In Troubling Times; Look for the Helpers

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By Hope McCormick, Americorps VISTA Volunteer and Emily Proctor, Director of Outreach at Caring and Sharing of South Walton

During the COVID-19 crisis, South Walton residents are giving proof to a famous quote by Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” One of the silver linings of the current pandemic is how it has inspired local people to offer their services to support the community. Mimi Gavigan and friend Natalie Sharkey in Point Washington are working together to make masks. “We decided to start a few weeks ago,” Gavigan explains. “I knew I should make some for my family, because we probably wouldn’t be able to find any. Then I reached out to neighbors and also used the Facebook page ‘Sewing for a Cause Bay/Walton’ to find more people in need of masks.”

Emily Proctor

The Facebook group keeps a spreadsheet of all the requests for masks. It includes a variety of manufacturers, bases, businesses, and agencies. Gavigan has made about 45 masks for neighbors. And she and Sharkey just made 60 for Tyndall Air Force Base and 50 for the Panama City Police Department.

Gavigan’s daughter, Jamie, is also part of the project. The 15-year-old South Walton High School freshman delivers masks on her bike, leaving them in mailboxes. “It feels good that I am doing my part to help people during this time. [And] riding my bike gives me a reason to get away from the house and have some alone time.”

Wendy Lindemann of Santa Rosa Beach is part of a group of seven women from Hope on the Beach Church who are collaborating to make masks. “Some donate fabric, some shop for other materials we need, and some cut out the pieces and put together a little kit to hand off to those doing the sewing.” Lindeman said when she heard about the need through her church, she remembered a second hand sewing machine she’d bought a year ago. She had yet to use it. “I got it out of the closet and did some repairs, and now I’m going at it. I’m not an expert and not very fast, but I’m happy to help the elderly. I’ve made about four dozen total myself. Her sewing group has made hundreds all together. They donate them to nursing homes and hospitals.

By chance, she found others in need in Freeport. “I was in another community making a delivery, and some people sitting outside complimented my mask, and we got to talking about the need in that community, so I am making some for them too.” She added, “you can learn to make them online. And make sure you don’t microwave them, because they can catch fire.”

Masks aren’t the only need during this stressful time. Blue Mabel Smokehouse and Provisions in Blue Mountain Beach is delivering free community dinners once a week to first responders and unemployed restaurant workers in the Santa Rosa Beach area.

“Weekly Chef Steven Sandy would come up with a different meal such as chicken pot pie, brisket sandwiches, etc., everything is made from scratch,” say Dawn Moliterno, director of operations for Cowgirl Hospitality Group (CHG). All businesses in the CHG are working together to provide the service. They are Cowgirl Kitchen Restaurant and Bar, Cowgirl Kitchen Market, Feed and Supply Shop, CK Southern Belle catering, Blue Mabel, and 30a Coastal Life Real Estate. “It was difficult to see so many of our hospitality workforce and first responders going through this challenging time. We are in the business of service and that means serving our own when the need arises,” Moliterno said. “Cowgirl Hospitality Group wanted to bring a little happiness and reprieve when there was such much uncertainty and negative news all around us.”

If you would like to be included, email or call Michael McIntosh at 850-744-0040.

Point Washington Medical Clinic is doing a big portion of the COVID-19 testing in South Walton. The service is free, but they could use donations. The clinic is offering the tests 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays, 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays in April. Call 850-213-1133 for more information.

Matt Naville, a Caring and Sharing Board Member, has been working with Community Church to provide shower access to locals who are experiencing homelessness. This service can be

In the midst of so much need, it’s encouraging to hear the stories of those who are finding creative ways to help.  We hope these stories inspire you to make a difference or, when you’re feeling discouraged, help you remember to look for the helpers!

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