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Inside the outbreak: Creative coronavirus help

Innovative ways to be good neighbors in a crisis

Lynn Houchin holds one of the games he made for his wife’s Sunday school class. Photo courtesy Jackie Houchin

Inside the outbreak: Creative coronavirus help
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Despite social distancing, churches across the country are finding ways to help members and attendees spend quality time together during the pandemic. Here are examples of what some churches have done to build community in recent months:

A Sunday school teacher in Niguel, Calif., writes study sheets each week and mails them to students with a puzzle or other fun activity. Students refer to these sheets while watching the teacher’s pre-recorded lesson. She includes fun clips related to the lesson, such as a demonstration of her husband washing her feet. This same California Sunday school teacher’s husband, a craftsman, built 10 wooden games for the students, including a marble maze and tic-tac-toe board. They deliver the toys to the children, who can keep them for a week. Then the teacher and her husband pick up the toys, sanitize them, and take them to the next child’s home. In Birmingham, Ala., congregants participated in a surprise drive-by baby shower for a pregnant Bible study leader. Friends dropped off diapers, wipes, and other baby supplies at her home as she and her husband sat on the front porch. Instead of the annual Sunday school Easter egg hunt, a church in Norman, Okla., delivered goodies to 12 families in the congregation for an at-home egg hunt. The church also sent an Easter devotional and supplies for families to put together their own “Resurrection eggs”—plastic eggs that contain items representing different moments from Holy Week. Grandmothers at a Charleston, S.C., church gathered at an event venue that two sisters from the church own. The women brought their own picnic food and sat a safe distance apart in the lawn. The group prayed and sang together. Unable to hold a quarterly lunch, a Fort Collins, Colo., church catered Chick-fil-A and hosted the congregation’s volunteer and staff leaders to a drive-thru style meal in the parking lot. The leadership team ding-dong ditched several other attendees in April who needed extra encouragement—including a nurse and some immunocompromised people. After dropping off gift bags on the front porches, they rang the doorbells and ran. The same church put on a food drive this month to support a Christian food bank in the area. A local jazz band performed on the church’s front lawn as families brought money and grocery donations. The women’s ministry leader at a church in Paso Robles, Calif., threw a virtual tea party. Volunteers delivered bags with tea party items to participating women’s homes. The bags included tea bags, tea sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries, cupcakes, and bingo cards. During a two-hour Zoom call, the women enjoyed the goodies together and shared Scripture.

From Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pepperell Christian Fellowship

Pepperell Christian Fellowship Handout

Pepperell, Mass., population 12,000, is about an hour northwest of Boston and has what Pastor Stephen Witmer described as a “rural vibe.” Although not as isolated as some towns, it still fits the small-town stereotype: “White steepled church on the town green … . One post office, one elementary school, one library, one grocery store, one hardware store … . One of everything.”

Still, the pandemic has touched his town.

Among his own congregation of about 250 at Pepperell Christian Fellowship, some have had pay cuts, three have lost parents to COVID-19, and many have expressed anxiety about the pandemic. Along with physical separation, Witmer said political controversy over the pandemic has affected his congregation, and it concerns him: “If we’re not unified in the gospel … I could really see splintering and fracturing that would come.”

In a recent email, one woman from Witmer’s congregation told him she was “terrified” about the virus and struggled to see God’s hand in the situation. Another congregant worried about government overreach. Witmer said the best thing he can do for these people is “reorient” them to the needs of their small community and ask them where they’re spending most of their time and effort. Instead of being frustrated with something a governing official says, “Pick up the phone and call 10 people,” Witmer suggested.

Pepperell Christian Fellowship has found other ways to help its small congregation refocus on serving:

One woman in the congregation came up with the idea of running a socially distanced Easter scavenger hunt. The goal: Find all the letters in an unknown, Easter-themed phrase that organizers posted outside several congregants’ homes. To win a prize, participants drove around to find the letters and then rearranged them into the correct phrase: “He is risen.” Witmer and the elders went through the church directory and each claimed a certain number of people to check on. They then contacted each person to see how everyone was doing. By now, they’ve gone through the directory a couple of times, calling, texting, and emailing every attendee. A woman at the church didn’t have a camera or microphone on her computer. Although she could see and hear the rest of the congregation during Zoom calls, they couldn’t see or hear her. So a younger, more tech savvy attendee bought an external camera and installed it for her. In June, the church plans to kick off a Chronicles of Narnia book club for both children and parents. Starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, participants will read a book a month and discuss via Zoom. Discussions will include the life of C.S. Lewis and the books’ Biblical themes.

From Wednesday, May 27, 2020

People relax in designated circles marked on the grass at Brooklyn's Domino Park.

People relax in designated circles marked on the grass at Brooklyn's Domino Park. AP Photo/Kathy Willens

As restaurants, parks, and other public areas begin to reopen around the world, some organizations are finding creative ways to encourage guests to maintain social distancing. Here are a few that Business Insider has covered in recent weeks:

In Maryland, a bar made bumper tables out of inflatable innertubes to encourage customers to keep their distance. Guests stand in the center and can put their drinks and food on the tubes, which sit on metal structures with wheels. To serve a similar purpose, a Burger King in Germany introduced very wide-brimmed crowns. Another Burger King in Italy has added the social distancing Whopper to its menu: just like a normal burger except with three times the onions. Spray-painted circles spaced evenly apart on the turf of one New York park remind groups to maintain social distancing while they enjoy time in the sun. Each circle is big enough for a group of four people to sit comfortably inside with blankets and picnic baskets. Police monitor the park to make sure park-goers stay in their circles. Another article at BBC shows photographs of more spray-painted markers around the world. A Swedish couple opened a one-person restaurant in the middle of a field. Called “Table for One,” the restaurant will serve one three-course meal to one person a day. The chef sends the food using a basket hanging from a rope. In Germany, cafe staff built a chute that also allows waiters to deliver food to a customer’s table without getting too close. Since many restaurants can only open at partial capacity because of social distancing rules, some have found ways to make their restaurants feel full with only a fraction of the people. A restaurant in Australia is using cardboard cutouts of people to fill spare tables. Restaurants in Bangkok, Thailand, are seating stuffed animal panda bears and cartoon dragons in empty booths and chairs. A French engineer released a design for an airplane seat barrier to help passengers on the window and aisle seats maintain a safe distance. Some restaurants are installing plexiglass barriers on tables and booths so that customers can have face-to-face interactions over a meal while still protecting against the potential transmission of the coronavirus.

From Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Retiree Bob Coleman poses with a picture of his late wife, Emily, whom he dedicated a song to on his radio show. Coleman is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.”

Retiree Bob Coleman poses with a picture of his late wife, Emily, whom he dedicated a song to on his radio show. Coleman is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.” AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi

The coronavirus has led to huge numbers of workers around the world either losing their jobs or working from home. But the extra time has led to plenty of creativity from both unemployed and at-home workers. Here are a few fun examples:

A wedding photographer in the United Kingdom had no real weddings to shoot during lockdown, so he staged an elaborate Lego wedding and took photos. He posted the collection to his website with a detailed description of the wedding day. The photos include dreamy shots of the Lego couple in a field, during the reception toast, and in the ceremony. Betty the cat, an Indiana meteorologist's pet, is now the unofficial co-host of her owner’s weather segments on the local television channel. The meteorologist set up a green screen and lights in his dining room as a temporary at-home studio. His news director got the idea to include the cat when he saw him petting her between takes. “My fans … have said ‘We want more Betty,’ which consequently means less of me,” the meteorologist joked. Two improvisation actors in Hungary have nowhere to perform because of the coronavirus, so they’ve spent their time recreating famous movie scenes with items in their home. In one shot, the couple used a tin can and exaggerated facial expressions to recreate the scene in Iron Man when Pepper Pots has to repair Tony Stark’s malfunctioning arc reactor. An Indiana man kept photobombing his wife’s work conference calls by sitting in the background in costume. At first, he put on clothing items he already owned—like hunting gear and Hawaiian shirts. But his wife says friends soon began mailing him Halloween costumes. Screenshots show him dressed as a Power Ranger, Batman, and Waldo from Where’s Waldo? Retirees in Tennessee and nearby states have taken up a new job during the pandemic. A marketing firm launched a radio hour called Radio Recliner and recruited seniors at assisted living homes to be the DJs. The retirees record the intros and transitions for songs on their phones and send them to the production staff. Listeners can send song requests and dedicate them to loved ones.

From Monday, May 25, 2020

Elementary school teacher Luciana Lira hands Neysel, 6 weeks old, to his mother, Zully, to hold for the first time.

Elementary school teacher Luciana Lira hands Neysel, 6 weeks old, to his mother, Zully, to hold for the first time. John Moore/Getty Images

People continue to inspire one another through spontaneous acts of kindness. One language teacher from an elementary school in Connecticut babysat the newborn sibling of a student while the family—immigrants from Guatemala—recovered from the coronavirus.

The pregnant mother, Zully, called teacher Luciana Lira from the hospital and, in her native Spanish, asked for help. Zully was sick with COVID-19 and was going to give birth five weeks early. Zully’s husband, Marvin, only spoke Spanish and didn’t know what to do. Lira barely knew the family but agreed to help. In the following weeks, she served as the interpreter between them and the hospital.

Doctors delivered the baby in an emergency C-section in April. Zully was in a medically induced coma and doctors worried she wouldn’t survive. Fearful that he and his son also had the virus, Marvin asked Lira to take the baby. She agreed. For six weeks, she babysat the newborn while teaching online school and caring for her own family. On May 16, Lira announced on Facebook that the baby finally went home to his family. “I wanted to first thank God for giving me the strength, the faith and the courage to do what I did after receiving Zully’s call for help,” she wrote later.

