Maintaining community in crisis

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HONESDALE, PA — The Cooperage Project’s calendar is usually filled with concerts, film screenings, learning programs and other community gatherings. As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, however, right now the calendar is full of cancellations. Outside of its closed doors, The Cooperage has been offering free lunches to school students and has also created a “free little pantry” for anyone who needs help getting by during this global crisis.

“How can we create a deeper sense of community in this time when we cannot physically come together?” interim executive director Arrah Fisher asked when the crisis hit. “We have always tried to meet the needs of the community, and now the immediate and obvious needs are those of our children and those facing food scarcity with schools closed and jobs and income suspended for so many.”

Fisher said that partnering with Wayne Highlands School District’s(WHSD) grab-and-go breakfast and lunch program was a “no-brainer,” as the two were already partners during the summer version of the program. The Cooperage has also received support from many local businesses, allowing kids to go home with extra food and activities to stay occupied with while school is out.

The Cooperage has received magazines from Highlights for Children; milk, creamer and pastries from Black and Brass Coffee Roasters; additional meals from Here & Now Brewing Co., Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. and Lakeside Elementary School; arts-and-crafts paper from Spencer Printing; coloring books from Quality Printing; and bread from The Mustard Seed Café and The Beach Lake Bakery.

Fisher said the pantry was set up as a way to help people other than school students dealing with food scarcity. It also encourages people to leave some food for others, if they can.

“Individual community members have played a huge role in the pantry and also the kids’ supplemental snacks and activities,” Fisher said.“So many have donated kids’ activity supplies and pantry supplies, or have made a financial contribution to purchase such items. We have also had several individuals volunteer their time to help sort, assemble and distribute the extra kids’ snacks and activities… The support has been overwhelming and amazing.”

WHSD’s grab-and-go breakfast and lunch program is running while PA schools are closed until Thursday, April 9. Anybody under 18 can pick up a meal every day from either Damascus Area School, Honesdale High School, Preston Area School or The Cooperage between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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