After weeks of speculation, the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) are being felt in Forsyth County. Social distancing, a strategy necessary to minimize the burden of disease in our community, has the side-effect of bringing many aspects of our community to a halt. Schools and events are being cancelled. Consequently, parents must change their schedules to accommodate having children home from school. Stores, museums, farmer’s markets, restaurants and breweries are either empty or closed. Normal grocery shopping becomes difficult as the shelves are bare and the lines are long.

This will be a difficult period for all of us, especially those who are unfortunate enough to develop the disease. Though we all must focus on keeping ourselves and our families healthy, it is important to not forget about our most vulnerable community members. Some parents may struggle to replace the lunch their children received at school. Many of our friends, family members, and local acquaintances may struggle to make ends meet after losing income. Others may require medical care that leaves them with insurmountable debt.

A 2008 study by the Federal Reserve Board determined that 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $4000 emergency expense. That statistic may be worse here in Forsyth County, where 18.7% of the population lives below the poverty line, in comparison to a national average of 13.1% (datausa.io). Additionally, census data reported by the Triad Business Journal in 2019 ranked Winston-Salem as the 20th worst U.S. city for childhood poverty. Based on this data, the trajectory of the disease and its expected local impact, I believe we can expect a wave of increased need in our community.

I am challenging you to think beyond yourself and take care of your community during this time. Social distancing policies may temporarily restrict your ability to volunteer, but there are still ways you can help. You can donate to most organizations online without ever leaving your home. If you stocked up a little too much on toilet paper, peanut butter and canned goods, consider donating it to restock local pantries. Finally, once you feel safe to decrease your social distancing, give your time to local organizations.

The organization that I believe has the ability to make the greatest impact during this time — and will most need the community’s support — is Crisis Control Ministry.

Crisis Control Ministry offers targeted, short-term emergency assistance for individuals and families undergoing a financial crisis. The organization provides food, medications, rent/mortgage payment and utility bill assistance, while helping families return to completely providing for themselves. In 2019, Crisis Control Ministry provided $2,921,247 worth of services to 13,902 people. This was largely because of our community, with 388,481 pounds of food donated and 1243 volunteers giving their time.

Numerous local service organizations will share similar goals and face similar challenges as Crisis Control Ministry.

If you believe in any of these organizations, please lend a hand! If you can, support an organization that reaches out of your own neighborhood. For example, I will continue to support the Community Care Clinic in East Winston.

The socioeconomic impact of coronavirus will be felt long after the disease has run its course, but this is a challenge that we can overcome. Following the lead of the Crisis Control Ministry, let us come together, address the needs of our disadvantaged community members and prevent coronavirus from worsening the local inequality we too often ignore.

The Crisis Control Ministry is located at 2000 East Tenth Street, Winston-Salem and may be reached by phone at (336) 724-7453 or online at CrisisControl.org.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will have breakfast and lunch available for pickup only at all school cafeterias between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The meals are free to anyone 18 and under.

Additional organizations that I believe are worth supporting include:

Food Pantries:

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, Samaritan Ministries, Winston-Salem Rescue Mission, Sunnyside Ministry

Free Clinics:

Community Care Center of Forsyth County, Downtown Health Plaza, Wake’s Mobile Care Clinic, DEAC Clinic, SHALOM Project

Family Services:

Ronald McDonald House, SECU House, Big Brothers / Big Sisters

Jeff Powell is a third-year medical student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and a 2019-2020 NC Albert Schweitzer Fellow. His views do not represent those of the Wake Forest School of Medicine. He is the founder and president of The Helping Hand Project, a 501(3) certified nonprofit that supports children with upper limb differences.

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