By Kristin Jones
Relationships—the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind—are the glue that holds together a group of neighbors in Sheridan who are working to create a more equitable community.
The group, Sheridan Rising Together for Equity, meets regularly over dinner. They bring their kids along and overcome language barriers to push for culturally appropriate education and activities that help promote a sense of belonging in their community. (The Trust supports their work through our Community Partnerships grantmaking strategy.)
As the novel coronavirus began spreading in Colorado last week, “we had to cancel everything,” said Nelly Limón, the group’s coordinator.
But they pivoted quickly.
“There’s a need right now for food,” said Limón. Some families were facing layoffs; others were unable to stock up on the groceries that officials say may be needed to weather weeks of isolation or quarantine. Some elderly neighbors didn’t have a way to get to the grocery store, or were afraid of what they’d find when they got there. Empty shelves and gathering crowds have complicated efforts of older adults and those with chronic conditions to heed public health advice to limit contact with people.
On March 13, the group posted a notice in Spanish and English on their Facebook page, Vecinos en Sheridan, asking people to sign up if they needed emergency food provisions the following day. Thirty families quickly signed up, then more. On the morning of March 14, four members of the group loaded up their cars at Food Bank of the Rockies.
By the time their pop-up food bank opened outside of the Sheridan recreation center on March 14, more than 70 families had registered to either drive up or to get food delivered to their homes.
“The most incredible part was the community communication,” said Andrea Savage, a community organizer for the group. They were ready to give out food two hours earlier than they initially advertised; no matter. “We said, ‘we’re ready,’ and in minutes, people started showing up.”
That was no accident. Sheridan Rising Together for Equity has 40 people on a WhatsApp thread, and partner agencies with their own networks. The fact that they’re accustomed to communicating in both Spanish and English means they easily reach across communities.
Now, said Savage, they’re planning more events like this one.
Savage also sees opportunities in the disruption created by the coronavirus. For example, the group has worked for years to create more culturally responsive teaching in the district’s schools. Now that schools have been shut down, “we have the opportunity to do videos about Chicano history, how to grow food—things people wish their kids learned in school and they don’t,” said Savage.
“When all the rules are out the window,” she said, “there’s lots of room for creativity.”