Making connections, extending a hand

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Editor’s note: this is another in a series of updates on Chatham’s “Neighbor2Neighbor,” a grassroots collaborative project of Abundance NC, the News + Record and the Caremongering Pittsboro Facebook group. N2N’s objective is to connect those in need during the pandemic with those who have the capacity to help. Marcela Slade, an organizer for Neighbor2Neighbor, is Abundance NC’s event coordinator and art director.

I finally met some of the people I have been working for these past few months. Hilary Pollan of the Chatham County Manager’s Office contacted Abundance NC about produce boxes being distributed at Chatham Outreach Alliance (CORA). I was able to secure 20 boxes to distribute among the Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino people in need. I emailed and texted my contacts and received interest. Most people were able to pick up the boxes, but there were a couple I had to deliver as well as 15 more boxes I was given during distribution.

In order to distribute the extra 15 boxes, I knocked on the doors of neighbors of the people I had already been in contact with in Siler City. People were grateful and looked at me as if I were some kind of angel. Some thought I was trying to sell them and didn’t want them until I said they were free.

Since the Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino program started in May, I have been receiving applications from people who have resources and time to help people in need and applications from the people who need help. Mostly groceries, bought and delivered, are needed, but also paying utility bills. I pair these “neighbors” together through emails, phone calls and text messages.

I want to re-thank everyone who has been able and willing to help through donations, time, shopping, delivery, prepared foods, pointing me to other resources and more. Together, we can get through this COVID-19 period as a supportive community.

I have been blessed a thousand times over for doing this work. People are so grateful. I feel all that gratitude as the program leader. “MAY GOD BLESS YOU” is the main phrase I hear as a pairing or payment is completed.

Why did I become program leader? Well, because I am the Latina at Abundance NC and most of the people in need that we have been able to tap into are Latino. El Vínculo Hispano and News + Record have been great promoters of the program and soon we will also have ads running on WUNC, one of our sponsors. The Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino program is open to anyone who applies or contacts me personally. There are no prerequisites other than being from Chatham County or having worked in Chatham County.

We have helped many people who used to work at the Poultry Factory in Siler City, but live in Durham, Wake, Orange, Randolph or Guilford County. We also helped a family that used to work at a Furniture Factory in Lexington, but live in Chatham.

For privacy reasons, I will refer to them as the López family. María López first contacted me when the program started. She was behind on paying her utility bills and asked for help. We were able to get a few “neighbors” to pay parts of her bills directly as a one-time payment and recently used some of the GoFundMe funds to put her back on track.

I met María in person last week when she picked up her produce box at CORA. We had spoken on the phone several times, and it was good to see her. Her whole family had been hit by COVID-19. She, her husband and one of her daughters and son-in-law normally work at a furniture factory in Lexington.

First, she and her husband got it while still working at the factory. She said she couldn’t eat for three weeks because of the sickness. She couldn’t breathe, wanted to keep her eyes closed, didn’t want to talk and had a constant dry mouth. “It felt like someone was dragging you,” she said. She drank chamomile tea and hot water with lemon to feel better.

Then her younger daughter and son-in-law got it, and she says she thought her daughter was going to die. She had no energy and couldn’t breathe, let alone talk. They live in different households, but María would call her every day to encourage her to get out of bed, ventilate the house and tend to her two kids. She believes those calls saved her daughter from dying and the tea she drank, including hot ginger blends. María says her daughter was scared of going to the doctor because she didn’t want to get taken away from her family due to hospitalization, but it ended up becoming a positive experience to see the doctor because he calmed her by informing her the children were less prone to getting infected.

Shortly after, her other daughter and son-in-law got sick. That daughter is pregnant and couldn’t take anything but Tylenol. María says this daughter spent each day in the hot shower. It was the only way she could breathe and feel alive.

After a week of feeling better, the furniture factory was calling people back to work and she was one of the chosen ones to return. She turned the work down because she was still weak and scared she might get infected again. The factory had to close a week after because more cases.

María is an illegal immigrant who works under a false name. When she went to the doctor, the doctor would not sign the document she needed in order to go back to work, because it was not her real name. She will now have to submit a new work application with a different name.

The psychological impact María has endured is traumatic. She says she is scared of getting sick again and thanks God for surviving such a terrible sickness. She believes the help she received from Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino helped her take her mind off bills and concentrate on getting better. She sees people take COVID-19 lightly and says if they only knew how horrible it feels they wouldn’t be taking it lightly.

If you have time and/or resources to help a neighbor or need help, please join our program by completing this form:

English version: https://bit.ly/ChathamNeighbor2Neighbor

Spanish version: https://bit.ly/ChathamVecinoAVecino

If you don’t have time but would like to donate you can write a check to Abundance NC and mail to: Abundance NC / Neighbor2Neighbor 220 Lorax Lane Pittsboro, NC 27312 or use this GOFUNDME fundraiser to donate online: www.gf.me/u/x4xj2c Once we receive and process you will receive a tax deductible receipt.

Support AbundanceNC with the Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino program, many people in your community need your help!

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