Here are a few more ways people have shown kindness to one another during the pandemic:

A postal worker in New Hampshire gave graduates on his route handwritten notes and $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to help them celebrate their accomplishment. “Five dollars isn’t much, but it’s something so that the kids can get out of the house and go get a donut and an iced coffee,” he said. In California, a stranger traveled around his neighborhood and played “Pomp and Circumstance” on his trumpet at each home of a 2020 graduate. “To think that perfect strangers thought to give their time and talents to help heal my daughter’s broken heart was beyond anything I would have ever expected,” one mother said. A man in Colombia who works for a food delivery service thought he would be out of work when thieves stole his bike. Another man found him crying on the street and posted to Twitter, asking users if they had a bike to give him. The same day, someone else on Twitter invited the deliveryman to his house and gave him a bike so that he could continue working. Two boys, a 12-year-old from Chicago and a 7-year-old from Maryland, are helping senior citizens in their hometowns by purchasing essential items and delivering them in care packages. The 7-year-old got the idea when he and his mom picked up groceries for his grandma. He was worried about her friends who might have no one to help them and used his savings to buy them supplies.

From Friday, May 22, 2020

A barber shop remains closed because of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle.

A barber shop remains closed because of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Haircuts have become an unexpectedly rare commodity in 2020. Although some states and countries have allowed barber shops and beauty salons to reopen in recent weeks, hairdressers in other locations have had to stay closed. Some people stuck at home have turned to buzzing their hair or attempting a trim on their own (with varying results), but many hairdressers have still found ways to continue business despite social distancing. Here are a few of their creative solutions:

A tech entrepreneur created YouProbablyNeedaHaircut.com in April to pair people in need of a trim with stylists who can offer remote haircut training. He got the idea after his girlfriend successfully cut his hair under the guidance of a barber friend via FaceTime. “I realized, maybe other people out there might want a similar service,” he said. Now, hairdressers worldwide are using the site. One New York City barber started his own “Quarancuts Virtual Hair School.” The haircut training classes happen over video chat, and each session streams live on Instagram so other people can join in. Upon completing the session, the at-home stylists receive an “Amateur Barber Certification” while the clients get a “Certificate of Bravery.” A Georgia salon owner promoted her own hairdressing business during quarantine by practicing hairstyles on her long-haired boyfriend and posting the hilarious photos to her Instagram page. The stylist has practiced ballerina buns, regency era up-dos, and hairdos inspired by movies including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Star Wars, and Trolls. Her boyfriend strikes poses to match the hairstyles. After some Chinese hair salons began to reopen in March, workers at one salon attached brushes, clippers, and blow-dryers to poles 3 feet long to groom their customers while staying a safe distance away. Footage of these “long-distance haircuts” show the stylists lunging and bending as they work hard to complete the precise work with their clumsy tools. In the Netherlands, one stylist repurposed a black umbrella to wear as a body shield while cutting customers’ hair. She cut armholes and a couple notches for her eyes and mouth. A viral video shows her threading a woman’s eyebrows while struggling with the cumbersome umbrella as the person taking the video laughs in the background. (Not CDC approved.)

From Thursday, May 21, 2020

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Big businesses have helped promote generosity during the pandemic by donating money and resources to help the people the coronavirus has affected most. Here are some examples:

Qatar Airways awarded 100,000 complimentary plane tickets to medical workers in more than 215 countries. In a promotion timed to coincide with International Nurses Day on May 12, all healthcare professionals could apply for free roundtrip tickets for themselves and one companion to fly anywhere in the airline’s network. American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels Corporation gave free vacations to 4,000 workers at a New York City hospital. The gift includes a free round-trip flight and hotel accommodations for three nights at locations in the United States and the Caribbean “to help [health care professionals] recharge and reconnect with their loved ones, once they are able to take time for themselves.” Intel pledged $10 million to coronavirus efforts in local communities and later promised an additional $50 million. The second donation is going toward technology for coronavirus testing and vaccine development. With that money, the company is also funding computers and other equipment that public school students will need while learning at home. Old Navy donated $30 million in clothes to families affected by the COVID-19. The company is partnering with nonprofits to distribute the clothing items. To announce the donation, Old Navy commissioned an artist to make a portrait out of Old Navy clothes. A YouTube video shows him assembling the huge piece, which depicts a smiling mom and two daughters. TikTok is donating more than $200,000 to help social service agencies and support organizations that assist migrant workers in Singapore. The money going to the migrant workers will help pay for needs varying from portable fans to mental health services. TikTok users can participate in the fundraising for social service agencies by posting videos with the #CareForSG video effect.

From Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Members of the T-Rex Walking Club walk through a neighborhood in Ferndale, Mich. Costumes have become popular as families break up lockdown monotony.

Members of the T-Rex Walking Club walk through a neighborhood in Ferndale, Mich. Costumes have become popular as families break up lockdown monotony. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

After a couple of months of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, some families are dealing with cabin fever and parents are struggling to keep stir-crazy kids entertained at home. But some moms and dads have stepped up to the challenge. Here are a few “parent wins” that have made the news in recent weeks:

In Spain, a dad and daughter are dressing in costumes during their regular trips to take trash to the dumpster down the street. Videos posted to the dad’s Instagram page show the pair dressed as superheroes, Disney princess couples, and other movie characters. In one video, first responders blare sirens and clap as the pair—dressed as Batman and Wonder Woman—walk down the street. Inspired by the classic Monty Python films, a California family posted a notice on the sidewalk outside their home: “You have now entered the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Silly Walks. Commence silly walking immediately.” The family’s Instagram videos show parents and kids taking the sign seriously. Other neighborhoods, including one in the United Kingdom, have also taken up the joke. A dad in the U.K. surprised his wife and four daughters by filling their home with 250,000 colorful plastic balls—deep enough to dive into. “We probably will never get this chance again as families, to all be at home together. Let’s just make the absolute most of it,” he said. Parents in Greensboro, N.C., threw a dog party for their daughter’s third birthday last month. They passed out a flier inviting neighborhood pet owners to parade past their homes with their dogs. Neighbors arrived with their canines decked out in tutus, party hats, and balloons. The dog-loving little girl enjoyed the parade from her parents’ yard. A 7-year-old girl lost her tooth but was concerned about putting the tooth fairy at risk of getting COVID-19. She didn’t put her tooth under her pillow until her mom agreed to sew a tiny mask for the fairy. “I picked a white, glittery [fabric] because it was like golden magic and like pixies,” said the girl. The mom had already made 177 full-sized masks for her community in Michigan.

From Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Jefferson High School senior Elle Vence, top right, dances through the sunroof with brother James, during a graduation parade in Jefferson, Ohio.

Jefferson High School senior Elle Vence, top right, dances through the sunroof with brother James, during a graduation parade in Jefferson, Ohio. Warren Dillaway/The Star-Beacon via AP

The final semester of high school is looking very different for this year’s 2020 graduates, but schools and families have still found ways to help seniors celebrate. Here are a few creative solutions:

High schools in states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota created Instagram yearbook accounts for seniors. Students submitted photos and quotes to the account administrators, who then arranged and posted the digital “yearbook pages” where fellow classmates commented. Students used the platform to share favorite school memories and congratulate each other on future plans.

Some students moved their spring proms online. One brother and sister in Georgia hosted a virtual prom on Instagram Live with more than 500 attendees from schools across the country. The event included music, dancing, and celebrity appearances. Some friend groups used Zoom to attend the digital event “together” on their phones and computers. One high school in North Carolina honored its seniors by holding a graduation parade. The school staff took four hours one day in April to visit all 220 seniors. They split into 14 groups and drove to each home to deliver personalized yard signs to each student. Teachers, fire department officials, and police officers joined the parade. Public schools in Kansas City, Kan., plan to hold six nights of graduation ceremonies at a local drive-in movie theater. The big screen will display the names of each graduating senior. “While we plan to continue to honor social distancing rules, this celebration will definitely be memorable,” said school district leaders in an announcement. A New Hampshire high school plans to deliver diplomas to graduating seniors at the top of a mountain while maintaining social distancing. One at a time, graduates and their guests will ride a ski lift to the summit, where school administrators will announce their names and present them with their diplomas. Each student’s will take about 30 minutes.

From Monday, May 18, 2020

Mannequins provide social distancing at the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va.

Mannequins provide social distancing at the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va. AP Photo/Steve Helber

As social distancing continues, people are finding ways to give each other a sense of nearness while mitigating further spread of COVID-19. Here are a few of those wacky solutions:

Students at one primary school in eastern China made their own social distancing hats. The wide wings are supposed to remind them to stay a few feet apart from each other. A café in Germany took similar measures, giving customers straw hats topped with pool noodles to prevent diners from getting too close. The proprietor of an upscale Virginia restaurant is filling his dining rooms with life-sized mannequins in 1940s clothing. The state is requiring restaurants to reduce occupancy by half, so he hopes the dummies will keep his restaurant from feeling empty when it reopens this month. “We’re all craving to gather and see other people,” he said. “They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.” A 10-year-old in California made a “hug curtain” out of plastic bags and a shower curtain so she could hug her grandparents without directly touching them. Grandparents in another part of California wrapped themselves in plastic bags and wore snorkel masks so they could hug their daughter and grandkids. (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t approve of these techniques, unfortunately.) As soccer resumes in Germany, one stadium is filling the stands with cardboard cutouts of fans. A personalized cutout costs about $20, and fans can upload photos for their own cutouts to a special website. Another German stadium is covering seats with fan memorabilia, including scarves, stuffed animals, and T-shirts. NFL games will likely come with fake crowd noises when football returns to TV. One football commentator said FOX Sports is also looking into projecting virtual fans into the stadium to normalize the viewing experience for audiences at home. “All networks will try to make it look and sound as normal as possible. It could lead to unprecedented, thrilling access,” Joe Buck said.

