The Stark Cares COVID19 Community Network is a mutual volunteer group of people across the county helping each other though the pandemic crisis. It was started a few days before the schools across Ohio were ordered closed and people were given a Stay at Home order by the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine.
Lorraine Wilburn, of North Canton, is an experienced organizer and problem solver “by nature” and as soon as she heard what was happening with the crisis, she posted a message on a Facebook group suggesting and asking for ideas on ways to help.
“Within 24 hours, I got a Facebook group together called Stark Cares Community Network and started receiving ideas for ways to help,” Wilburn said. “Many ideas were posted for meal donations and deliveries. I just wanted to find a way to make sure people who are temporarily hurting to get help possibly from those who have a little bit to spare.”
Wilburn and her husband, Jake, and their children, Georgia and Finn, moved into the area several years ago. She has worked for non-profit organizations and in government positions most of her career. She also worked with Dr. Tony Fauci, who is on President Donald Trump’s COVID19 task force.
“I worked in the National Institute of Health of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. I also worked in the HIV Aides vaccine and research as a non-scientific program manager. Dr. Fauci was my boss a couple layers up. I’ve sat in on meetings where he was in attendance,” Wilburn said.
She also worked as a volunteer coordinator for domestic violence. And, she ran for state representative in 2018. Her husband is an environmental scientist.
The Stark Cares Community Network has been helping 24/7 since the Facebook group started. In addition to helping those looking help with food for their families, there are more than 35 mask angels making and donating masks. Wilburn said she has request forms on the group’s Facebook page where people can fill it out to donate masks, materials for masks or request masks.
The group only makes masks for donations. To date, they have made and distributed around 7,000 masks to essential works such as healthcare workers and first responders.
In addition to the mask angels, the group is up to 1,800 volunteers who are donating money, food and materials for masks. Wilburn and several other volunteers have been picking up and delivering masks and mask materials. They have also been grocery shopping for people who are quarantined because of the virus and have lost their incomes because being quarantined. There have been several generous donations to provide two weeks’ worth of groceries to families in need.
“Everything I do is porch pickup or delivery. I’ll go get the groceries and leave them on the porch of the home of the person or family in need. We also have a few drop off or pickup places including Tremont Coffee in Massillon,” Wilburn said.
She said many churches and food pantries in the area have used the site to make requests for help with food or other items. The group has also shared information about filing for unemployment and where to find local food pantries. Volunteers are also there for emotional support and mental health support.
“We had a request for Easter baskets from a family for their kids. So, volunteers donated supplies for 42 Easter baskets that we delivered to about 30 families. It’s a mutual support group so I gave masks to Atlantic Foods and they gave me ground beef for families who needed it,” Wilburn said.
For the immediate future, the group plans to continue making and donating masks. Wilburn said the request for meals has slowed because people are getting their relief money and their unemployment has started but they will help where they can.
Wilburn said she thinks people will be struggling while getting back on their feet and the Stark Cares Community Network will be available to help.
Growing up in New Jersey, Wilburn said she saw how people came together to help each other every time a hurricane hit the area. She said that even though this situation demands social distancing, there are still ways to reach out and help each other.
“I’ve just always wanted to leave the world a better place and starting the Network group is one way to do that. It’s all done over the Facebook page. All the interactions have been digital with people jumping in to give what they can and ask for help when they need it. This crisis is community wide versus any one individual and the community is coming together to help each other,” Wilburn said.
Learn more at www.starkcares.com or on Facebook at Stark Cares COVID19 Community Network or email at email@example.com.