Story by Sara Paul
Anxieties are peaking, emotions are running high, and Warwick residents are worried about things like available food, cleaning products, medical supplies, and, of course, the new term of the season, ‘social distancing.’
However, these past few weeks of unrest have evolved into perhaps the antithesis of distancing – an unexpected isolation that has promoted virtual togetherness, emotional closeness, sincere compassion, and true kindness.
An Entire Town Comes Together
The huge shift the country is experiencing due to precautions related to the COVID-19 virus can be seen as cause for panic and conflict. However, in Warwick, most reports have been those of thoughtfulness and positivity.
Florida resident Nicolle Lundell observed, “We have seen people go out of their way to help a neighbor or community member without a second thought. Everyone is contacting each other more and checking in, as we adjust to the various changes we are all experiencing.”
Lundell also noticed that residents are giving back to local businesses, who have always supported the community. Many are ordering take-out and buying gift cards to help their favorite shops.
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard said, “This a test of our resilience. We are lucky to have the genuine support of the Warwick community that has shown over and over that they are here to help in any way.”
Taking Good Care of Seniors
As Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton reported that Warwick Dial-a-Bus was shut down temporarily as of Wed., Mar. 18, some residents had already begun to worry about how Warwick’s large elderly population would obtain groceries, medications and other staples.
Warwick resident Jim Mehling was immediately compelled to help “the greatest generation” and, with close friends, Christine Little, Marriane Schmidt, and Nanette Hoey, created the “Adopt a Town of Warwick Senior” Facebook page. The purpose is to deliver necessities and run errands for seniors in the Warwick community. The group already has more than 130 individuals who have offered their time. Ochs Orchard donated bags of apples for the seniors, and other local businesses like Be Happy CBD Shop and ShopRite of Warwick have donated bags.
Through social media, flyers and word of mouth, Mehling and friends hope to reach all seniors in the Warwick area who need assistance. The efforts are not simply a practical exercise in dropping off packages, but rather, Mehling hopes, an experience that goes much deeper.
“Society is valued on how they value their seniors, and all these volunteers will feel so good to help someone. These seniors built this country and they deserve this… These are epiphany moments, showcasing a greater sense of community and restoring faith in fellow human beings,” said Mehling, who emphasizes that the initiative is moving forward cautiously, adhering to all health and safety measures.
A typical scenario entails seniors being paired with a volunteer who picks up lists and reimbursements and leave bags outside. The volunteers are hoping to avoid reusable bags, which can retain contamination, and instead utilize paper or plastic garbage bags.
Mehling looks upon the current health pandemic as a profound opportunity to reexamine one’s fundamental reason for being.
“Sometimes things in the universe happen for a reason. Maybe people need to be able to stop and evaluate their priorities. What’s important in your life? Being a good person? Being true and caring about people? Putting others before yourself is at the core of humanity. This is not a hand out; it’s a hand up,” he said.
Mayor Newhard was quite impressed by the efforts, saying, “Adopt a Town of Warwick senior is a great example of jumping in feet first.”
Supervisor Sweeton commended all of the volunteer efforts, noting, “I am so very proud of our Town and it’s people… This is a special Town, and these times prove it by how regular citizens step up make it all a little less scary.”
Locally Run Social Media Keeping Conversations Civil
While online chat avenues can sometimes be blamed for negative gossip and unfair attacks, the Warwick, NY Parents Group has remained a respectful resource for more than 3,500 local family members.
Responsibly run and moderated by Warwick moms Nicole McCormick and Kerri Fenton Foley, the Parents Group has been continuously offering informational and inspiring posts, from local store updates to ideas on how to keep kids occupied during this extended period of no school and limited socialization.
“We’re just trying to keep everybody calm and positive and not focus on the hysteria. There’s a lot of information to take in, and obviously none of us have ever seen anything like this in our lifetime,” said McCormick, a Warwick resident for about six years.
When news of the coronavirus started to escalate, McCormick noticed some strife and negativity seeping into the Group posts. She and fellow moderator Kerri decided that they would move to an approval only approach on posts… and also pour on the positive.
“People were starting to argue, and we felt this was dividing the community, when this a really a time to come together and help each other out,” said McCormick.
Some suggestions on the Page have included creating rainbow pictures to place in home windows where family walks are expected to become longer and more frequent.
“Everybody looks for guidance at some point, and it’s just a matter of planting a seed of positivity. Warwick always has a way of coming together,” said McCormick.