From Friday, May 15, 2020


As COVID-19 lockdowns continue in some states, families are still spending a lot of their time at home together. To help make up for canceled graduation ceremonies, sports events, movie theater premieres, and vacations, groups are coming together to give those sheltering in place activities to enjoy at home. Here are a few to consider this weekend and in the following days:

Trail Life USA, a Christian adventure group for boys, is hosting a virtual family movie night and backyard campout Saturday evening. Registered families can stream the animated movie Pilgrim’s Progress (see Megan Basham’s review) for free. There also will be an online portal to share photos and videos of families camping out. The event kicks off with a performance by Keith and Kristyn Getty, singing “In Christ Alone.” Travel + Leisure regularly updates an extensive online list of resources for people to use while in isolation, including animal livestreams, virtual theme park rides, and virtual museum tours. In one section, the magazine links to livestreams from hotels sharing their beautiful views with wannabe vacationers stuck at home. Instead of traditional high school and college graduations, there are several virtual ceremonies and speeches to watch online. On Friday and Saturday, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms will air speeches and performances from celebrities. Rolling Stone shares details about these online events and other celebrations, including an ongoing one at the Dr. Seuss Facebook page. The New York Times has compiled a list of 53 kid-friendly recipes for families to make together, including a chocolate mug cake, no-bake cookies, and one-ingredient banana ice cream. Most of the recipes require only a short prep time, few steps, and simple ingredients, making them fit projects for families. On Sunday, NASCAR’s Cup Series will resume its season with a race at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, becoming the first live major American sport to return to television since the pandemic began. The race will operate under a new set of coronavirus-informed restrictions, including empty grandstands and face masks for racing team members who must comply with social distancing guidelines.

From Thursday, May 14, 2020

Elsa Rutz poses by a cinnamon roll at home in Portland, Ore. Elsa’s mother, Whitney, made cinnamon rolls to help raise funds for the Oregon Food Bank.

Elsa Rutz poses by a cinnamon roll at home in Portland, Ore. Elsa’s mother, Whitney, made cinnamon rolls to help raise funds for the Oregon Food Bank. Whitney Rutz via AP

Generosity sometimes means giving financially. Other times, it looks like sacrificing time and talents or responding in love to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Here are a few different ways individuals have shown generosity in recent weeks:

After making $1.6 million in the stock market in just over a week, the CEO of an Ohio-based real estate investment firm chose to distribute the money among his lower-income employees. “Six thousand dollars. This is something you don’t get every day,” said one employee. “It just blew my mind. I was so happy, and I’m glad that I work for a company like this.” A woman in Portland, Ore., started baking and auctioning her giant cinnamon rolls to raise money for the Oregon Food Bank. By early May, she had raised $35,000, which covers the cost of more than 105,000 meals. Most of the cinnamon rolls have gone directly to hospitals or nursing homes. “There’s many ways that you can contribute and you don’t have to be on the front lines,” she said. An anonymous donor gave $1 million to a hospital in Santa Cruz, Calif. The donation came with a note that said, “Thank you for standing up (and staying up!) to care for our community … This human kindness is what makes you heroic.” The donor designated the gift for hospital employees, including mailroom staff and security guards. After an unknown thief robbed seven local businesses, one of the victims, the owner of a Texas pizza shop, began offering meals to anyone who needs them. Families must speak with the store manager to get the free meal. “The people who came and robbed me could have asked for food and would have [gotten] more value [than] what they were able to steal,” said the owner. Inspired by Capt. Tom Moore of Britain, a 97-year-old Russian World War II veteran started posting videos of her war stories to raise money for families of hospital workers who have died during the pandemic. The woman fought in the battle of Stalingrad. She commended Moore for his efforts and sent him a pair of socks she knitted. In the first five days, her campaign raised more than $26,000.

Editor’s Note: WORLD will update this story each day with new ways businesses and individuals are helping their communities.

From Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A shopper in a Utah grocery store

A shopper in a Utah grocery store AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Harvey’s Market, a fresh produce market in Millersburg, Ohio, ran a “self-serve, by donation-only” grocery from mid-March until the end of April to help local families from going hungry during the coronavirus pandemic. The operation started when owner Harvey Mast announced in a March 13 Facebook post that he was giving away boxes of leftover produce on a first-come, first-served basis. Within 20 minutes, the boxes were gone, so he edited his post and invited the community to bring excess groceries to the market to share with those in need.

In the following weeks, the community continued donating groceries and cash to the market. Mast used the cash donations to purchase more onions, eggs, potatoes, apples, and other cost-efficient produce to give away. He and his community stocked the shelves with the donated groceries through the month of April. “We can turn and think of others, and think of things like generosity and kindness,” said Mast. “In the face of the worst disease that ever hit planet Earth, which is sin, [Jesus’] response was generosity. He gave himself to create the cure for us.”

Before May 1, the market received more than $107,000 in donations to purchase additional produce and gave away an estimated 395,000 pounds of food. “It’s been a lot of fun for me,” Mast said. “I’ve had some 18-hour days to get stuff in here, but the reward is far beyond any financial income I’ve ever gained.”

Here are other ways businesses are helping struggling families access food during the pandemic:

The restaurant management company Front Burner Restaurants is running “Furlough Kitchen” pop-up restaurants in multiple cities. After the company furloughed 4,000 employees in March, its leadership committed to provide free meals for anyone who has been laid off because of the pandemic, including its own former employees. Each pop-up provides about 1,000 meals per day. Panera rolled out a “Meals for Heroes” initiative this week that allows people to purchase meals for a participating medical facility. Participants select the location and number of meals, and Panera delivers the meals to the hospital on their behalf. Panera also has a grocery menu for families. The Charlotte-based parent company of several grocery chains paid for groceries of thousands of healthcare workers and first responders one day in April. The company covered the costs of shoppers who came to the stores during the designated hour for frontline workers. “We were inspired to pay it forward and hope to inspire others so we can continue to lift spirits during this difficult time,” the company’s CEO said.

From Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Registered nurse Louie Ambida puts on personal protective equipment before testing starts at a drive-thru testing site.

Registered nurse Louie Ambida puts on personal protective equipment before testing starts at a drive-thru testing site. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Businesses and volunteer groups have turned to making masks and other personal protective equipment due to the high demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few groups testing their own PPE-making skills over the last couple of months.

Refugees and volunteers with Servant Group International—a Christian group that ministers to Muslims—have been sewing masks and donating them to non-profit clinics. Although not N95 masks, the seamstresses designed them to cover N95 masks so they’ll be usable longer. Clinics also requested the group make washable caps and gowns, which they made from donated fabric. In Michigan, a high school robotics team used 3D printers to make face shields for medical workers. The team’s coach got the idea from a friend at the local fire department. The team used four 3D printers to produce the needed face shields. A scuba diving association partnered with a company that makes eco-friendly activewear to make face masks out of recycled plastic from the ocean. The scuba-diving group is selling the ocean-themed masks with replaceable filters for the cost of production. “We care about the ocean and our diver community,” said a representative from the group. “We’re not profiting off this difficult time.” Members of Sewers of Southwest Wisconsin have made thousands of masks for local hospitals, nursing homes, and first responders. In April, the group also started making scrub caps and gowns for the area’s nursing homes. Volunteer drivers—some of them from a local sheriff’s department— brought supplies to the seamstresses and delivered the finished products. A pro-life businesswoman and jewelry maker switched to making masks. By early April, 100 percent of the company’s staff was making 15,000-20,000 masks every week. The designs feature inspirational phrases and Bible verses. “We just want to do what we can during this time and provide high-quality masks to people, as well as keep our employees working,” the businesswoman said in April.

From Monday, May 11, 2020

Staff at the Mediamatic restaurant serve food to volunteers seated in small glasshouses during a try-out of a setup for social distancing, abiding by government directives to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Staff at the Mediamatic restaurant serve food to volunteers seated in small glasshouses during a try-out of a setup for social distancing, abiding by government directives to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Amsterdam, Netherlands. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Families, neighbors, hospitals, and businesses are finding creative ways to maintain a sense of unity even during the stresses of sickness and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few ways people have been making the most of these tough situations:

A nurse at a Queens, N.Y., medical center sings to patients on her floor through the intercom system. During the daily performance, she sits by a computer in her scrubs and sings into a phone. “The patients are loving it! It definitely brings smiles to their faces, including my co-workers,” she said. “I think that people are just looking forward to some positivity in all of this.” With his wife in the hospital recovering from a surgery, a man in his 70s was unable to visit his sweetheart for their anniversary. Instead, he did a quarantine dance for her over FaceTime. “You see, I’m dressed up a little bit,” he says to his wife in a recording of the video call. “You know why? It’s our anniversary—and we’re going to dance on our anniversary.” A restaurant in Amsterdam set up “quarantine greenhouses” so customers can eat out while still social distancing. Each dinner party sits inside a small, see-through structure while waiters wearing gloves and face shields deliver the food to their tables on long serving boards. Reservations for the greenhouses are sold out through Saturday, June 27. Washington state residents have been meeting with Canadian friends and loved ones at a ditch on the border between the countries. Some families are enjoying picnics with family members on the other side of the border. Others just chat across the ditch. One woman brought her newborn to introduce the baby to her Canadian grandmother from a distance. A man in Leon, Mexico, hosted a spin class from his apartment balcony. Residents of apartments also facing the complex’s courtyard joined on their own spin bikes. The man set up speakers and lights to play music and a lightshow into the complex. An Instagram video shows the spinners waving their cell phone lights to the music as the man calls out from his microphone.

From Friday, May 8, 2020

AP Photo/LM Otero, File

The coronavirus pandemic has led to many inspiring stories of ordinary people helping ordinary people through random acts of kindness. Here are some particularly sweet examples that have made the news in recent weeks:

Kent Chambers, a teacher in Alabama, used part of his stimulus check to pay the utility bills for some of his in-need students. Chambers is a Christian and told me he learned generosity from his father, who was a Baptist minister: “I grew up watching him help neighbors anytime they were in need even though my father didn’t have much money of his own.” Residents of a California neighborhood decorated their houses with more than 100 colorful signs to show appreciation for their local mailman—who the residents say is consistently smiling and personable. The neighbors wanted to thank him for staying dedicated and cheerful during the pandemic despite the greater risks he faces as an essential worker. An elderly veteran spent part of his day handing out $100 bills to shoppers at an Aldi grocery store in Missouri. One employee recognized him as a regular at the grocery store and said the man planned to give a total of $5,000 that day. A shopper said, “He told me he wanted to spread some good cheer. He handed me the bill, telling me to make sure I had enough to feed my family.” A FedEx driver in Louisiana sanitized a box for a family when he noticed a sign on their front door saying someone in the house was immunocompromised. He left a note explaining what he did and said, “Stay safe.” The 11-year-old daughter in the home has Type 1 diabetes. She and her mother later got to personally thank the driver in a video call. Another FedEx driver, this time in Indiana, made a little girl’s day by bringing her Dairy Queen cupcakes. Earlier in the day, he had dropped off a stack of packages and realized it was the girl’s birthday. “He felt bad that she would not have a birthday like everyone else,” her mother said. “He just did what he could to make it a little more special.” The driver and family had never met before.

