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COVID Heroes: Mineral Countians form group to reach out to those in need

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

MINERAL COUNTY - “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers, you will always find people that are helping.’”

This quote, from the beloved Mr. Fred Rogers, aptly describes our current situation in Mineral County in two ways. First, as COVID numbers have continued to rage out of control, there is the heroic work of our healthcare workers and first responders, the true heroes of this pandemic, literally risking their lives to help others every day. Second, there are the helpers that are organizing to help the helpers, so to speak.

Such is the case with a recently formed group, “Mineral County COVID Heroes,” the brainchild of Missy Clark and Kati Kenney. The group, which operates with a Facebook page of the same name, has begun amassing donations and coordinating volunteer efforts, all designed to target both specific needs as they arise, and to give donations to healthcare workers.

“There was a lot of the stuff going on of course with COVID and it was getting worse and worse. I happened to be talking to A. Jay Root from the Mineral County Health Department about it. When I realized we only had nine employees at our health department to handle all this, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was at least double that. I knew we had to do something,” group co-founder Missy Clark detailed.

“I then remembered that I had given money to the Western Maryland Health System back in the spring for the project they did, where they gave each of their employees a $100 gift card. I thought, we need to do something like that for Mineral County,” Clark stated. “Then, I thought of Kati Kenney, because I knew we would need to get an EIN, and I knew we needed to get a bank account, to ensure things were handled legitimately. I also knew that Kati Kenney was a person that gets things done too.”

With Clark and Kenney joining forces in the effort, both with a track record of getting things done with their drive, determination, and community contacts, it didn’t take long for things to get rolling.

According to Kenney, “We were able to get the bank account up and running and so of course, the next step was to get some money in there. The day we got everything connected with PayPal and such, it happened to be ‘giving Tuesday,’ so I made a Facebook post asking for donations and we got a few hundred dollars that day.  After ‘giving Tuesday,’ it slowed down a little. So, we kicked off our first fundraiser and since then, probably several times a day, Missy and I bounce messages off each other daily, if not multiple times daily, in an effort to increase what we can do.”

“Also, what has happened is that we have started getting messages from people we know telling us they love what we’re doing and then telling us of needs. That’s how the involvement with the nursing homes started. They were preparing to build shelters at the nursing homes and that whole thing just took on a life of its own,” Kenney stated.

As word got out, specifically as the Mineral County COVID Heroes Facebook page began to accrue new member after new member, the work of the group expanded. It wasn’t just about raising money to give back, still a core mission of the group, but also to serve as a clearinghouse of sorts for ideas. Ideas not just about what the needs are, but ideas also on how to service those needs.

An early example of that was the suggestion that the county’s nursing homes could use portable shelters outside the buildings to allow for family visits at resident’s windows, but away from the elements, namely cold weather and wind and such. The Mineral County COVID Heroes group was able to get the word out and in no time, the projects happened.

“We are trying to raise money. Our initial plan was to raise money and give some money/gifts to healthcare workers working at places like the health department and hospital, but the Facebook community is really serving as a place to inspire some support for these folks that’s not just monetary,” Clark explained.

Despite their increased role of being a clearinghouse for ideas and coordination, something that is paying huge dividends, there is still the mission of raising funds to directly give back.

“So far, we asked the first day for just an initial donation of maybe $5 from everyone. It was a small amount, but it was good to get momentum started. In addition, we have done a scratch off ticket and cash Santa raffle. From there, we’re now jumping off onto something else. We’ve talked about writing a letter or email to some local businesses and people we know asking for donations,” Kenney detailed.

According to Clark, “We’re hoping now that we’re getting some press about the group that it will help get the word out and propel not just the letter writing effort but also other fundraising efforts. Our goal is to both get the word out about what the needs are, and to thank these folks for all they’re doing. That’s the bottom line, and the donations will be so beneficial.

“To be able to actually hand each person something for their efforts is huge. And we’re not necessarily cutting it off at Christmas, it will extend beyond that,” Clark stated.

The tremendous effort and response received thus far is indicative of just how strong Mineral County can be when we work together for a common cause.

According to Kenney, “I like to say that we’re Mineral County. We do things on our own over here, we’re used to it. This is how we help our neighbors, when they need us and they’re crying for our support. We’re not going to get things handed to us, it’s going to take everybody pitching in a little bit to make a difference.”

Clark echoed Kenney’s sentiments, “That’s exactly how I feel, living in Mineral County, it’s what we do, I always say that, it’s what we do. I think just understanding the degree at which these people have worked so tirelessly for nine months is important. They need something to lift their spirits. It’s a tough situation all the way around for everybody, but these people are literally risking their lives when they go to work. I think that’s such an important story to tell and share.”

As Kenney points out, it doesn’t have to just be about money, all can contribute and give back in their own way,  “Just giving in any way, like with Christmas cards, or gathering up some stuff to donate, just being intentional about supporting people that live in our community is cathartic, it makes you feel better.”

Speaking of Christmas cards, there has been an effort through the group for folks to make, create, or provide Christmas cards for nursing home residents and health care providers. MJ Baniak, Mineral County Board of Education member, is also participating with the group.  She and her daughters, whenever somebody has made them, will go and pick them up and distribute them to the nursing homes to lift people’s spirits.

There is a need, a great need, to indeed lift the spirits of our heroes in this, their time of need. They put it all on the line, literally risking life or death every day to protect our community. They are the helpers Mr. Rogers talks about.

So too are the helpers who are helping the helpers, the Mineral County COVID Community Heroes group.  They’re proving that there are things we can all do in our little corner of the world, Mineral County, West Virginia, to help each other. As Missy Clark stated, “It’s what we do.”

Feel compelled to help? It’s easy. The first thing you can do is join the Mineral County COVID Community Heroes group on Facebook. There you will become part of the idea sharing and response network that is getting things done. Also there, you will find specific information and numbers on who to call to help, specifically Missy Clark or Katie Kenney. The groups’ PayPal information is there, and of course you can always drop off any donation to any First Peoples Credit Union in the groups’ name.

We’re better when we’re working together. It’s what we do in Mineral County.