When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of K-12 schools amid COVID-19 concerns, East Lansing Board of Education President Erin Graham and Chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission for East Lansing Talyce Murray noticed the community would need to spring into action.
In response, Murray and Graham created a Facebook group and form connecting community members offering resources to residents in need.
"We have a significant number of students who are going to need food," Graham said. "We have family members who might not be able to provide child care for their children at a moment's notice ," said Graham. "I wanted to create the group so that community members could come together to volunteer to help fill in the gap and meet the needs of our families."
Graham, who is also an assistant professor at MSU, said the form isn't only open to East Lansing residents, but to anyone from Lansing and Okemos, as well as MSU students remaining in the area.
Greater East Lansing community members can fill out the form indicating if they are offering resources or requesting a need. Responses are available to the public, allowing community members to coordinate aid for those in need.
At the time of publication, responses totaled more than 80 people offering resources or requesting needs.
Meaghan Gonzales, a resident of East Lansing, said when her family experienced a house fire, the community jumped into action to help. She said this inspired her to volunteer on this form.
"Since then, my husband and I, if there's a call to action, we try to answer it," Gonzales said. "We can't possibly say thank you to everybody that jumped into action."
MSU Student Parent Resource Center Coordinator Kimberly Steed-Page said she is a social worker by education and trade, which inspires her to help people. Steed-Page said she decided to offer resources on the form because she likes to offer assistance for those in need if possible.
"I know that there are families out there who don't have the kind of support and flexibility that we have in my house, so I just want to try and make this transition as smooth as possible for folks," Steed-Page said.
Steed-Page said we're all in the same situation together and it's important to help others, even if they're strangers.
"It's new for everybody and there's going to be challenges that people were not anticipating so I just think it's important that those of us who can help, that we do. That's what community is."
As a retired East Lansing public schools teacher, Mary Lou Turnbull said she offered resources because she has a connection after teaching in the community for 37 years.
"I'm always all about people sharing resources," Turnbull said. "I think it's a great idea that Erin spearheaded this and that people, so many people, have jumped on board and taken leadership of different aspects of it so that it's just getting done."
As COVID-19 cases have risen within the past week, East Lansing, as well as the State of Michigan, have ordered a series of precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus including the closure of bars and restaurants, a transition to online classes for MSU students until the end of the semester and the closure of city facilities among others.
The community continues to encounter uncharted territory as cases are expected to increase throughout the state.
"I think we need to be reaching out to our neighbors and helping out as much as possible," Graham said.
Editors note: Talyce Murray was added to the article on March 18 at 10:52 a.m. At 7:58 p.m. on March 29, her title as Chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission for East Lansing was added to the article.
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