From Thursday, May 7, 2020

President Donald Trump poses for a photo with TJ Kim, a student pilot, during an event to honor volunteers helping to battle the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump poses for a photo with TJ Kim, a student pilot, during an event to honor volunteers helping to battle the coronavirus. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Children and teens around the world are pitching in to help fight the coronavirus and its effect on communities. Here are a few of the children and their mature acts of service:

A teenager working as a cashier at a Tennessee grocery store paid for an elderly man’s groceries when he didn’t have enough money at checkout. The man had just missed senior discount hours and hadn’t brought enough cash in his wallet. He offered to put some of the items back, but the 17-year-old girl told him she would take care of it. “She’s just a little angel,” said the man. After his mother lost her job because of the pandemic, a young boy in Tijuana, Mexico, decided to help support his family by trading his toys for food. He set up some of his belongings outside his home and posted a sign saying, “I’m exchanging toys for food. We want to help my mom.” Several neighbors brought money and groceries to the family in response, but few took the toys in exchange. A 16-year-old boy working towards his student pilot’s license flew medical supplies to several small-town Virginia hospitals. After coordinating with the hospitals to find out what supplies they needed, the high schooler gathered the items and, with his instructor, flew to each hospital to make the deliveries. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten,” he said. In the Philippines, a tech-savvy boy is spending his free time making face shields for medical personnel using the 3D printer he got for Christmas. He modified a face shield blueprint from the internet to print faster and use less plastic. “It’s my opportunity to finally help in a very serious situation, even if it’s in just a little way,” he said. He donated the face shields to hospitals in Manilla. A woman and her 7-year-old grandson in Ottawa, Canada, cleaned 100 mailboxes a day to help protect postal workers. A photo shows the pair wearing winter coats, boots, and rubber gloves as they wipe down the boxes with rags. The grandmother said she wanted to use this as an opportunity to show her grandson how to serve his community.

From Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File

As communities across the country struggle under the financial and physical stress of the coronavirus pandemic, high-profile individuals are using their platforms to help those in need and encourage generosity. Here are some of the big names that have made the news for their acts of service in recent weeks:

Sens. Ted Cruz and Kirsten Gillibrand launched a “combat COVID-19 challenge” in April to encourage people to help their communities. Cruz delivered breakfast tacos and coffee to police officers in Houston. Gillibrand sent pizza to medical personnel on the front lines. Since then, media personalities, business owners, and other politicians have participated in the challenge. In March, Frozen actress Kristen Bell donated $150,007.96 to No Kid Hungry. As the actress explained in an Instagram post, the extra $7.96 came from her kids: “When [they] overheard me making the donation they asked if they could also donate the money from their piggy bank. I couldn't have been prouder to add that extra, and important, [money].” Actor and director Tyler Perry gave a $21,000 tip to workers at one of his favorite Atlanta restaurants, totaling about $500 for each employee. He also paid for the groceries of elderly shoppers at 44 Kroger stores in Atlanta and 29 Winn Dixie stories in New Orleans. Perry covered the costs of anyone shopping at these stores during the hours reserved for seniors. After his grandmother died from COVID-19 in April, Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che paid one month’s rent for the 160 apartments in the building his grandmother used to live in. She had not been in the building since the 1990s, but he still considers it a significant place for his family. Che called his contribution a “drop in the bucket,” saying “I can’t offer much help by myself.” Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were among the first celebrities to test positive for COVID-19 in March. After their recovery, they donated their blood to a medical study that will use the antibodies to help develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. “We will be giving it now to the places that hope to work on what I would like to call the ‘Hank-ccine,’” Hanks told NPR.

From Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Gabrielle Schmees, 29, and Diego Grassano, 31, kiss wearing protective masks on the day of their wedding at the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park on Monday, April 27, in Houston.

Gabrielle Schmees, 29, and Diego Grassano, 31, kiss wearing protective masks on the day of their wedding at the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park on Monday, April 27, in Houston. Marie De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many wedding plans this spring, leading to a whole new class of coronavirus wedding ceremonies. Some couples had to get creative with proposals, anniversary celebrations, and life at home. Here are a few touching stories about weddings and marriage during the coronavirus:

A police lieutenant from New Jersey proposed to his girlfriend by writing “WYMM” (short for “Will you marry me?”) on his facemask. In response, she wrote “Yes” on her own mask. Before the proposal, the couple hadn’t seen each other in a month. The woman said she had been worrying about his safety every day. “I was over the moon just to see him again,” she said. A FedEx delivery driver was about to drop off a package when he saw a note on the home’s door saying his package was carrying wedding rings and that the couple was at the beach getting married. He brought the package to the beach, where the small coronavirus-style ceremony was already in progress, and delivered it directly to the bride. In March, a New York couple held a small wedding ceremony on the balcony of a Brooklyn apartment. The officiant stood in the doorway to the balcony while the witnesses and a neighborhood cat watched from below. Family members Zoomed into the ceremony and a cellist played through the video call. According to Danish anniversary tradition, couples who reach their 50th wedding anniversary get an archway with a golden heart over their front door. Neighbors helped one Danish couple celebrate their 50th anniversary with the traditional archway and clapped from a distance as the couple danced in front of their apartment. With lockdowns preventing a 92-year-old Israeli woman from going to the salon, her husband of 67 years colored her hair for her at home while she sat in her wheelchair. A grandchild of the elderly couple said on Facebook, “In every situation my grandfather is worried that my grandmother will feel well-groomed. You don’t see things like this every day.”

From Monday, May 4, 2020

Members of a youth group in Star Wars costumes entertain locals along a road in Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines, last week.

Members of a youth group in Star Wars costumes entertain locals along a road in Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines, last week. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

People have had to rethink fun as they deal with the new reality of a world on lockdown. Here are some ways individuals and communities have made the most out of their lockdowns:

Today in the Philippines, local officials dressed as Star Wars characters in honor of the unofficial Star Wars holiday, May the Fourth. One official dressed in a Stormtrooper costume explained, “We make sure the government guidelines are properly followed.” Another officer dressed in a Darth Vader costume delivered food and relief packages to residents. An unnamed San Francisco man spent the last few weeks distributing a 100-year-old sourdough starter from a makeshift neighborhood kiosk. He distributed over 650 small containers of the starter before closing the kiosk this weekend. “It’s become a full-time job … and I can’t do it anymore. I’m exhausted. There’s flour all over my house. My house smells like a big sourdough pancake.” A furloughed United Kingdom man spent his extra time at home building an old-school arcade for himself and his 3-year-old son. He bought wood and, with no previous experience, built the station from scratch in two weeks. He painted video game characters on the sides and installed an old Atari console inside the structure. The organist for the Boston Red Sox is livestreaming 30 minutes of organ songs from his Massachusetts living room every day at 3 p.m. He began the daily livestream on March 26—what would have been Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season. During performances, his audience can request songs, and he invites them to donate to local food banks and other relief efforts. A California Girl Scout troop leader had been training to run in the Boston Marathon. When organizers canceled the spring race, she decided to use her training to run 46 miles to visit her 52 Girl Scouts. At her students’ homes, she took selfies with some of the girls as they stood a safe distance behind her. The April 20 run took 11 hours.

From Friday, May 1, 2020

Corey Jurgensen says she began to run around in an inflatable unicorn costume in her Tampa, Fla., neighborhood to cheer others up. But she discovered it cheered her up as well.

Corey Jurgensen says she began to run around in an inflatable unicorn costume in her Tampa, Fla., neighborhood to cheer others up. But she discovered it cheered her up as well. Martha Asencio Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP

Despite the serious coronavirus pandemic, people and businesses have been finding ways to add some levity to their situations. Here are a few off-the-wall examples:

In March, some brands released “social distancing” logos to encourage people to maintain boundaries of 6 feet. McDonald’s Brazil separated the golden arches with a wide gap. Coca-Cola ran an ad in Times Square showing each cursive letter of its name separated by a space. On social media, car company Audi pulled apart the rings in its logo and added the temporary slogan, “Keep Distance.” With a shortage in the normal wedding cake orders, a bakery in Fort Worth, Texas, started making and selling cakes that look like toilet paper rolls. Last month, the owner said the bakery sold more than 100 of the cakes in two weeks, with more selling every day. At $50 each, they’re helping keep the business going. “One customer bought a whole 12-pack—12 cakes!” the owner said. A family farm in North Carolina is renting out its farm animals to lighten up otherwise dull video calls for $50 a session. The selection includes Mambo the mini donkey, Eddie the horse, as well as other horses, chickens, and ducks. According to the farm’s Facebook page, the animals have joined Zoom calls for virtual happy hours and even virtual classrooms. A Florida woman last month donned a 7-foot unicorn costume and took a jog around her neighborhood to bring home-bound neighbors some laughs. She’s worn the costume multiple times and will dance, prance, run, and occasionally pretend to graze on bushes as she wears it. “There is nothing better than being a unicorn,” she said. “Everyone smiles when they see a unicorn.” Colleagues from a creative agency in Berlin last month made a website that plays office sounds on loop. Employees who miss the office ambiance while working from home can listen to the relaxing (or maybe annoying) sounds of coworkers typing, sneezing, and chewing, along with the office sounds of printers, creaking chairs, and a bubbling water cooler.

From Thursday, April 30, 2020

Kaye Knighton, 86, receives a visit from his daughter-law Darla Knighton at the Creekside Senior Living in Bountiful, Utah.

Kaye Knighton, 86, receives a visit from his daughter-law Darla Knighton at the Creekside Senior Living in Bountiful, Utah. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

As communities continue to follow social distancing guidelines, people are still finding ways to enjoy time with each other through their windows. Here are a few innovative examples:

A musician in Chile last month made regular visits to his parents’ home, where he would stand on the sidewalk to play his accordion. The elderly couple would watch through their front window or dance along as he played. “I play them a little bit of music, I chat with them and we try to have a nice time together,” the man said. “It fills my heart and it makes them happy.” In Canada, a man’s wife taped photos of his loved ones to his bedroom window along with messages from them. She did it to help him celebrate his 70th birthday since the couple was unable to have family and friends over to celebrate in person. When the man opened the curtains on his birthday and saw the pictures, he cried tears of joy. Families in a Connecticut neighborhood gather 6 feet apart in the local theater teacher’s yard to watch shadow puppet performances in her front window. The woman has been putting on shows several nights a week to help entertain kids during lockdown. For one performance, she played music from The Wizard of Oz while silently retelling the story with her intricate shadow puppets. A young woman on lockdown in her house played a couple games of tic-tac-toe through her window with a pest control man working in the yard. She marked off a board on the window with a dry-erase marker and used X’s to mark the spots the worker indicated with his finger. According to the video originally posted to TikTok, the girl lost twice. New York state police helped a woman celebrate her 91st birthday by parading past her home in their vehicles and blaring their sirens. For 40 years, she used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for police at a nearby barracks. Thankful for her kindness, the troopers in past years have often dropped by to visit on her birthday. For this year’s noisy parade, the local fire department joined as well.

From Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees AP Photo/Butch Dill, File

The sports industry has suffered along with other entertainment businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing teams and leagues to get creative with their plans for the year. Last week, the NFL had to hold its 2020 draft virtually, and USA Today reported this week that Major League Baseball is seriously considering possibilities for a baseball season with no fans and minimal travel for players. One prominent health official speaking in a New York Times panel said he doesn’t expect fans to be able to view sports in person until fall 2021.

But athletes are still inspiring fans by getting involved in the coronavirus fight. Here are a few professional athletes who have contributed to relief and medical efforts:

Shin-Soo Choo, an outfielder for the Texas Rangers baseball club, promised to donate $1,000 to each of the 191 players on the Rangers’ minor league teams. Memories of his own struggle to support a family on a minor league salary inspired his gift: “I don’t want these guys worrying about money and have it affect their baseball careers. Someday these guys are going to … help us win a championship.” Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced last month he and his wife would donate $5 million to local organizations helping with coronavirus relief in Louisiana. “The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time,” he said in an Instagram post. The money will provide meals for children, seniors, and families in need. This month, Astros pitcher Justin Verlander announced he would donate his paychecks to a different charity each week during the pandemic. Verlander and his wife made the announcement after learning that Major League Baseball would continue paying players despite the suspended season. Last week, the pitcher donated his third paycheck to Covenant House in New York, a shelter for homeless youth. Former Tennessee Titans football player Myron Rolle is one of the many doctors caring for coronavirus patients during the pandemic. Rolle is in year three of his neurosurgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where staff last month transitioned his floor into a ward for COVID-19 patients. “I still wake up in the morning and think of the operating room like a game, like it’s showtime, let’s perform,” he said. Last week, Kansas City Chiefs player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif joined the coronavirus fight at a facility in Montreal. The starting right guard holds a doctorate in medicine. He has not completed the residency portion of the program, but health ministry officials recently began recruiting medical students to help. Before his first day in the hospital, Duvernay-Tardif said, “I felt nervous … but a good nervous, like before a game.”

From Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A Wi-Fi school bus in South Carolina

A Wi-Fi school bus in South Carolina AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

According to the news site Education Week, 43 states and the District of Columbia have ordered or recommended that schools keep their buildings closed for the rest of the academic year. As a result, 45.1 million public school students in the United States are completing their schoolwork at home. That’s only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of students worldwide who are out of school because of the coronavirus. Here are some ways organizations and teachers are helping families deal with this new normal:

A fitness-savvy teacher in England gets his daily exercise by walking 5 miles a day to deliver food to 100 in-need students from his school. “By delivering it myself I can check on vulnerable children,” he explained. “The fewer people on the streets the less coronavirus there is on the street.” During deliveries, he knocks on the door and waits in the yard to talk to the families from a distance. Last month, Google launched a new Teach from Home website for teachers to use during coronavirus lockdowns. The temporary hub provides instructions for using Google products for online learning. The tutorials cover how to share files, how to livestream, and how to start video calls. It also suggests tools to engage students without video calls. A school district in Austin, Texas, has been sending out more than 100 WiFi-equipped school buses to the neighborhoods and apartment complexes of high-needs students. Since these students may otherwise not have internet access, the buses allow the students to continue their schoolwork from home even if their families can’t afford WiFi. In Venezuela, a teacher rides his bike to his students’ homes to collect their homework. He later returns to deliver the corrected assignments. A video of the teacher shows him wearing a face mask as he listens to a woman tell him he is going “above and beyond” with his service. When the woman asks him if the rides give him good exercise, he replies, “Yes, a lot.” To honor local graduating seniors who won’t get a traditional graduation ceremony this spring, one Oklahoma city printed banners showing the name and school portrait of each member of the senior class. Public workers hung the banners on the city’s Main Street. Hillsdale College and its affiliated charter school initiative are offering parents homeschooling tips through YouTube videos and blog posts. The videos cover tips for teaching science, math, and literature at home. One features an education professor giving practical ideas on how to structure a day of home education.

From Monday, April 27, 2020

Capt. Tom Moore

Capt. Tom Moore Joe Giddens/PA via AP

This month, international news outlets covered several creative ways people have encouraged each other to donate money to health programs under strain due to the coronavirus. Here are a few favorites from among this month’s fundraisers:

A javelin thrower in Cheltenham, England, ran a marathon in his small, fenced-in backyard to raise money for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). The course terrain consisted of a small plot of grass, some gravel, and a patio. He raised more than $22,000 and completed the marathon in about five hours. He calculated that he probably crossed his yard 7,000 times to hit the 26.2-mile mark. In Norfolk, England, a 21-year-old music student played piano for 24 hours to raise money for Mind, a mental health charity in England and Wales. His aim was to help people facing anxiety and depression because of the coronavirus. He streamed the day-long performance on Twitch and took requests from listeners. To help himself stay engaged, he took cold showers every eight hours. Army veteran Capt. Tom Moore has raised the equivalent of over $34 million for the U.K.’s NHS by walking 100 laps in his garden in Bedfordshire, England, before his 100th birthday. His initial goal was to raise 1,000 pounds (about $1,200) to help with coronavirus efforts. He far surpassed that goal by his birthday on April 16 and has continued his daily laps, aided by his walker, to keep encouraging donations. Musician and orthopedic surgery resident Elvis Francois released his first EP this month and is donating all proceeds to The Center of Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund. Francois’ EP, entitled “Music is Medicine,” features covers of four popular songs. A fellow medical resident accompanied him on piano for the recordings. Inspired by Capt. Tom Moore, a boy with spina bifida in Bristol, England, has raised more than $43,000 for the NHS by walking 10 meters a day with the aid of his walker. His mother said he saw Moore on television and said, “I want to do that.” Because of his spinal condition, the 6-year-old started walking only 18 months ago. Even walking short distances is still a struggle for him.

From Friday, April 24, 2020

A person holds up a sign as police officers and pedestrians cheer for nurses and medical workers at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

A person holds up a sign as police officers and pedestrians cheer for nurses and medical workers at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

People around the world have found creative ways to encourage each other and thank the many front-line workers making sacrifices during the coronavirus pandemic. These are some of the creative thank-yous that have made the news in the past four weeks:

Police in Fort Meyers, Fla., this week parked 15 vehicles in a heart formation outside a local hospital to show support for medical workers. A few officials held large letters that spell “FMPD THANKS YOU” as the vehicles flashed their red and blue emergency lights. In Spain, hospital workers gave a standing ovation to a taxi driver who had been giving free rides to patients. The medical staff tricked him into the surprise by calling and asking him to pick up a patient at the hospital. As he entered, workers lining the entrance clapped and gave him an envelope of cash. To encourage one another during lockdown, millions of people in India turned out their lights for nine minutes one evening and used flashlights and candles to light up their front porches and balconies. This was the country’s response to the prime minister’s call to “challenge the darkness.” Five F-16 jets from the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds squadron flew over Las Vegas in a V-formation earlier this month to salute first responders and health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. A Swiss light artist has been lighting up the Swiss Alps’ Matterhorn mountain with different images every night since March 24, including flags of various countries. Wednesday night, the flag of Signapore illuminated the mountain. The American flag and messages like #stayhome have also appeared. Last month, residents in Shawnee, Okla., showed their support for medical workers by parking in front of the local hospital and flashing their headlights. A pastor’s wife organized the gathering. Participants tuned in to a prayer service on a local radio station as they sat in the hospital parking lot.

From Thursday, April 23, 2020

Olivia Bucks, left, helps her son Keith Bucks, center, with an online class assignment while Ashton Morris, right, works on a handwriting lesson from their first grade class at Arco Iris Spanish Immersion School in Beaverton, Ore.

