Our Resilient Small Towns

by Cassie Nixon

A wise friend once said “Resilience is not about how you endure. It’s about how you recharge. When we are pushed to the point of exhaustion and deep human sorrow. When your strength is depleted physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. STOP and take some time to catch your breath, to recharge and refuel.”

Communities across the state are reeling from Governor Inslee’s Executive Order to not gather in groups of more than 250 people. Communities like Odessa, which host the Stumpjumpers Desert 100 each spring, bringing in thousands of people to enhance its local commerce. Residents also host a city-wide yard sale, Quilt Show, and businesses all turn out to support the masses. Everyone from food vendors, to local shops all suffer from the loss of revenue. How does a small town of less than 1,000 residents come together to make up for the loss? We dig deep. Immediately, folks took to social media, calling on community members to shop and support local as much as possible to make up for the missed sales. Rocky Coulee Brewing of Odessa published a fundraiser to support the scholarship fund for upcoming graduates and residents responded immediately and with gusto to support the youth of the community.

Businesses such as Billy Burger in Wilbur are getting creative with delivery options and pick up arrangements. Suggestions are being made to purchase gift cards now, to provide the revenue immediately to our businesses, for folks to be able to use later. Landlords throughout the region are encouraging each other, where they are financially able, to forgive April’s rent or to allow renters a flexible payment option for when the rent will inevitably stack up due to job losses, as many workers are being sent home with businesses not able to operate due to COVID-19. Avista has pledged not to cut power to anyone and allow flexible payback options. For a full list of Financial Resources for Washington Residents Impacted by COVID-19, go to: dfi.wa.gov.

Residents of small communities are a force to be reckoned with. As soon as the announcement came that schools statewide would be closed until April 24th, people hit Facebook with offers of childcare, meals, extra food for empty pantries, and even to share extra toilet paper and cleaning products and baby food. The Huckleberry Press’s own Elizabeth Dengler and her children made “care packages” for their Spokane neighbors needing toilet paper, gift cards to grocery stores, and feminine hygiene items. She says of her young son “everyone is a ‘neighbor’. The kid has never met a stranger.” Their cause to raise funds for these care packages exceeded their goal within hours. In Odessa during the previous weeks experienced a crisis in which a local family needed extra support. A neighbor with a generous heart selflessly went to social media once more to publish her birthday fundraiser to support this family. Members once again showed up and the fundraiser was able to amass three times the amount of the original goal and pay it forward to the Odessa Ministerial Association to help others for future needs.

Even more pop ups are appearing as of this writing of towns like Davenport making a NEEDS and OFFERS page for each other. The premise being that neighbors can offer extras of what they have that can be shared or services that can be provided, and needs can be shared with the group in hopes that the community can pull through for them. Weeks before the Governor’s announcement, an apartment complex burned down and that same evening, meal trains were set up, housing established, pets boarded, and clothing and household items were gathered. Today, helping each other looks like grouping errands for grocery pickup, so only those who absolutely must go out of town can pick up for everyone.

So here we gather. Across the world, in solidarity, to help stop the spread of this very infectious disease amidst slowing commerce, children and families reasonably sheltering in place, accessing each other through technology to meet needs and fill hearts and souls. We are resilient and we have the capacity to recover quickly from difficult and challenging times.

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