Leslie Meyer never thought she’d be the one who needed help. A longtime resident of the Coastside with a lengthy career as a social worker, she helped open the Coastside Adult Day Health Center in the early 1980s, and she always lends a hand to those in need.
But when Meyer heard about the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and that older folks are more vulnerable to the disease, she realized she would be the one asking for help this time.
“It’s like a full circle,” Meyer said.
Meyer was one of the first people to join a new group on the popular social media site Nextdoor. The group, called “Coronavirus Community Volunteer Assistance Squad” is aimed at connecting young, healthy people willing to go on grocery and pharmacy runs for older or immunocompromised residents. It’s one of the many ways in which the Coastside community has united in reaction to the outbreak — creating closeness during a time of physical isolation. And for Meyer and others like her, it’s a lifeline. She’s afraid to leave the safety of her home in Ocean View Plaza for the hordes flocking to, and potentially infecting, public spaces.
Over the last few days, as schools and offices have closed and restrictions on gatherings and movement have tightened, Coastsiders have become increasingly isolated in their homes. But rather than tear the community apart, the crisis has brought them together: Coastsiders are reaching out, coming together to do what they can to help one another during uncertain times.
Many Coastsiders are trained in Community Emergency Response Training, and while CERT was not formally activated, Half Moon Bay resident and Coastside CERT manager Cynthia Sherrill said that did not stop people from helping their neighbors get prepared by stocking up on food and supplies.
Sherrill said she sent an email out to all the CERT members providing them with resources to get the latest information on COVID-19 and the best numbers to call for updates.
She said so far CERT members were acting as they always do during emergencies by helping their neighbors. The majority of people Sherrill has talked to so far are just looking for someone to talk during a trying time.
“There is a lot of anxiety calming going on,” Sherrill said. “We’re giving people a chance to debrief and talk to people one on one.”
And local businesses are stepping up, too. Many are offering some type of takeout or delivery option to continue business and feed residents amid the outbreak and shelter in place order. Andreotti Farms is setting up a weekly produce box to deliver to Coastside homes. Owner Dawn Dillman said the effort is to help to fill a need for fresh food by delivering safe, local produce to the community.
Jeannette Ward, volunteer coordinator for Village of the Coastside, a group that supports seniors, said her organization is in a similar situation to the one Meyer finds herself in. Most of its volunteers fall into the high-risk category, so they are looking for younger people to help out.
She said so far, volunteer response has been overwhelmingly positive and the group is gearing up for when requests start rolling in as older folks who have been self-quarantining for weeks begin to need assistance.
Miramar resident Katie Berkovich, who created the Nextdoor volunteer group last week, said thinking about her and her husband’s parents prompted her to create the group, which now has more than 100 members. She said she was looking to help in her community in ways she wished she could help her family.
“We're not trying to facilitate some massive organization, we’re just trying to get people talking, because there's so many people willing to give help and so many who need it,” she said.
Berkovich’s husband volunteered to drop off Meyer’s groceries for her last week. But Meyer said he didn’t just give her the food and supplies she needs to make it in isolation, he also provided a human connection during a time when she has few other social outlets.
“It breaks through the social isolation that this thing has created in our community. And who is more isolated than seniors?” Meyer said. “The biggest sense of peace of mind and comfort right now is that we’re not alone.”