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Local residents ready to help

Photo by Michael Kelly Marietta Community Food Pantry volunteer Orvie Fischer carries food for a client out to a table at the pantry's offices in the Broughton Commercial complex on Wednesday. The pantry is seeing about triple the normal number of people seeking help since the restrictions imposed in reaction to the novel coronavirus outbreak came into effect. The food orders are placed on a table, and the recipients pick them up and load the food into their cars.

People in Marietta stand ready to help their neighbors, but their neighbors, for now, seem to be doing OK.

The NextDoor website that connects people in the Oak Grove and Devola communities posted a call for people willing to help the elderly and infirm, those unable or unwilling to go out in these times of pandemic, and more than a dozen signed up. At this point, there appear to be few taking them up on the offer.

“I’ve offered, but I haven’t had anyone yet who needed assistance,” Devola resident Sean Phelps said Wednesday. “I’ve checked in on a couple of neighbors, one has a grandson taking care of her needs. I’ll make time if anybody needs help, for anybody who needs anything picked up so they don’t have to be exposed.”

Janet Stacy, one of the Stacy Family Farm proprietors, said she also has indicated she’s available to help.

“Even my mother insists on going out on her own. I check with our neighbors any time I’m just going out,” she said. “I wish they’d just stay home and let us help them, but they’re independent and want to do things on their own. They’re taking advantage of those special shopping hours for seniors. What can you do? We’re just figuring it out, doing the best we can.”

Stacy said in some ways she thinks the older generation is adapted to crisis.

“In all honesty, I think the elderly are prepared for this, because that’s the way they live. Younger people, this is all new to them,” she said. “I’m hoping when our strawberry season comes, this sticks, that people will maybe freeze them, learn to can tomatoes, it could be a fun and important thing to do.”

Jane Trautman has lived in Oak Grove for 48 years, and she’s offered to help neighbors, but like Phelps and Stacy found that her neighbors seem to be weathering the challenge well.

“A lot of people do have people looking after them,” she said. “I have a good friend, she’s 96 years old, and her daughter is looking after her. I’m taking some chili to her tomorrow. I’m staying in touch with people I know who are older.”

Trautman said she walks every day, and the mild weather has helped decrease the sense of isolation for many.

“I just hope we can get through this, I pray and hope it won’t be as bad as it is in New York City,” she said. “We just need to reach out and be kind to one another, let people know you’re thinking about them. I do reach out to neighbors and friends, and I got names from my church, Gilman Methodist, and checked with them. We’ll get through this somehow.”

The city’s food pantries have been swamped with demand. Sherry Hill at the Marietta Community Food Pantry, which a few months ago moved from the First Congregational Church on Front Street to the Broughton Commercial complex on Ohio 821, said demand has nearly tripled since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions. The service, she said, is being conducted by volunteers who place the food requests on a table outside the building. The client then picks up the food and places it in the car, avoiding direct contact.

“It’s actually working very well,” Hill said. “They drive up, a volunteer in mask and gloves takes the food out. The clients have been very cooperative and patient.”

The pantry has seen many new clients, she said.

“I’ve talked to them, some of them at length on the phone. These are new families who haven’t previously used a food pantry, many of them because a business shut down and they lost their income,” she said.

Volunteer Orvie Fisher said the pantry is in need of many items.

“We need Lysol, disinfecting wipes, gloves and masks,” he said. “And for our clients, there’s peanut butter, toilet paper, canned beans, macaroni and cheese, canned soup, crackers, diapers, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste …”

The Gospel Mission food pantry has been going nearly nonstop as well, said director Candy Waite.

“A gentleman was just here picking up food for his clients at L&P Services (a mental health services firm), the O’Neill Center has been here, Head Start, we’ve had quite few here,” she said. “And that’s a blessing, that they’re coming here to get food for people in need.”

The mission is maintaining social distancing, she said.

“We’re keeping our distance, only letting two people in at a time. We didn’t want to do that, but we don’t have a choice,” she said. “We are going through a lot of food, it seems like 10 times as much. I want to send out a plea for donations so we can continue to help everybody. We’re running low on a lot of things.”

Waite maintained her optimism.

“We are learning this together, we’re all just going forward in life, encouraging everybody to trust in the Lord, lean on the Lord,” she said. “People have anxieties, they are scared.”

Meanwhile, a few doors down from Gospel Mission, the Building Business to Careers Makerspace on Lancaster Street is gearing up to help the front line medical professionals cope with the expected onslaught of patients with COVID-19.

Brad Hemmerly said the Marietta operation has united with a number of makerspace operations in the region to create face shields for doctors, nurses and other hospital and clinical personnel. The shields will help prolong the life of personal protective equipment such as N95 masks and safety glasses by reducing exposure, he said.

“The idea came from the Czech Republic,” he said. An operation there used computer design and 3-D printing to make enough shields for the entire country, he said. The designer made the command files publicly available and they are now being used around the world.

Hemmerly said the computer file issues directions to a 3-D printer to make the devices out of plastic. Hemmerly was in Columbus Wednesday afternoon picking up the raw plastic for the printers. He said the Marietta makerspace and those at the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club and WVU-P are working to produce them.

“Each one takes about six hours to print,” he said. “We’re reaching out to other makerspaces in Ohio to see if they’re interested in participating. Also, people who have 3-D printers at home can post a note on our Makerspace of Marietta Ohio Facebook group if they’re interested in helping.”

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com