Olivia Bucks, left, helps her son Keith Bucks, center, with an online class assignment while Ashton Morris, right, works on a handwriting lesson from their first grade class at Arco Iris Spanish Immersion School in Beaverton, Ore. AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

Groups have turned to online platforms to provide customers with free downloads and streaming services during the coronavirus. Here are a few of the platforms that are helping families stay occupied at home while being productive with their time:

Amazon’s audiobook company Audible is offering free streaming of children’s audiobooks during coronavirus shutdowns. The selection of available titles includes Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, Beatrix Potter’s tales, and some Harry Potter books. Three C.S. Lewis books—The Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Joy, and A Grief Observed—are also available for free listening on the platform. While the Christianbook.com distribution center remains closed through next week, the company is giving away free ebooks and digital downloads on its website. Meanwhile, FaithLife is offering free access to its online library of seminary courses, Bible commentaries, and research materials until June 1. Bible study materials and digital curriculum for churches are also available for free at LifeWay. As a part of its 2020 Bible verse memorization program, Seeds Family Worship is providing free devotionals, videos, and Scripture memory songs for families to use at home. At the website Bible for Children, families and churches can listen to audio clips of Bible stories and download Bible story coloring pages for free. Files for the 95 stories are available in 202 languages. Focus on the Family is offering several of its classic TV and radio programs for free streaming on its website. The service gives families access to programs including Adventures in Odyssey, Radio Theater audio dramatizations of classic stories like The Secret Garden and Ben-Hur, and episodes of Holy Land tours and lectures from That the World May Know. The Gray Havens, a Christian folk pop group, performed its second livestreamed concert Thursday night. The Gray Havens is a member of the Rabbit Room, a community of musicians, authors, and artists that is providing a “digital care package” for families in quarantine. This list of resources includes free downloads and links to other free streamed events, including concerts and read-alouds.

From Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A worker sews face masks in a factory in Le Bardo, outside Tunis, Tunisia, Monday, April 13.

A worker sews face masks in a factory in Le Bardo, outside Tunis, Tunisia, Monday, April 13. AP Photo/Hassene Dridi

As the number of coronavirus cases worldwide approaches 3 million, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, face shields, and medical gowns remain in high demand. Here’s how some groups have been pitching in to help meet increasing need:

Congregants at one West Virginia church spent Easter Sunday making masks and other equipment for local healthcare workers. Families from the 150-person church each took one-hour shifts in a community building originally opened for local artists. They used the building’s 3D printers and sewing machines to churn out hundreds of masks, gowns, and face shields. A Michigan-based chemical company developed a simplified face shield design to help speed up production of the high-demand item. Dow is producing 100,000 face shields for Michigan hospitals and is sharing the design with other fabricators. Last month, the company also announced plans to produce and donate 200 metric tons of hand sanitizer to health systems. Last month, the BBC reported that 150 employees at a factory in Tunisia chose to isolate themselves at work to focus on producing PPE, including 50,000 face masks a day. More than 40 employees at a Pennsylvania plant also volunteered to live in their factory to produce a material needed for N95 masks and other protective gear. They ended their 28-day lockdown earlier this week. Companies are finding ways to repurpose masks used by snorkelers and scuba divers for medical use. Researchers in the United States developed an additional part that would allow healthcare providers to use snorkeling masks in place of N95 masks. Another company in northern Italy designed a scuba mask valve attachment that turns the masks into ventilators. A fishing gear company in Montana is now producing hospital gowns. The company is one of many in Bozeman that have diverted resources to help make hospital equipment. “We recognize that there is only so much government can do, [and] the nonprofit sector of our community plays an important role in emergency response,” one county official said.

From Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Signs in a bookstore window in Brunswick, Maine, encourage residents to stay home on the first day of Maine's mandatory stay-at-home order on April 2.

Signs in a bookstore window in Brunswick, Maine, encourage residents to stay home on the first day of Maine's mandatory stay-at-home order on April 2. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Some good, old-fashioned pastimes have seen a resurgence in recent weeks as more and more people find ways to stay occupied at home. Here are a few:

Several musical instrument retailers have reported an increase in sales as people stuck at home during the coronavirus pick up new skills. More experienced musicians around the world are using their talents to entertain friends—like this family in India who held a mini rock concert on their balcony. An increase in baking during coronavirus lockdowns has led to shortages of yeast and flour in several countries. To encourage alternative cooking activities for home chefs, kitchen appliance companies like Vitamix have started social media promotions—for Vitamix, Chefs @ Home—to teach new recipes and encourage creativity in the kitchen. Garden Centers are seeing a surge in seed sales as homeowners turn to gardening to bond with their families and spend time outside. Gardeners in Michigan, though, face an obstacle to their gardening plans: a seemingly arbitrary state order has forced large stores in the state to close their gardening centers. This prevents some gardeners there from accessing needed seeds, soil, and gardening tools. Some booksellers noticed a spike in book sales during the beginning of the coronavirus lockdowns. Although the spike is unlikely to continue, some booksellers have found creative ways to engage with readers at home. One bookseller in Kansas made plans last month to operate “like a pizza takeout place” with at-home book deliveries or curbside pickups during the pandemic. Artists in lockdown have also learned to get creative with the artistic outlets available in their homes. One famous British street artist created a scene in his bathroom that depicts mischievous rats making a mess. Some bored doodlers have used their spare time to recreate miniature versions of famous art for their pets, making for some silly photo ops.

From Monday, April 20, 2020

Courtney Ansley, of Stanaford, W.Va., left, and her son Mason, 10, display messages as they make a brief stop in a parade of cars past the home of Tammy Evans, who marked the one-year anniversary of her life-saving liver transplant.

Courtney Ansley, of Stanaford, W.Va., left, and her son Mason, 10, display messages as they make a brief stop in a parade of cars past the home of Tammy Evans, who marked the one-year anniversary of her life-saving liver transplant. Rick Barbero/The Register-Herald via AP

Communities around the world have continued to find innovative ways to enjoy time with one another while keeping their distance. Here are a few highlights:

Two tennis players in Italy recently enjoyed a match on their rooftops. A video originally posted to Reddit shows the pair hitting a ball back and forth between the wide terraces of their buildings, which appear to be separated by a street below. Residents of several apartment buildings in England organized their first “isolation disco” dance party at the end of March. Drone footage shows several tall buildings with flashing disco lights illuminating the windows and silhouettes of people dancing. In West Delhi, a group of apartment residents played a game of tambola—another name for bingo—from their balconies. Everyone held their own tambola tickets as one woman used a microphone to call out the numbers. Communities in the United States continue to celebrate big events with car parades. A first-grade teacher at a Catholic school in New York organized a car parade for the birthday of one of her students. In March, friends celebrated a young chemo patient’s final appointment by decorating their cars and lining up on the side of the road to clap as her family drove her home. Residents of neighboring apartments on one street in Italy attached their wine glasses to bamboo sticks to toast one another from their balconies. The neighbors called to one another across the balconies as they clinked their glasses in the air a couple stories above an alley.

From Friday, April 17, 2020

A shopper carries his groceries outside a supermarket in Omaha, Neb.

A shopper carries his groceries outside a supermarket in Omaha, Neb. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website lists older adults and homeless people as populations particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. While the elderly are compromised because of weaker immune systems, the homeless often live in unsanitary conditions. Individuals in both situations face the extra complication of accessing much-needed resources. But some groups are stepping in to help these and other vulnerable populations:

A pair of street performers in Italy fed their city’s homeless during lockdown by lowering baskets of food from their balcony to the streets below. The couple said lowering food baskets is “an old Neapolitan custom.” People in the neighborhood shopping for groceries soon began adding items to the baskets, and a cheesemaker in another region of Italy promised to donate Parmesan cheese. A newspaper carrier in New Jersey left notes at the homes on his route, offering to deliver groceries for free to anyone who couldn’t go shop. As of last week, he had delivered to 100 homes on his route and some in other parts of town. One widowed 85-year-old who took his offer said, “I don’t have enough adjectives. He is one of the finest people in the world.” The Guardian Angels, a group of volunteers in New York City, is giving care packages to the city’s homeless. The volunteers ride the public transportation system and hand out water, food, and other essentials to homeless people who agree to have their hands and faces washed in an alcohol solution. Last week, the group said it feeds about 80 people in an average day and up to 180 a day on weekends. In several Vietnam cities, donors set up “rice ATMs” to help feed people struggling to access food during the coronavirus. The ATMs—actually water tanks—dispense rice daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Operators of the ATMs require people waiting in line to stand 6 feet apart and use hand sanitizer before filling their bags. The ATMs will operate through June. In March, a New Jersey church launched an aid movement called Boxes of Hope to help individuals during the coronavirus outbreak. It began when the church delivered groceries to the home of a member who tested positive for COVID-19. The church later partnered with two disaster relief organizations to send out more boxes. Boxes of Hope has since expanded to churches in 18 states.

From Thursday, April 16, 2020

Pepperell Christian Fellowship

Pepperell Christian Fellowship Handout

The medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are making significant sacrifices. Their heavy workloads and heightened chances of contracting the deadly virus often mean they have to give up the comforts of their personal lives. Some hospital personnel moved out of their homes to avoid introducing the virus to their children and spouses. Some have even had to sleep in their cars. Here are some ways people are helping doctors and nurses as they make these difficult sacrifices:

Sam’s Club, a membership-only retail warehouse chain, is offering special “hero hours” for medical workers and first responders. Even workers in these categories who are not Sam’s Club members can shop at the store between 8 and 10 a.m. every Sunday beginning on April 19. The chain will also provide facemasks for people to wear as they shop. In March, two Texas moms created RVs 4 MDs, a volunteer organization and Facebook group that match medical workers with available RVs for free. Posts in the Facebook group say some medical workers have slept in garages or on apartment porches to avoid spreading the virus to their families. The RVs give them a better place to sleep while social distancing. When universities in the United Kingdom canceled classes and hospital placements for medical students, many decided to use their extra time running errands and providing childcare for hospital workers on the front lines. To match volunteers with medical families, medical students from London started an online network that developed into the website nationalhealthsupporters.com. Universities in Boston are opening campus housing to the area’s hospital workers. The dorms at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design are available to 150 medical staff, and Harvard University is turning its Harvard Square Hotel over to medical personnel and first responders. Several other Massachusetts colleges have also prepared dozens of rooms for frontlines workers. At least seven hotels in Kingston, Ontario, are offering discounted room prices to doctors and nurses looking for a place to stay. One local hotel manager said, “They have families and possibly elderly parents at home, so it’s a real risk for the hospital workers, and where would we be now without them? We need to take care of them.”

