Mr. Rogers often told the story of when he was a boy.
“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
My helping heart is quick to say yes, overcommit, and step up when no one else will, even if it really is too much. Sitting at home, I’m not able to help in ways I’d like to, but I am helping parents, teachers, and other librarians navigate new platforms in this new age of learning. We’re also working to support local businesses that we value in whatever way we can.
Here are a few ways you can support your Orlando community in these unprecedented times.
Spread the News
So many school districts are offering free meals to all children (not just school-aged) 18 and under. Maybe you didn’t know or don’t need the service, but chances are someone you know, even an unfamiliar acquaintance, might find themselves in need for the first time in their lives. Find out what your county is offering and share it as widely as you can!
For example, Osceola County is offering free breakfast and lunch for all children up to 18 at several pickup locations five days a week. They’re including fruit, milk, and snacks. I can only imagine how helpful this is for families that already relied on school lunch, but whose parents were laid off during this pandemic.
Orange County Schools are also offering free breakfast and lunch at 50 of their schools for all children 18 and under. They’re including weekend meals as well.
So find out what your county is offering and let everyone know. You never know who may be looking and not know where to start.
Support Your Local Restaurants/Businesses
When news of shutdowns and stay-at-home orders began to surface in St. Cloud, grocery stores were completely wiped out. This left many families still working without bare necessities with little hope to get what they need. Then Canoe Creek Sports Tavern stepped up in a huge way. It used its bulk ordering to offer families chicken, ground beef, toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, and more at no cost. That kindness spread to other businesses following suit around the area. One mom said on social media that “They have really come through for my family. Without them, I’d have no chicken or toilet paper.”
Canvas Restaurant in Lake Nona started offering family meal specials. It may be out of the price range for some, but if you’re sick of cooking and looking for an opportunity to try the incredible flavor blends from their chefs at about half the cost, it’s worth it for a special dinner. It also has an easy pickup procedure to minimize contact with no one entering the establishment.
These are just two examples of local eateries we should support to help see them through the other side of all this. Many other local restaurants are offering family meals as well. Have you found a great delicious deal? Share it in the comments!
Don’t Forget the Fun
There’s something about ice cream during dark times that puts the world on pause for just a few minutes. My favorite comes from Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream. The three Orlando locations are offering call-ahead window service and delivering through Uber Eats. This week, however, they tried something new. They opened suggestions for delivery outside of the Uber Eats zone and picked the most requested and delivered it to the Lake Nona and UCF areas. I don’t know how their team did it and it was just as amazing as picking it up at their shops.
You know what else makes me really happy? Plants. I feel like I wish I’d realized how amazing plants could be for overall happiness sooner! Not only do they look amazing, but when you learn how to properly take care of a certain type, they reward you with growth! The Heavy in Winter Park is offering up plants, pots, and local art daily through its Instagram stories. If you live within 15 miles there is a contactless delivery option right to your door as well. If you live outside the delivery zone, you can do a contactless curbside pickup.
Another Orlando retailer, BWH Plants, posts its inventory on Wednesday nights and will ship them right to you. We may or may not have added 14 plants to our one-bedroom apartment in the last two weeks.
Last but not least, I couldn’t continue without mentioning the virtual game day program that Orlando City put together. You can “march” to the stadium on Orlando City Classic game days like today and donate the cost of your usual game day beer to keep your favorite local businesses going through the tough times.
I want to know what other local and small businesses are stepping up, so let me know in the comments. My husband and I recognize how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to keep our jobs and work from home through this, so we’d like to help in the little ways we can.