Coming together in crisis

  • Thu Apr 23rd, 2020 6:11pm
  • Life

Submitted by Stephanie Cariker

A community is only as strong as it is when it finds itself in crisis.

People will either bind together, reinforcing the stitches of the pages that will one day be their history, or they’ll slowly come apart at the seams, leaving gaps in the story they’ve yet to write.

As for Lopez Island, I have never witnessed a more incredible display of solidarity.

Weeks before people like me ever began fretting over how to juggle working from home while parenting and educating in the face of a six-week quarantine, others had already begun weaving a safety net of food security for our little island.

Mike Halperin and Jodi Green helped to raise $250,000 for The Lopez Family Resource Center’s new initiative called Stand up For Lopez, a program designed to seamlessly support 19 different local farmers and businesses through the purchase of both produce and prepared meals that will then be distributed to over 400 households in need.

Renee Hanks, Erin Saunders, and The Enchanted Quilters group have collectively made and donated over 200 reusable fabric masks to workers of essential businesses and high-risk members of our community.

There are so many unsung heroes, so many people I’d like to raise my glass to, it darn near brings me to tears of gratitude just thinking about it.

But there is one program that has changed my day to day on a deeper level.

The Lopez Island School Meal Delivery Program.

Weeks before schools closed, Superintendent Brian Auckland and School Chef John Shaw worked tirelessly to navigate the uncharted bureaucratic territory. Filling out mountains of paperwork with the state and sharing plans across school districts, they adapted the standardized program to meet the unique needs of our school food program.

“During normal circumstances, about 10% of our students rely on the school cafeteria as their main source of nourishment. We knew that number would only go up,” Shaw said.

And up it went.

“The first two weeks were wild. We were getting 20 requests a day, which meant rewriting the bus schedule almost daily,” Shaw said. “Then, in 36 hours, the requests skyrocketed from 74 to 120 households.”

But now, a little more than a month after launching, they seem to have found a certain rhythm. Each day, teachers, paraprofessionals and big-hearted volunteers assist Shaw in preparing, packing, and delivering healthy meals to 140 households.

And for our little family, their hard work has changed our game.

Not only has it taken some of the strain off our family’s food budget, but it’s also alleviated the chore of washing dishes between client calls and science class.

More importantly, however, while it may sound silly, the act of walking down our gravel driveway each day at 10:34, the routine of greeting the school bus and retrieving our sack lunches, has, in some way, given structure to our fumbling days.

It’s given us something to look forward to.

Something I’m sure my kids will look back on and remember with a smile.

If you are in need or you want to collaborate with those who are, please contact Marcia DeChandenedes or Christa Campbell of — an umbrella organization that is working as a community response hub to coordinate nonprofits, volunteers and giving for the Lopez Islanders.