Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Neighbors Helping Neighbors Helps Community Get Through the Pandemic
Monica Carillo hands out care packages outside Chateau Drugs.
Saturday, June 6, 2020


The woman was pregnant. And scared. She didn’t dare leave her house because, she thought, she’d catch the coronavirus as soon as she took a step outside her door.

Into this confused world stepped Herbert Romero, Jan Murray and Tammy Davis. 

They knew this woman wasn’t the only one who thought the coronavirus was blowing in the breeze.  And they knew that there were families that were going to be hurting as jobs and schools shut down in wake of the governor’s order mandating that Blaine County residents shelter in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Herbert Romero has been trying to support the Hispanic and Latino communities of the Wood River Valley through the pandemic.

So, they put their heads together and came up with Neighbors Helping Neighbors or Vecinos Apoyando Vecinos.

“We knew that the pandemic would hit Hispanic families, already marginalized, especially hard. And we didn’t want them to slip through the cracks,” said Davis, who heads up the valley’s Crisis Hotline.

They added a bilingual support line at the Crisis Hotline, and expedited training of a few volunteers to man it. They switched to a new phone provider capable of handling the additional calls and had the bilingual line up and running two weeks later.

They went on the radio station to explain what the shelter-in-place orders meant. And they provided information on where to get personal protective equipment and how to deal with landlords if you missed a paycheck.

Tammy Davis says Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a boots on the ground endeavor.

Calls to the Crisis Hotline nearly tripled from 58 calls in one month to 152.  Callers expressed anxiety over finances, housing, how long the pandemic was going to last. Some just wanted to know: Can I ride my bike on the bike path?

Davis, Romero and their cohorts squelched rumors, cautioning against home remedies that wouldn’t help and discrediting myths about how one gets the virus.

They even expedited the transportation of a man with a 105-degree temperature to the hospital after his wife called wondering if she could give him Tylenol.

“Within the Latino community there was a big concern about whether they qualified for unemployment, whether they could get a PPP check given their status, even though they had a job and paid taxes,” said Davis. “And they couldn’t understand social distancing. Who social distances in the Latino community?”

Neighbors Helping Neighbors posters have appeared throughout the valley.

Davis, Romero and others spoke to families individually, providing updated information as it changed. They offered to help with things like shopping.

And they began dispensing care packages weekly to keep children and their families emotionally engaged.

They’d stuff them with games like Monopoly and books supplied by Jane’s Artifacts, Chateau Drugs and Iconoclast Books. They included recycling projects from the Environment Resource Center that used readily available materials like toilet paper rolls to build something. They slipped in a My Life Matters program, which includes an emotional tool kit, so families could take stock of how they were doing.

They suggested projects, encouraging children to interview their parents about the pandemic and incorporate their thoughts and other things in a time capsule they could hide to be opened later.

Care packages are assembled according to the age of the child.

They also put Mason jars in the bags with instructions to write down answers to such questions as  “What did you do that made you proud today?” The children were then instructed to fill their “Jar of Awesome” with such thoughts.

“There was a lot of frustration, anger, confusion, mixed messages about health, questions about the economy,” said Herbert Romero, director of ProjecT.O.O.L.S. “The coronavirus impacted the Hispanic community hard. Even now families want to go back to work but they want to make sure the situation is okay. And then there are child care challenges.”

Once or twice a week people from Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the Crisis Hotline call on those they’ve assisted to check on them. They’ve been able to link callers to other resources, including the Hunger Coalition, St. Luke’s and the Advocates, who have offered mental and emotional follow up. The high school group Nosotros Unidos has checked in on middle school students.

“We’re just neighbors helping neighbors and, when they see us out there, they feel supported,” aid Romero. “They’re hearing that they’re not alone.”

“What seems to be helping is touchback,” added Davis. “We’re not just saying, ‘Here’s a care package. See you later. We’re staying connected.”

Those interested in care packages can call 208-578-4114. Call the Crisis Hotline at 208-788-0735 or 208-578-4114 (bilingual number).

For more information or to donate, go to Davis directly at 208-788-0735. Or mail check to The Crisis Hotline at Box 939, Ketchum, ID 83340.




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