It didn’t take long for members of the Eagle family to jump into action to help those in need during the coronavirus crisis. As COVID-19 started to spread in Washington, a group of five friends, each with a connection to EWU, quickly organized the West Plains Emergency Response Volunteers (WPEV) group on Facebook.
“We were looking at the situation and knew community would be key,” says co-founder and volunteer Chris Valeo, who is also a professor and director of English studies at Eastern.
The group developed a method to provide immediate and confidential assistance, such as grocery delivery, to individuals and families who need help due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The service is available to people living in the Cheney School District area, though recipients do not need to have children in Cheney schools.
For the organizers, it was important that this service be confidential, thus they created an organized system that focuses on discretion as well as the health and safety of both the recipients and the volunteers. When a community member reaches out to the group on Facebook, only the administrator communicates with the individual. The administrator then uses a spreadsheet to assign the delivery to a volunteer who identifies the recipient by number rather than name. The volunteers can pick up prescriptions, get groceries or do other shopping.
When it is time to deliver, the quarantined individual or family is asked to place a box or a cooler in a designated location, such as their front porch. The volunteer places the items in the box and alerts the WPEV administrator. The administrator then lets the recipient know their delivery has arrived.
Beyond privacy, the procedure also ensures that the volunteers do not touch anything at the home. Quarantined community members are encouraged to wash or disinfect their deliveries before use. The volunteers are asked to wash their hands often, use disinfectant and abstain from helping out if they’re not feeling well.
WPEV organizers say that coming together as a community is the best way to protect each other as we negotiate through the COVID-19 situation. Valeo says she and other volunteers are also getting their families and children involved.
“I took my son, a senior at Cheney High School, with me to a delivery,” she says. “It’s important to show our kids how we can help. He took it in stride.”
The group coordinates digital payments for the deliveries when the recipient is able to pay; but some of the people in need are unable to pay. If you would like to help support this effort, you can make a donation to the WPEV account at Cheney Federal Credit Union. If you’d like to volunteer, reach out using the contact information below.