Kindness Amid Coronavirus: Arizonans Help Each Other Through Crisis

Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 9:01am
Updated: Friday, April 24, 2020 - 9:02am

As news about the coronavirus floods our TV screens and social media feeds, it’s easy to feel weighed down. But while there’s plenty of negativity during times of crisis, some Arizonans are lending a hand to those who need it. 

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Robert's Story

Robert Hendrickson is the rector of St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson.

Robert Hendrickson: We get calls all the time from folks who need rental assistance or a bag of groceries. We usually have 20, 30 or 40 people coming to pick up food from us on a regular basis at our food bank in the church. 

We started to look around and think about what we could do for our neighbors that would make a significant difference in their life. It’s one thing to hand someone a sandwich or a bag of food, which is a wonderful thing, but then it’s something else entirely to perhaps change the direction or the trajectory of a family’s life by taking medical debt off the table for them so that they can pay for college or buy a car to get to and from work. 

All those things that many of us take for granted are sort of put on hold when you have that kind of debt. So for us, it was about helping our neighbors and especially learning how to help neighbors who we might never meet or see.

What RIP Medical Debt does is buy the debt from debt collection agencies and then forgives the debt, so what we do is we buy it from them. They’ll find folks who are below a certain level on the poverty line who have a certain amount of debt that’s been delinquent or past due for a certain amount of time. Their estimate is that there’s probably around 1,700 plus families in Pima County that have around $3.5 million in debt that’s available to purchase, so we purchased all that’s available to purchase in Pima County.

They’ll send letters out to those households and let them know that the debt has been forgiven. I hope somebody gets just a sense that there’s still good news to be heard and found in the world and there are people out in the world who care about them no matter what their situation is.

Amadee's Story

Amadee Ricketts is the director of the Cochise County Library District in Bisbee.

Amadee Ricketts: We have five rural branches that we operate and seven town libraries across the county and I know that all of us would rather be serving the public directly. But while the libraries have been closed, we’ve all been working together to try to offer the best level of service we can remotely and that’s where demand for the eBook collection has really spiked and we’ve been doing our very best to meet it. We received an amazing donation from a county resident for $5,000 and they wanted it to be used to purchase popular eBooks and audiobooks during the public health crisis.

The donor wanted to remain anonymous. They didn’t even want a thank you from our group and said that they really just wanted to make sure that- because they’d been enjoying that collection- other people had access to keep reading and learning even when the libraries were closed. I think the Friends of the Library and our staff both were just shocked. We all looked at it a couple of times to make sure that we weren’t seeing it wrong.

We really were just amazed and very happy because we knew that we could put it to immediate use and that it would really serve a wide segment of our community here. It was really wonderful to be reminded how great our community is and how lucky we are to be here serving these folks.

Skyler's Story

Skyler Reeves owns Rosa's Pizzeria in Prescott.

Skyler Reeves: The virus has affected our business greatly. I had three restaurants with one in construction just two weeks ago and we stopped construction completely, chose to temporarily close one of them and focus on two of them that we felt would pivot best to carry-out only.

So, it’s been a dramatic couple of weeks. We usually have between 35 and 50 employees depending on the time of year and now we’re down to six. There’s a lot of people that are under-employed that used to have five shifts that now only have one or two.

We were standing near the front door, this woman just came in and she said, ‘You’re Skyler, right?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ She just handed me an envelope and turned around and walked out. [The envelope] just said my name on it. I opened it up and there’s one sentence there that said: "As a neighbor and lover of Rosa’s, we wanted you to have this for your staff. Do with it what you see fit."

And there’s $2,000 in there.

We’re super super grateful for not just this particular person, but everyone who has tipped generously and even if they didn’t tip generously, just the people that went out of their way to purchase from a locally owned business. It’s really making an impact on our staff and our family here at Rosa’s.

Reeves says he’ll use the stranger’s generous donation to help his staff pay their bills.

Leah's Story

Leah Gessel: I was driving home from work. I work for the state of Arizona, so we’re one of the few agencies that’s not able to go home right now. And I’ve had a really hard time trying to find toilet paper, just because I work pretty much all day and then every time I go to the store, you know, you’ve got people lining up for them to unload the palettes.

My mom is a nurse, so between the two of us, neither of us are able to go by the store very often. So I saw this guy on the corner of 7th Street and Van Buren, and he had a huge box of toilet paper and it said “Free.”

He had his car parked, and he had a little boy with him who was maybe two or three and they were just handing out rolls of toilet paper. And it was the sweetest thing I saw.

So I of course pulled a U-turn, and I was like “I need to get at least two rolls just to get us through.” So I pulled up and I actually had some cash on me. Because I was like, I feel bad because it’s not that I can’t afford it. I know there’s people who are having economic struggles right now. I’m really just in a position where I can’t find toilet paper in general.

So I handed him five bucks. I’m like, “I just need two rolls.” He goes like, “No no no, I’m just trying to make sure that everybody has what they need during these crazy times,” and he gave me two rolls. And I was like, “Really, no, I insist.” And then he gave me two more rolls and he’s like, “No, I insist.”

And the little boy was handing out toilet paper rolls to everybody. It was just a really sweet interaction.

If you have a story like this one, send it to [email protected].

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