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UD Helps with COVID-19 in Sussex County
One of the many efforts the CCC4COVID coalition is undertaking is collecting personal hygiene and cleaning items that are not covered under SNAP food benefits. The group organized a donation drive and coalition partner Schell Brothers is helping distribute them to vulnerable populations (along with other food supplies) at various mobile pantries and food supply distribution points. In this photo, Danielle Swallow, a coastal hazards specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and a member of the coalition, loads up donations from her neighborhood.
Lewes resident Jen Mason, who owns and operates Biblion Books and the Vintage Underground stores in Lewes, said that when she closed her businesses in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized there was no central location with everybody’s contact information so that neighbors could stay connected and help each other through the disaster. She also knew effectively serving the needs of the community would require good communication among the various organizations providing support.
“I work with different groups in the community and some of them have overlap, but a lot of them wouldn’t have any way to reach out and connect with each other,” said Mason. “I realized we need this. We need a way to stay connected.”
That’s why she decided to start the Cape Community Coordination for COVID-19 (CCC4COVID) coalition. With help of members from the University of Delaware, the group has facilitated connections and coordination among nonprofit, faith, civic, business and social service organizations in the community. Through weekly meetings and emails, CCC4COVID provides a way to connect different organizations in the community so that they can collaborate among themselves on COVID-19 relief responses.
As the coalition has developed and begun to find places to support COVID-19 response, each of the members coming from various UD programs has discovered niches where they can be useful.
One of the coalition’s roles is to better coordinate on-the-ground COVID-19 response efforts among the organizations to try to avoid duplication, increase efficiency and close any gaps that exist—such as those of food distribution and emergency supplies to vulnerable populations.
Danielle Swallow, a coastal hazards specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, is helping with that coordination work and with expanding who is receiving help by extending the initial connections CCC4COVID had from Mason and UD. For instance, Swallow regularly offers emergency preparedness training for older adults in Sussex County, and she was able to connect various senior care organizations with United Way through CCC4COVID when United Way wanted to launch a program to check in on seniors.
“I found out that United Way is partnering with the state to do wellness checks for seniors, calling up seniors that might be socially isolated and checking on them to see if they have any symptoms,” said Swallow. “Our coalition was also doing that in Sussex and there seemed to be a good potential to align our efforts so that we’re not duplicating efforts and doing more with our mutual capabilities.”
Swallow also began engaging with communities in Western Sussex, a region outside of the Greater Lewes/Cape Henlopen area that has a lot of social vulnerability, but one where Delaware Sea Grant has done work. Her efforts there have led to the First State Community Action Agency and a member of the Seaford School District Board of Education to join forces to coordinate COVID-19 response and recovery efforts like CCC4COVID does, expanding its reach and the people it can help.
Continuing her organizational work, Swallow is also documenting how the locally driven, community-based response organization came together and exploring ways CCC4COVID could evolve into a “community resilience organization,” helping to strengthen Sussex County support efforts on an ongoing basis.
“I’ve opened doors of communication between the county and the coalition and I’m opening doors of communication between what the state is doing and the efforts they’re directing in Sussex as it relates to our older adults,” said Swallow. “In the end, we’re going to have better capacity to plan for and respond to disasters and my goal is to get CCC4COVID on the state’s radar so they see this coalition as an asset.”