Pandemic Heroes

The coronavirus pandemic has kept us at home and at arm’s length of one another. But it hasn’t stopped folks from stepping up when others need help, even if that help comes from six feet away.

Highlighting local people and organizations going above &and beyond to help others

The coronavirus pandemic has kept us at home and at arm’s length of one another.

But it hasn’t stopped folks from stepping up when others need help, even if that help comes from six feet away.

This year, we’re thankful for those pandemic heroes who lent a helping hand during a hard time.

In March, Ohio’s schools closed, sending kids home to complete the rest of the school year remotely.

Last school year, 40% of Ohio students were eligible for free or reduced lunch. In several Stark County districts, those percentages are much higher.

Cafeteria workers pivoted from serving breakfast and lunch in cafeterias to packing bags of food for hungry students and families.

In North Canton, cafeteria workers tried to make meal pick-up fun for everyone by dressing up in silly costumes, such as an inflatable dinosaur.

In Canton City Schools, the district opted for a food pantry-style model where students took home boxes packed with five lunches and five breakfasts. Families also took home boxes filled with pounds of produce and dairy products.

The Ohio National Guard mobilized to make emergency food boxes and deliver food and supplies from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to giveaway sites across the region, including churches and organizations who held socially distant or drive-thru food giveaways.

The Canton Township Fire Department Association in April gave away 300 bags of food—purchased by the association—in less than half an hour.

Beth Philley set up The Little Free Grocery Store in front of her Canton home. She filled a table with canned goods and non-perishables that anyone in need could take.

John Martin couldn’t operate his tanning salon in the early days of the pandemic, so he instead set up a table and gave away hundreds of bagged lunches.

Area restaurants also fed hungry folks. Jupiter Studios in downtown Alliance offered bowls of soup free to anyone who couldn’t afford to pay.

When face masks emerged as a preventative measure—and later a mandatory requirement—local crafters took their sewing machines to turn stashes of fabric into personal protective equipment. Many of them gave their products away or donated them to area organizations.

A team of volunteers, organized by North Canton’s Angela Perkins, sewed hundreds of masks for front-line workers who faced a shortage of PPE. Massillon’s Mary Rose crafted masks and left them in a basket on her porch, free to anyone who needed one.

The Facebook group, Stark Cares Covid-19 Community Network, run by Lorraine Wilburn, gives the community a chance to find volunteer opportunities, find job postings, ask for help or offer assistance.

Posts advertise upcoming food drives. Others offer information from Community Legal Aid or facts on unemployment benefits, testing sites and state mandates.

That doesn’t include the myriad ways—both big and small—that folks have found to help. From teachers assisting confused students with online schooling to volunteers dropping off donations during the United Way Day of Caring, to home bakers cheering up lonely neighbors, to thousands of workers on the front line of hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

Right now, we may be apart, but we’ve never been alone.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass