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Neighbors helping neighbors — that’s the goal of Chatham Neighbor2Neighbor, a joint effort launching this week by the Chatham News + Record, Abundance NC and the Caremongering Pittsboro Facebook group.
The goal: connecting people in Chatham County who have the capacity to help with those who need help the most.
News + Record Publisher Bill Horner III said inspiration for the idea came after seeing the success of the local Caremongering social media page and a COVID-19-prompted effort sponsored by The Miami Herald in south Florida.
“The idea is simple,” he said. “In a crisis, some people have specific needs they may be reluctant to broadcast on social media. Some people have the capacity to help in specific ways. Technology allows us to connect those two groups together and help ease hardships.”
Lisa Skumpija, who created the Caremongering Pittsboro site with Yvonne Beal, spoke of one example of a need in the community that was met with a simple connection. A woman made a post on the Facebook page about her neighbors, both of whom were out of work and with five children to feed. Because of language barriers, the couple was having a hard time finding resources. After finding out about it, Skumpija posted a message on Facebook, asking the neighbor to contact her directly.
A carload of food was soon delivered to the family.
“I always prefer helping families directly and feel that others might be more giving when it comes to having a specific family to support,” Skumpija said.
Chatham Neighbor2Neighbor builds on that premise. Any Chatham County resident who wants to volunteer to help can access the site from this URL: https://bit.ly/ChathamNeighbor2Neighbor.
Once there, visitors complete a simple contact form which includes options for ways they can help. At the same time, any Chatham County resident who needs help can, through the same site, complete a form seeking assistance. Volunteers are then “matched” with the neighbor in need.
There is also a version of the same form translated into Spanish called Chatham VecinoAVecino, which can be found at https://bit.ly/ChathamVecinoAVecino.
It’s a simple matter of choosing “I can help others” or “I need help.”
From the ground up
Horner and News + Record reporter Casey Mann began collaborating with Caremongering Pittsboro organizers Beal and Skumpija. Mann coordinated the group’s online meetings and helped organize a strategy.
“And at this time — we can all feel somewhat helpless — this felt like a great way to have an impact in a time of need while building a stronger community for us all,” she said.
“There are so many successful stories through the Caremongering Pittsboro site,” Skumpija said. “We are trying to accomplish at a higher level.”
The group enlisted the help of Tami Schwerin, executive director of Abundance NC, who brought in Abundance NC Associate Director Ally DeJong and Event Coordinator and Art Director Marcela Slade.
“Abundance is built for this kind of work, with a team of very talented and caring volunteers, so we approached Tami about the idea and she and her team were eager to step in and help manage this,” Horner said.
The team worked quickly to construct the back-end organizing tools needed to activate the program. When Chatham residents go to the site and sign up, Abundance NC will contact the appropriate volunteers by skill, resources and geography, then provide contact information for people in need. Volunteers are then directed to reach out to the neighbor in need within 24 hours to coordinate getting them assistance. The team will also follow up with the volunteers to ensure that they were able to complete the request and provide any feedback that could strengthen the program.
“This program points to the philosophy that there is enough,” Schwerin said. “We just need to match needs to resources. Abundance NC is excited to help and we think our strong community can make a huge difference in people’s lives with benefits to both the giver and the receiver. I can’t wait to see the ripple effects.”
The team also coordinated with Shawn Poe, executive director of Chatham Trades in Siler City, which provides employment and training for adults with intellectual development disabilities, to connect to the non-profit community. The program can connect those in need to resources available via non-profits for Chatham County residents to meet their needs during this challenging time.
“I have always been committed to helping others,” Poe said. “I have a broad knowledge of nonprofit agencies, services and key leaders in community and faith-based groups that can work together for the people of Chatham. Working with Chatham Neighbor2Neighbor allows me to help connect these non-profits and individuals together, especially in West Chatham, to help individuals in need. Chatham Neighbor2Neighbor is truly TEAM work – Together We Achieve More!”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org and your message will be directed to volunteers.
“The last couple of months have been an extraordinary challenge for all of us,” Mann said. “Even so, there are critical unmet needs simply because someone doesn’t know who to ask, how to ask, or is reluctant to post something on a public forum. This is a private way to express needs and, with help from the community, see them met.”