BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — From schools and churches to restaurants and nursing homes, every corner of the Anthony Wayne community is feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet while facing challenges, many in the community are looking out for others, even when social distancing is the new norm.
“This is what Americans do – we step up and help our neighbors,” said Luke Shortridge, associate pastor of CedarCreek Church’s Whitehouse campus.
“I’m having a hard time not hugging,” admitted Karen Meyer, a member of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waterville. Like the 20 members attending the March 15 early service, Meyer was attempting the social distancing that’s been promoted by health officials.
Rev. Steve Bauerle, pastor of Zion, encouraged members to practice being a “non-anxious presence” with others, as many are feeling the stress and fear.
“‘Canceled’ is a word we’re hearing a lot,” he said. While schools, special events, sports and soon even traditional Sunday services may be canceled, Bauerle read off a list of what’s not canceled: conversations, relationships, love, songs and hope.
He asked his congregation to pray, donate food to area pantries, write letters to those in nursing homes, support local restaurants, pray for leaders and medical workers and, most of all, trust that “God will get us through this,” he said.
Worshipping together is important, even if it’s in a different form, area pastors agree.
“We have canceled all in-person worship services through Sunday, April 5 and Holy Week,” said Com-munity of Christ Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Matthew Lash. “We hope to hold public services on Easter morning, April 12.”
Instead, the church will be livestreaming services at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays at 9:00 a.m.
CedarCreek Church transitioned to online-only services last Sunday, as 2,500 regularly attend services at its six area campuses. Using technology to connect was an easy transition, as the church regularly gets about 1,800 playbacks on its streaming services each week, Short-ridge said.
While the church buildings are closed, leaders are looking at needs and seeing what spaces can be filled, he said. Pastors from affiliated churches in Seattle – where the coronavirus hit earlier – mentioned a need for child care, blood banks and food for children who normally receive school lunches.
“Our heart is really to help the community,” Shortridge said. “The church is poised in this time of uncertainty and fear to be a beacon of hope.”
Rev. Warren Clifton, pastor of Hope United Methodist Church, agrees. He sends out daily scriptures via e-mail to the congregation, one of which notes that the phrase “Do not be afraid” appears 47 times in the Old Testament and 21 times in the New Testament.
“There is no doubt that the news coming at us every day is fear-producing and we need to take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and our families, but as Christ followers, we also need to remember the story of the Good Samaritan,” Clifton said. “At all times, but especially in times of crisis, we need to be good neighbors for those without resources.”
Several area churches are working with Anthony Wayne Local Schools to meet the needs of students with lunches, Wi-Fi and loaned technology, said Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz.
“Last week was a week that we will never forget,” Fritz said. “These are uncharted waters.”
From the moment that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that public schools would close for three weeks beginning on Tuesday, March 17, school administrators began working on a plan that would meet the guidelines of the governor, health department and Ohio Department of Education.
That plan has been shared with parents and posted on www.anthonwayneschools.org/ Coronavirus. It includes online learning for students, as well as information about how to combat coronavirus and how to talk to kids about the pandemic. The site also contains information on the free lunches for qualified students offered three days a week.
“The staff is doing an awesome job working together to provide valuable educational opportunities for our students,” Fritz said of the lessons, which will take students through Friday, April 3. “The staff is dedicated to doing what’s best for kids. I’m excited by the energy we’ve seen.”
Whitehouse resident Diane Lauer, an intervention specialist at Wildwood Environmental Academy, a K-12 charter school in Toledo, has also been planning online activities for her students. In the process, she’s found a community of educators from around the world who are sharing ideas and resources. Many online companies are waiving their fees, Lauer said.
“It’s fantastic to see the educational community as a whole working together,” she said.
One of her lessons will be asking her students to write a letter once a week to a nursing home resident or other shut-in, giving them hope and encouragement.
The AWLS staff is also challenging students and parents to help the community by showing appreciation for first responders, those in nursing homes and those who are facing financial hardship due to shutdowns, Fritz said.
“I hate that we’ve come to this, but I love the response,” Lauer said.
Both the Anthony Wayne Food Pantry at Zion United Methodist Church in White-house and the Anthony Wayne Community Food Ministry (AWCFM) are preparing for an increase in need, said Zion pastor Rev. Carol Williams-Young and AWCFM board president Ron Shoemaker.
“We do expect to see an increase in people visiting our food pantry as companies may begin cutting back hours or laying off employees. With the governor’s decision to close restaurants and bars, I’m sure we will see an uptick in our numbers. In recent years, as unemployment decreased, our numbers declined a bit, so we are anticipating the reverse in coming months,” Shoemaker said.
AWCFM, a collaboration of several churches, typically distributes in a grocery store style inside Waterville Community Church on the second and fourth Tuesdays each month. Instead of having volunteers walking with recipients through the “store” to select bread, fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese and canned foods, volunteers will instead pre-box items and deliver them to those who wait in their vehicles outside, Shoemaker said.
Zion will continue to offer pre-bagged nonperishable foods from the basement of the church, but has added extra disinfecting procedures as well as screening of recipients before they come into the church, Williams-Young said. Those who are unable to come to the church on the first and third Tuesdays of the month can get items delivered to their doors.
“We have a responsibility to care for our own health and to care equally about the health of others. Taking steps personally and as a congregation to limit exposure as much as possible helps us to live out Jesus’ commandment and be loving members of our community,” Williams-Young said.
Both food pantries are in need of canned items, such as tuna, chicken, soups, baked beans, chili, fruit, SpaghettiOs and spaghetti sauce, as well as peanut butter and cereal.
Every area nursing facility, from independent living to skilled care, is under quarantine to prevent outsiders from bringing coronavirus into what is the most vulnerable population.
Additional cleaning, staffing alterations and canceling group activities are among the changes area facilities are reporting.
“It’s not dampening our spirits and we won’t let it,” said Molly Good, community relations and sales manager for Browning Masonic Community in Waterville. “The party doesn’t stop because we have to follow some rules.”
On St. Patrick’s Day, staff brought in Jiggs dinner and green beer from local restaurants that are offering carryout only. While residents remained in their apartments, they were able to compete with others in a trivia contest with an Irish theme. Stations with games and Skype for communicating with family members are also set up around the community.
Good encourages kids and adults to send letters to residents to boost their spirits.
“Even if it’s just a knock-knock joke on a piece of paper, it will brighten someone’s day,” she said.
Both the Anthony Wayne Regional Chamber of Com-merce and the Waterville Chamber of Commerce are promoting area businesses.
“Stay calm and shop local,” said Corina Pfleghaar, Waterville chamber’s executive director.
Even those who are uneasy about going out can support local businesses by buying gift cards to use later or order food to pick up, she said.
In Waterville, Cocina de Carlos, Chowders ‘N Moor, Dale’s Diner and Shawn’s Irish Tavern are among the restaurants offering carryout service.
The Anthony Wayne Chamber is offering a free weekly conference call on Wednesdays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Business coaches and industry experts will discuss marketing strategies and other ideas to assist those who are feeling the pinch from the coronavirus. This is available to nonmembers as well. For information, visit www.awchamber.com.
While the Toledo Lucas County Public Library may not be open, patrons can still get information and entertainment with a library card, said Waterville Branch manager Will Harbauer.
As he watched dozens of patrons emptying the shelves during its last day of operation on March 14, Harbauer explained that Hoopla, Flipster, Bookflix and other e-media providers offer digital content online.
Hoopla is available on most devices and provides instant access to streaming movies and TV shows, music, e-books, audiobooks and comics, he said. The free app requires sign-up using your library card. Those who don’t have a library card can sign up online. Visit www.toledolibrary.org.
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