MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — When life came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 because of the novel coronavirus, a few committed community-minded folks calling themselves the MDI Helpers put together a list of resources and worked to connect those in need with those willing to lend a hand.
They are still doing this 10 months into the pandemic and are finding that some people need the help now more than ever.
With the increase in COVID-19 cases on MDI and in Hancock County, MDI Helpers organizers Ezra Sassaman and Olivia Erickson are working to connect people to the resources they need with a focus on keeping people safe.
“We are definitely seeing the trend of people reaching out for help,” said Erickson. “A lot of people are lonely. A lot of people need help with grocery delivery. One thing we’re looking into is seeing if we can start a fund. There’s a lot of problems we can’t solve without financial help.”
Services people have offered include driving someone in need of transportation, online meditation, cooking, house cleaning, social services guidance, helping neighbors and offering to call people to check in or make a connection.
“We’re trying to collect information and connect people,” said Erickson. “There are so many organizations and people in the community who are doing really good work.”
Tremont residents Jessica Stewart and Sarah Tewey were two of the original organizers for the MDI Helpers.
“They’re both giving us a lot of advice and help in figuring it out as we go,” said Erickson.
Stewart has been home with newborn twins for the last couple of months.
“In the beginning, I was doing a ton of grocery shopping for people,” she said. “I can’t really do that right now.”
Outside of it being less risky, lending a helping hand was also easier for some last spring because many businesses had closed down.
“In March and April, a lot of people weren’t working so people were able to volunteer,” said Stewart. “Then people went back to work. Now it feels like there’s a lot more risk in being out and about.”
In fact, most of those who regularly volunteer are the ones in the highest risk category for COVID-19.
“A lot of volunteerism on MDI are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, not an ideal group to be out and about during a pandemic,” said Stewart, adding there were more people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who volunteered in the spring. “I think that’s a demographic that is strapped for time now.”
Sassaman, who has been reaching out to those who volunteered in the spring, said there has been some hesitation.
“Some people have mentioned their age and expressed they are less comfortable going to the store,” he said. “There’s a couple of people who would prefer to stay indoors.”
Whatever the situation, Erickson and Sassaman are doing their best to provide assistance during this time. “We really do want to make sure that everyone is safe and do what is best for them,” said Erickson.
To ask for help or to offer help, go to MDI Helpers: Pandemic Mutual Aid on Facebook and look for the google form https://docs.google.com/…/1HMhaiZloUANljha…/edit.