I’m Alyssa and I am part of a grassroots volunteer movement called the Greater New Orleans Caring Collective. Our group was born out of a very small group of neighbors who wanted to help because we realized that people in our own community were stuck in their homes but in need of staples like groceries.
We started on March 16th as a simple outreach to our own neighbors and now we’re serving over 1000 people. We deliver pantry boxes, prepared meals, school lunches, and we just started a fundraiser for rent assistance. We kept running across people who don’t fit the profile for unemployment benefits and other social services, yet they are still in desperate need. For some of the most vulnerable, it comes down to a matter of paperwork. Many of them can’t produce the required documentation, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are hungry and in need of help.
A lot of times it feels like we’re building the plane as we fly it. As we discover more needs, we just try to find the best and safest way to meet them. We have set up a hotline that operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Those calls go to neighborhood coordinators who dispatch delivery drivers.
We have guidelines in place that our delivery drivers have to follow. Everyone is required to wash their hands before going out, between deliveries, and upon returning. We provide every volunteer with masks and sanitizer.
Sometimes when a driver makes a delivery, he’ll discover someone else in the location who hasn’t had food in two or three days. Almost all of us have ended up personally buying meals for people who are not even on our list.
New Orleans has been hit really hard…both in terms of infections and deaths as well as our economy. We’re a tourist-dependent city. A lot of people are self-employed or non-traditionally employed, This has been so hard.
But on another hand, there has been some good that has come out of it. Problems with food insecurity existed in New Orleans before the pandemic hit. This has just shone a light on the problem. Now we know more about the needs across our city and can work better towards a solution. We plan to continue these efforts even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
I feel very blessed to be where I am in life. I have a job and a place to live and food on the table. So I am in a perfect position to help my community. What if we all valued people on how they treat each other instead of how much money they make? What would our communities look like if we all realized we have kindness to share with one another?
Obviously our little group can’t save the world, but we can put a drop in the bucket. This is our community…our neighbors…our responsibility. I think if we can normalize helping each other, our society will be so much better for it.
If you live in the New Orleans area and would like to help, go to GNO Caring Collective to sign up.
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