There’s lots more yet to be done to keep our community healthy and whole
A family of five is hungry because they don’t know where to turn for nutritional assistance.
An elderly widow is unable to keep a telemedicine appointment because she lives in an area lacking reliable broadband service.
An ailing infant struggles without medical care because her father lost health insurance when his job was eliminated due to the pandemic.
A high school student can’t take part in distance learning because he doesn’t own a laptop or tablet.
These stories are sad. They’re also true. And each occurred in Sussex County.
Since mid-March, these reports and many others like them have come to the attention of a volunteer coalition of civic and community organizations formed to coordinate our response to the COVID-19 pandemic within the area defined by the Cape Henlopen School District.
Working together, the coalition of more than 70 businesses, chambers of commerce, educators, faith communities, healthcare providers, nonprofit organizations, public libraries and public officials identified urgent needs and established connections among those with requirements and those with resources, ensuring that essential services are delivered to fellow Delawareans as efficiently as possible.
Satisfying though these meaningful outcomes may be, coalition members came to the troubling realization that critical social needs in Sussex County aren’t limited to those arising from the pandemic.
There are significant, systemic needs that won’t diminish any time soon, and in fact are likely to become even more widespread as deferred rent and utility payments come due, as enhanced unemployment benefits expire and as unemployment remains high.
Many of these needs may be invisible to those who reside in or visit the county’s beach communities. But according to state data, one in five Cape Henlopen School District students is from a low-income family - those most likely to feel an immediate impact from even the slightest economic or public health challenge. In surrounding school districts, the percentage of students from low-income families is as high as 42 percent.
The Cape Community Coordination for COVID-19 (CCC4COVID) coalition was formed to help address needs arising from the pandemic. But we’ve learned that a vaccine won’t eliminate multiple social and economic needs that existed in our community long before the novel coronavirus outbreak, and which threaten to endure long after the virus is gone.
The coalition looks forward with both uncertainty and surety. We don’t know if the recent upturn in infections will trigger another outbreak. We also don’t know whether continued closure of schools will create new challenges for nutritional assistance and distance learning.
But we are certain that many of us can be part of the solution to both chronic challenges and the community’s resiliency in the face of future crises.
If you’re among those who’ve moved here to enjoy a comfortable retirement by the sea, or enjoy the area’s many pleasures as the owner of a second home, lend your time and expertise as a volunteer with one of the many local nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping others. You can find a list of coalition partners at www.ccc4covid.org.
Even better, make a financial contribution to the nonprofit of your choice to help them continue their vital work.
Use the “Partner Sign-Up” button on our website to get involved as we continue to coordinate responses to the ongoing pandemic and consider options to ensure that the community is able to respond nimbly to future natural disasters or public health crises.
If there are silver linings to be found within the coronavirus cloud, one is that the current crisis exposed uncomfortable truths about the urgent social needs that exist within our community, and which developed over many years. These needs cannot be ignored.
Another positive is the willingness of thousands of our neighbors to help out, whether by sewing masks, donating food and working to get it onto the tables of those in need, or by ensuring that our neighbors are aware of the benefits available to them. And, perhaps most importantly, we’ve learned that we can make our individual efforts more effective when we work together.
There’s lots more yet to be done to keep our community healthy and whole - in body, mind, and spirit. Please help our partners make Sussex County more resilient and vibrant for all.