On top of managing the Delaware County Community Response Fund, the United Way of Delaware County has also begun highlighting and featuring local people it considers to be heroes in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Since March 25, the nonprofit organization has bestowed the title of “Delaware County Community Hero” on the likes of health officials, business owners, school officials and others who have made a difference in the county in recent weeks.
Brandon Feller, president of the United Way of Delaware County, said at his previous job with the American Red Cross, he saw people stepping up in crisis situations.
“Prior to coming to United Way of Delaware County in 2009, I worked for the American Red Cross in various leadership and disaster response roles,” Feller said. “During those times, I always saw ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things. It never failed. They were always there serving in the background and going the extra mile without expecting recognition.”
Feller said he’s seen the same heroic acts in Delaware County during the current pandemic.
“Early into the COVID-19 crisis, I began recognizing the same acts of heroism that I had seen during hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, so I decided that showing appreciation is something that we could lead,” Feller said.
He added Engagement Specialist Taylor Hyatt and Director of Data & Design Gail Gregory help to screen and prepare the nominations for social media and the United Way’s website.
“I felt that with all the uncertainty and negativity in the news, we needed something to celebrate,” Feller said. “Our goal is to thank people for truly rising to the needs of this crisis and also inspire others to do the same.”
Feller said the United Way is taking submissions for locals who can be considered “community heroes.”
“There is no official criteria. It’s a “know it when you see it” sort of thing, so we leave room for the public to nominate someone that they truly believe is serving a vital role in our community’s response to the pandemic,” Feller said. “And, so far, we’ve been blown away by the stories that have been shared. I think it is important to know that anyone can be a leader in tough times. Whether it’s a first responder or health care worker going way beyond their normal duties, or a neighbor delivering food to someone in crisis, or in a situation that makes it dangerous to leave home, community heroes are all around us.”
Nominations can be submitted at https://www.delawarecountyfamilies.org/hero-nomination.
Feller said the United Way has spent the crisis coordinating with the Delaware General Health District and the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency to make sure resources are being connected with needs.
“I am so proud of the entire United Way team,” he said. “Our team is in constant communication with dozens of local nonprofits to identify needs and problem solve.”
Feller said the United Way started working as soon as schools were closed.
“In the first week of school closures, we created the Delaware County Community Response fund,” he said. “The following week, we were able to push out $65,000 to local organizations that are serving increased need. As the community continues to give, we will continue to push much-needed emergency assistance to organizations providing food, housing and medical support. We need to ensure that critical resources are available for families during this time and that our partner organizations remain healthy and able to serve.”
Feller said the United Way has also been providing additional support staff to Delaware City Schools’ Pacer Pantry, which has been giving out food and other resources during the crisis.
“Our program team, which coordinates the services at our Strengthening Families Center, is also working on connecting with kids and families virtually,” Feller said “It can be challenging for kids to lose their school routine and also after-school programming to which they looked forward to. Just being able to see familiar faces and participate in a program online is helpful and creates a little bit of normalcy in a time that is anything but normal.”
For more information or to donate to the Delaware County Community Response Fund, visit https://www.delawarecountyfamilies.org/covid-19.