Relief effort does not duplicate work of other local services

ROCKINGHAM — We are writing to the members of the Rockingham community to clarify the role of Rockingham Help and Helpers (RHH) during the COViD-19 crisis. Concerns have been raised that we may be impinging on some of our established nonprofits by providing redundant services and by receiving donations of food and money that they might otherwise get.

RHH came into being immediately after our governor's stay-at-home order was issued when several of us called the town manager with offers to help those in need. What coalesced was a group of local organizations and individuals working together to address additional and unforeseen needs that might come up for Rockingham residents at risk with chronic illness and immunosuppression.

The groups involved include community members, Sustainable Rockingham, Our Place Drop-In Center, Parks Place Community Resource Center, Greater Falls Connections, Greater Rockingham Area Health Services, FACT-TV, and the town of Rockingham, including the Rockingham Free Public Library and the town development office. The Bellows Falls Area Senior Center and SEVCA have also joined in by promoting the survey and making their resources known through the library website.

Our initial effort was to implement in Rockingham what many other towns in the state were doing: identifying those in town who needed help due to isolation and quarantine requirements, and those residents who were available and willing to meet the needs for those requesting additional help.

A survey, created for this dual purpose, has been continually sent out and daily reviewed for new respondents as every day new needs arise. For example, a resident may have lost their job and not have a way to get groceries, hygiene supplies, or pet food.

We intentionally do not duplicate other local services. If you currently volunteer or donate to our local nonprofits, please continue to do so. Our objective is to complement their work and fill gaps as they are identified.

Our local organizations are working together closely using information gleaned from the survey, combined with ongoing knowledge of our community. For instance, one family may be getting food from Our Place, diapers donated from Parks Place, and a hot meal donated by Leslie's Tavern at Rockingham. RHH coordinates the delivery so only one volunteer driver is going out to community members who are isolating.

Our COViD-19 response in Rockingham has motivated us to set up a systematic way to care for our neighbors in future disasters. We remember that Tropical Storm Irene wasn't that long ago, and Sustainable Rockingham is working to develop this system. Please be on the lookout for these proposals.

We are all looking forward to the time when RHH does not need to exist, and hopefully, this will not be too far in the future. Should any money or materials remain, they will be donated to Our Place and Parks Place.

It has been inspiring to see our community come together to care for one another during this most frightening and difficult time. We have learned that we can depend on our community to care for one another. If you would like to join us, or if you know someone who might need our help, we encourage you to complete the survey at rockinghamlibrary.org.

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