoutout" are being used to connect people with supplies with those who need them.

Linda Williams, owner of the Meaning of Cleaning, has been hand-delivering bottles of commercial grade cleaning supplies to households that couldn't find any. 

A number of Meaning of Cleaning clients are elderly and haven't been able to get to the store, so Williams has been picking up and delivering groceries for them. 

For Ashley Jenkins, who has three kids under the age of 3, the Facebook page was a place to turn to in search of diapers. She checked the stores around town, all of which were out of the diaper sizes she needed, and searched Amazon, which currently has a two-week wait.

Through the Facebook page, Jenkins was able to arrange a meeting with someone willing to provide some extra diapers at no cost.

For those with extra supplies who want to help, a Community Collection has been set up by Richard Johnson and Corey Lynn Loghry to help distribute goods to residents and agencies that need them.

Johnson said after talking with more than 20 nonprofits and groups in town, they decided it best to set up one big collection, which will then be distributed to individuals and places like the COMEA House homeless shelter by volunteer delivery drivers. — Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Gillette residents swap goods in tight times

GILLETTE — Jordayn Borrego was willing to trade some surplus macaroni and cheese for newborn diapers.

Reno Sams wanted to swap some Lysol disinfecting wipes for potatoes.

Destiny Juarez reached out for a friend in need of some Similac baby formula because the local stores were cleaned out.

These are a few of the more than 3,100 local residents who have joined The Cupboard of Campbell County Facebook page in the last week, a modern social distancing alternative to chatting with neighbors over the back fence.

Or, how group organizer Tammy McArthur puts it, the group’s “an online version of borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbor.”

McArthur’s group is one where people can barter for necessities and has evolved to be a one-stop solution for people helping their neighbors, something McArthur said reaffirms her faith in humanity and the local community.

“There are plenty of us who are able to share with others, but this has turned into more than I could’ve thought it could be,” she said.

One reason is because while people will attempt to barter for what they need, most of the time the response is people offering their surplus goods for free.

One of the first members of the group was Kandi Carter, who posted her dilemma: she had six large jars of Jif peanut butter she could part with, but no jelly or bread.

While that didn’t culminate in a trade, Carter said she connected with a young woman who got two jars.

Traci Waldrop didn’t have an abundance of food or toilet paper to offer, but said she could give some time and effort in a post offering to help pick up and deliver grocery orders for seniors or homebound people. — Gillette News Record

Deputies deliver meds to seniors

JACKSON — Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office said it will launch a prescription drop off program Monday for residents 60 years old or older.

“This allows these members of our community to fill their prescriptions while limiting their exposure to high-traffic areas in the community,” Sheriff Matt Carr said.

To take advantage of the program, residents are being advised to pre-pay for their medications and tell their pharmacists that their prescriptions will be picked up by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office. Residents then should call the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and tell them when the medications will be available for pickup.

The delivery service will be available as long as the sheriff’s office has the staffing to meet the requests. — Jackson Hole News&Guide

Volunteers pitch in to help with food deliveries

CASPER — It had been a long day. The boxes were getting heavy. But Nikki Brown and James Snelling were still in high spirits. 

The pair arrived at Joshua’s Storehouse, a local food pantry, around 10 a.m. March 18. They loaded their car with boxes of food and began driving around town delivering the goods. 

It was after 3 p.m. when they arrived at Gail Gardens Apartments in downtown Casper to meet their second-to-last patron of the day. 

Rocky Bain awaited the pair at the end of the hallway, grateful at the sight of them. 

Bain was prepared to go pick up the food himself. But he’s on oxygen and it’s a burden to lug around a tank of air all day. So the delivery was “way helpful,” he said. 

Kim Perez, Joshua’s founder and CEO, didn’t make the decision to go delivery-only lightly, but most of her typical volunteers are in their mid-60s, and she didn’t want to chance exposing them to the virus. 

But transitioning to delivery requires volunteers. People to pack the boxes and people to deliver them.

Perez said she’s still desperate for help, but those who’ve donated their time already have been a lifesaver for her. 

A new Facebook group also recently went online, created by a Casper woman, Marie Scott. The group, called Share & Trade Resources Wyoming, has been a place for people to ask for help if they need it, and offer it if they can. 

Elsewhere in the community people are lending a hand wherever they can. 

The Natrona County Meals on Wheels team knew their clientele would be among the groups most affected by the spread of the virus. They surveyed their nearly 450 members and found that many were in desperate need of basic essentials like toilet paper and hand soap. 

So they put out a call for help, asking anyone with extra toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet food, puzzle books and board games to donate to the cause. The organization posted the ask on its Facebook page and spread the word through the community as best it could. As of Wednesday morning, more than 50 people had donated goods to the nonprofit, Loveall said. — Casper Star-Tribune

Gillette students prepare care packages for vulnerable residents, seniors

GILLETTE — Some Gillette students are using their time away from school to help those who are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Students and other volunteers packed nearly 100 care packages for senior citizens at Journey Church on Friday afternoon. Each care package contained bottled water, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and food items like bread, power bars and peanut butter.

Preparing and delivering the care packages helps seniors stay away from others and helps reduce their risk of contracting the virus.

“I was just moved to do it because I feel there is a definite need for it,” said volunteer Missy Norton, a member of the church. “We’re not only helping them, but we’re keeping them healthy and preventing the spread of any possible illness or sickness for that matter.”

The care package project also was put on by the local chapter of the nonprofit Kindness Revolution. Its mission is to raise awareness of strong moral values, such as kindness, in the workplace, schools and other facets of everyday life. — Gillette News Record

Buffalo Bill Center gives away soup

CODY (WNE) — The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has temporarily closed to the public, but it served up free soup on March 20.

Quarts of soup were given away to those who drove by the front entrance of the center. 

“The community has supported us for over 100 years. As a good neighbor, we hope to return the favor for those who need help in this tough time,” center officials said in announcing the event. — Powell Tribune

Cheyenne residents lend a hand to make masks

CHEYENNE – When Mickey Sanderson closed her Etsy shop last year, she wasn’t sure what she would do with the two 30-gallon totes of fabric in her basement. In fact, until last week, she hadn’t even touched them since July.

But when Sanderson, a volunteer firefighter for Laramie County Fire District 2, heard on the news last week that people on the East Coast were sewing medical masks for those running low, she got an idea.

“I’m not able to pull as many shifts right now because I have an immune-compromised son, so I thought, ‘How can I help our community and still be a firefighter without being on shift?’” she said. “Our fire chief sent out an email saying that we have to reuse our N95 respirators because we’re already out, and I emailed him and asked if it’s OK if I make fabric masks.”

Her boss said yes, and around the same time, several of Sanderson’s friends were tagging her in posts about mask patterns on Facebook, so she found a pattern that she’s now using to make as many masks as possible before she runs out of fabric.

It started as a way to help her fellow firefighters, but became something bigger when she realized how many people in the medical field, as well as others who have to interact with the public for work, are in need of some form of protection from the spread of COVID-19.

Barb Boyer, owner of Around the Block quilt shop, is spearheading her own fabric mask project – and she has an army of quilters by her side.

“Our quilting community is very strong and very generous, and this is an example of how quilters can come together in a time of need to help,” Boyer said. “From Saturday to today (Monday), they’ve turned in 70 masks. Now we’re up to probably 500 kits we’ve made.” — Wyoming Tribune Eagle


Dubois residents make masks