From Wednesday, April 15, 2020

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Large companies and celebrities are donating big bucks to help coronavirus relief efforts, but sometimes the unexpected gifts of everyday people are the most inspiring acts of charity. Here are a few stories of random acts of kindness from around the world:

A British couple got married last month in front of two witnesses but had to cancel their reception. When their caterer asked if they would donate their hog roast to hospital workers, they quickly agreed. The charity Hull4Heroes helped them pay for the food. After serving the food, the charity’s founder said, “Everyone was delighted. Even the head of the hospital came out and thanked us.” At the end of March, a Brooklyn landlord posted notes on the front doors of his approximately 80 apartment buildings telling residents he would be waiving rent for the month of April. Talking about his approximately 200 residents, the man said, “Don’t worry about paying me, worry about your neighbor and worry about your family.” In response, one unemployed resident said, “He’s Superman.” In Australia, a man stood in line outside his bank for an hour to withdraw $10,000 from his account. He then distributed cash to people lined up outside of government services buildings, waiting for unemployment payments. “It made me sick to the stomach,” he said. “These people need instant pain relief. … They need to put food in [sic] the table tonight.” Earlier this month, residents of the 549 homes in Earlham, Iowa, opened their mailboxes to find three $50 gift cards to local businesses. An anonymous donor purchased the cards to support the businesses and give residents a pick-me-up during the coronavirus lockdowns. The total cost of the cards added up to more than $82,000. In 18 hours, a community in South Carolina raised more than $20,000 to purchase a car for a beloved Target cashier. One of the woman’s regular customers started the GoFundMe page after finding out she takes the bus to get to work. The cashier has worked at Target for 17 years, and her customers say they go into her line on purpose because she remembers their children’s names and tells them to have a blessed day.

From Tuesday, April 14, 2020

JP Rothenberg, right, gives daughter Evelynn, 5, a high five over the head of son Jack, 6, after completing an egg tapping battle in the backyard of their home in Glen Burnie, Md.

JP Rothenberg, right, gives daughter Evelynn, 5, a high five over the head of son Jack, 6, after completing an egg tapping battle in the backyard of their home in Glen Burnie, Md. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The coronavirus lockdowns across the country mean a lot of extra time at home. To help individuals and families avoid boredom while making the most of the long hours in the house, businesses and blogs are offering resources and suggestions for how to be productive and have fun without going anywhere. Here are a few:

Trail Life USA, a church-based adventure organization for boys, is inviting families to join a nationwide “backyard campout” this Friday. The organization’s website offers a number of resources for the overnight campout including activity ideas and campout recipes. On the site, families can also register for the event and enter for a prize drawing. Dairy Queen launched a Play at Home website where families can download free resources for indoor activities, including a shadow puppet guide, a “playbook” with game ideas, a Dairy Queen-themed coloring book, and cards with conversation prompts. The craft and design blog Little House Studio is encouraging readers to deliver goodies to neighbors as a way of showing love during the coronavirus lockdown. The blog’s author offers a set of free downloadable cards for families to include in their bundles. One includes space for families to include their contact information so that self-isolating neighbors know how to contact them for help. Fender, a guitar manufacturing company, is offering three months of free guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons online. The lesson material is available for phones, tablets, or computers. Fender is extending the offer to the first 1 million people who sign up. Joann Fabrics has been posting free craft classes on the company YouTube channel. Joann is also partnering with the craft site Creativebug to offer a free, two-month Creativebug subscription. With the subscription, crafters can access more classes and downloadable patterns and recipes.

From Monday, April 13, 2020

Residents take part in an aerobics class led by city police instructing from the street below during a lockdown ordered by the government in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, in Bogota, Colombia.

Residents take part in an aerobics class led by city police instructing from the street below during a lockdown ordered by the government in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, in Bogota, Colombia. AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

Friends and neighbors around the world are finding innovative ways to be together while still practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the more creative dates and group events that have made the news and social media in recent weeks:

Police officers in Bogota, Colombia, have been organizing Zumba lessons for the public stuck in their homes. The officers, dressed in their uniforms and wearing masks, lead the lessons from the sidewalk as people join in from their windows and balconies. A couple in Charlotte, N.C., stopped their red pickup truck in the parking lot of a local Italian restaurant and laid out a picnic for themselves. The couple set up a card table in the trunk of the pickup, covered it with a red checkered tablecloth, and ate as they sat on folding chairs. A German man and a Danish woman can’t meet on their regular dates because the German government closed its borders with neighboring countries. So the two meet at the barricaded border between Germany and Denmark for regular coffee dates. They are both in their 80s and have been dating for two years. In Australia, a group of senior citizens in Perth Senior Village sat at the end of their driveways to enjoy some drinks together while maintaining social distancing. One of the neighbors described the scene: “We all took our drinks and nibbles and enjoyed the music played on Trish’s old record player. Very relaxing.” Italy has been on lockdown since early March. Since then, Italians have been confined to their homes except when traveling for work or for emergencies. To get some socialization without leaving the house, two neighbors in Italy set up a table between their balconies. The pair shared drinks and a meal and played card games together.

From Friday, April 10, 2020

A customer wearing a mask leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

A customer wearing a mask leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic in the Brooklyn borough of New York. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The coronavirus pandemic has different effects on different businesses. Some have no way of making money under new government restrictions, and their employees face the challenges of supporting their families without an income. Others are booming to the point that employees are overworked and overexposed to the threat of the virus. Here’s how some businesses and communities are supporting employees:

Several retailers normally open on Easter will close this year to give employees a break. The retailers include Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and a handful of other stores that provide what state and local governments consider “essential” services. Trader Joe’s said the closures would be “to give our incredible Crew Members a much-needed day of rest.” Some Uber drivers have seen an 80-percent drop in their income since the pandemic began. To help them, the rideshare company has launched Work Hub, a database where Uber drivers can find work openings with other, higher-demand Uber services like Uber Eats and job postings from businesses outside the Uber network. A Florida ballet company has canceled two of its biggest programs and expects to see an $800,000 loss in revenue. But the company’s directors have pledged to retain their 50-plus dancers and pay their salaries and medical insurance for the duration of their current contracts. “We could not just lay off our dancers and effectively abandon them at this critical moment,” one director said. Last month, Target launched a 30-day paid leave program for employees vulnerable to COVID-19, which includes senior citizens, pregnant mothers, and employees with previous medical conditions. The company also raised hourly salaries by $2 an hour, gave bonuses to 20,000 hourly employees, and donated $10 million to relief efforts. Small town Midland, Mich., launched a T-shirt campaign to help support the town’s small businesses. A local company is selling shirts and bumper stickers with a newly created Midland logo and is putting 90 percent of profits from the sales toward supporting local businesses and organizations. The campaign has already raised more than $40,000.

From Thursday, April 9, 2020

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

With most families stuck at home for Easter weekend because of the coronavirus, Christian organizations are looking for ways to help people celebrate. Here are a few examples of how they’re doing that:

The Christian Television Network TBN is releasing the theatrical stage production JESUS for free streaming on Easter weekend, beginning Friday. The professional play, filmed during a past performance in front of a live audience, depicts the ministry of Jesus as told in the gospels. Last month, the Gospel Project posted a list of free resources for children’s ministry leaders and parents to use with children over Holy Week. The free downloads include activity pages, posters, and videos. The post also provides a list of fun activities and games for families at home. Christian humanitarian organization World Vision is co-hosting a special online Good Friday event Friday evening, featuring special guest speakers and musicians including Francis Chan, Ravi Zacharias, and Lauren Daigle. Seeds Family Worship has been streaming free children’s services on Sunday evenings and will continue with a special Easter service on Sunday. The videos, available on the Seeds Facebook page, include songs with word-for-word Scripture and a brief message from Seeds founder Jason Houser. Answers in Genesis is offering a free online event that will begin on Good Friday and conclude on Easter Sunday. Broadcast from the Creation Museum in Kentucky, the event will feature a lineup of speakers, special children’s programs, an Easter hymns concert, and devotionals.

From Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Safety splash shields on display at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.

Safety splash shields on display at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. Eric Jacuzzi/NASCAR via AP

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The same day, two players on the Utah Jazz basketball team tested positive for COVID-19, and the NBA suspended the rest of the season. Then the NCAA canceled all scheduled games for the rest of the year. The precautionary measures had a ripple effect through the rest of the country: By the end of the week, President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency, other sports leagues canceled their events, and the next week California issued the first statewide stay-at-home order. Since then, sports teams, athletes, and other industry organizations have stepped up in the fight against the coronavirus. Here are some notable examples:

To help ease the isolation of the vulnerable elderly population, a NASCAR racing team raised money to donate tablets to residents of two Virginia nursing homes. They now can video chat with their friends and family. NASCAR’s research and development branch is also producing face shields for healthcare workers. A leading maker of hockey equipment is repurposing materials once used for hockey visors to make medical-grade face shields. “We’re not expecting to make any profit on this,” said the company’s vice president of global marketing. “One of the benefits … is to be able to have some of our people in the manufacturing plants be able to work.” Last week, the NFL’s New England Patriots used the team plane to bring more than a million N95 masks from China to the United States. The Kraft family, the team’s owners, paid $2 million to cover the cost of half of the masks. China gave the crew a three-hour window to stay on the ground during the pickup, and the plane took off with just three minutes to spare. A maker of Major League Baseball jerseys started making medical gowns and masks last month. The company is working with the same fabric it normally uses for baseball jerseys. The company made the first available items with New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies fabric, but plans to include fabric from other teams as well. Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai donated masks, goggles, and ventilators to New York last week to help the state meet the increasing need for medical equipment. According to CNN, the donation included 1.3 million KN95 masks, a China-produced equivalent of the coveted N95 masks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the alternative mask for use last week.

From Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar

Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar Steve Humphreys / PA via AP

Political leaders across the globe are using their own skills and interests to help their countries fight the coronavirus and its economic repercussions. Here are ways a few leaders have inspired their own countrymen in the past several weeks:

In March, Ireland’s health service requested retired medical workers to join the fight against COVID-19. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was one of 50,000 medics to volunteer within 72 hours. The former doctor worked in medicine until switching to politics in 2013. He now serves one day a week and assesses potential coronavirus patients in phone calls. Before entering quarantine two weeks ago after palace staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the Queen of Malaysia had been cooking for Malaysian medical workers. In the days leading up to her quarantine, she posted pictures on Instagram of vegetable, chicken, and fish dishes as well as baked goods she had prepared for hospital personnel. The president of Kenya and his deputy announced last month they would cut their own pay by 80 percent so the government could spend more to fight the coronavirus. Nairobi’s head of state announced other government officials would take 20-30 percent pay cuts. The president challenged other governmental branches to also make “voluntary reductions.” In a press conference Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country’s government considers both the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy “essential workers.” But she encouraged children to cut the bunny some slack this year in case he can’t make it to every home: “They’re going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies.” The mayor of Arlington, Texas, started a social media campaign to raise money for a local charity, Mission Arlington, while supporting local businesses. Mayor Jeff Williams pledged to donate when the city’s residents post photos of food they ordered to-go from local restaurants: $25 for the first 100 photos. “As a small businessman myself, I know these are tough times,” he said.​

From Monday, April 6, 2020

Pepperell Christian Fellowship

Pepperell Christian Fellowship Handout

Last Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added talking to list of ways people can transmit the coronavirus to each other. The virus’s highly contagious nature has required hospitals and nursing homes to put strict limitations on visitors. State governments have also implemented similar safety measures, encouraging residents to practice “social distancing” by not coming within 6 feet of someone who is not already a part of their household. These restrictions limit how friends and family gather during the pandemic. But some people have discovered plenty to do through a window. Here are some examples:

When one of his sixth-grade math students emailed with a question about her algebra lesson, a South Dakota math teacher decided to explain the concept in person rather than through email. He brought a whiteboard and marker to the student’s house and stood on the front porch as she watched from a safe distance through the screen door. Two new grandparents in Boston couldn’t enter the hospital to meet their newborn grandson this weekend. Instead, they stood on the sidewalk below the hospital room as the new parents held the baby to the window. “We wanted him to know we were there, at least 10 stories below,” said the grandfather. The grandparents held up signs saying “Welcome Jack.” A man in Texas couldn’t be with his wife in person during her chemotherapy treatment because of the hospital’s strict no-visitor policy during the coronavirus outbreak. So he parked his car in the hospital parking lot next to the wing where his wife would be. He showed off a homemade sign that said, “I can’t be with you, but I am here loving you! Thank you to all the staff!!!” Although they can’t enter the buildings, family members of first-floor nursing home residents have been visiting with their loved ones through the windows of their rooms. One Ohio man visited his mother’s third-floor window with the aid of his company’s bucket truck. When she saw her son outside her window, the woman said, “Oh, my awesome kid, what are you doing?” An 80-year-old Alabama man spends about 15 minutes a day singing to his wife through her nursing home window. She has Alzheimer’s, so he continues the daily visits to help her remember him while he’s unable to visit in person: “If she gets where she doesn’t know me, I will still go see her, because I will still know her.”

From Friday, April 3, 2020

A teddy bear hangs on a fence outside a house in Christchurch, New Zealand. New Zealanders are embracing an international movement in which people are placing teddy bears in their windows during coronavirus lockdowns to brighten the mood and give children a game to play by spotting the bears in their neighborhoods.

A teddy bear hangs on a fence outside a house in Christchurch, New Zealand. New Zealanders are embracing an international movement in which people are placing teddy bears in their windows during coronavirus lockdowns to brighten the mood and give children a game to play by spotting the bears in their neighborhoods. AP Photo/Mark Baker

Because of COVID-19, organizers have closed museums, canceled races, and postponed musical performances. But friends and families stuck in their homes are still finding ways to pursue their interests and enjoy activities together. Here are some highlights from around the world:

A Grand Rapids, Mich., neighborhood put on a scavenger hunt by placing items in their windows or yards for children to find. One woman posted on the neighborhood Facebook page a map and list of the items as a guide to participants. This neighborhood, and others throughout the country, have also done “bear hunts,” which involve finding the teddy bears hidden in windows and on trees. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles invited quarantined art fanatics to recreate famous paintings and post the pictures on social media. The rules are to use the people and everyday objects around your house. The museum has received several hilarious responses, including a clever reenactment of “The Arnolfini Wedding” by Jan van Eyck involving a large green comforter and a crockpot. With most other sports on hold during the pandemic, marble racing is finally getting its time in the spotlight. Two brothers in the Netherlands started marble racing a couple years ago with their own elaborately made tracks, but the avant-garde sport really got rolling last week when one of their marble racing videos went viral on Twitter. More marble races with sports-style commentary are available on the brothers’ YouTube channel. Homebound dancers are still practicing their moves, even while they’re off the dance floor. Last weekend, one grandfather who lives across the street from his granddaughter enjoyed a dance-off with the 6-year-old while social distancing. They each stood on a side of the street and took turns busting moves to the loud music. In Brazil, a dedicated couple dressed up for some swing dancing in their living room. Musical people are enjoying the extra time to write songs—especially parodies with a coronavirus twist. A family of six in the United Kingdom wrote and performed a parody of “One Day More” from the musical Les Misérables. Two grandparents came up with a re-write of the song “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music, and a YouTuber posted a video of himself performing quarantine-style versions of popular Disney songs.

From Thursday, April 2, 2020

Seamstress Adita Rodriguez sews a surgical mask at Sareh Nouri's atelier in Rutherford, N.J.

Seamstress Adita Rodriguez sews a surgical mask at Sareh Nouri's atelier in Rutherford, N.J. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people probably didn’t think much of humdrum products like toilet paper, face masks, and hand sanitizer. Now, they’re some of the hottest items on the market. Store shortages in these pandemic-era valuables mean some people who need them the most can’t get them. But families and businesses are doing what they can to change that. Here are some examples of their charity:

The craft and fabrics store Joann has donated fabric for homemade masks and invites customers to join their goal of making 100 million homemade masks for medical personnel. The company website features step-by-step instructions for sewing the masks. The CDC says homemade masks offer an extra layer of protection and can help free up the higher-tech surgical masks for emergency use. Some distilleries have started making hand sanitizer to meet the increasing need. Last month, a brewery in Arizona known for beer and spirits switched one of its locations to focus entirely on producing hand sanitizer. The company packed hundreds of gallons of the sanitizer into kegs to deliver it to hospitals. Distilleries in Texas and Florida have also made the switch. A college student from Kentucky designed a facemask for families and friends of the deaf and hard of hearing. The mask has see-through plastic material in front of the mouth that makes it easier to read lips and see facial expressions. She and her mom have been sewing the masks using material from bedsheets and a roll of plastic material they already had at home. People are leaving out free goodies for their busy delivery drivers. One man marked the giveaways on his porch with a handwritten sign saying, “Delivery drivers: Take it if you need it! Thank you for your hard work!” An arrow pointed to packages of toilet paper and bottles of hand sanitizer. One driver who took some toilet paper told the man, “You’re a lifesaver. Thank you.” When a Minnesota state trooper pulled over a doctor for speeding last month, he replaced the speeding ticket with five of his own N95 masks. The masks were still in their packages when he handed them to her through the window. The doctor had been reusing her own N95 mask while at the hospital to help prevent a possible shortage and said she cried at the state trooper’s gift.

From Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pepperell Christian Fellowship

Pepperell Christian Fellowship Handout

As of Tuesday, the governments of 32 states and Washington, D.C., have issued stay-at-home orders. Some cities in states that haven’t yet applied these measures have made similar declarations, meaning that about 80 percent of all Americans are stuck at home. The stay-at-home orders in some states expire within a matter of days, but the state governments are likely to extend those orders further into the spring. Virginia issued its first stay-at-home order on Monday, in effect until June 10.

With so many stuck at home, here are some ways people are keeping themselves occupied.

One couple used an iPhone to play a remote game of Scattergories with family members stuck at home 20 miles away. Both groups set up their phones and laptops on tables so they could watch the people in the other house while playing the game. Some more intense game players have gone to elaborate lengths to set up remote card games, pulling out cardboard boxes and lamps to get the best camera shot for their friends. Drone technology has kept life interesting for some home-bound people. Last month, a lockdown in Cyprus prevented a man from bringing his dog for a walk. So he tied his dog’s leash to a drone and controlled it from his balcony while the dog strolled down the street. In Brooklyn, N.Y., a man in lockdown used his drone to ask out a neighbor he saw dancing on her roof. During quarantine in Spain, a pianist set up a keyboard on his apartment balcony and performed a song from the movie Titanic. A saxophone player from a couple balconies away soon joined in. Neighbors watching from the street below and from nearby apartment windows clapped and cheered at the spontaneous performance. Christian musicians are finding ways to connect with audiences during social distancing. Modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty and their four young daughters have been streaming weekly family hymn singings from their home. The community of Christian artists at the Rabbit Room has also begun a series of livestreamed musical performances and poetry readings. Rabbit Room musician and author Andrew Peterson has been streaming live readings of his children’s books series The Wingfeather Saga. Peterson’s daily readings continue nightly at 7 p.m. central. Wednesday is the 13th night of him reading the first book of the series. Read-alongs like Peterson’s have become a trend among authors and actors during the coronavirus. Last month, the lead actress from the 1995 film Pride and Prejudice, Jennifer Ehle, started streaming live readings of Jane Austen’s classic novel on her Instagram page.

From Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Medical supplies and a stretcher displayed before a news conference at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.

Medical supplies and a stretcher displayed before a news conference at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Medical equipment and staff are in high demand as hospitals reach peak capacity under the steady influx of COVID-19 patients. New York alone has almost half of the country’s confirmed cases of the coronavirus. In New York City, the mayor said the hospitals only have enough masks and gloves to last the week. Yesterday, the governor called for doctors and nurses around the country come to help the beleaguered state. Here’s what other groups are doing to address the same shortages:

A New York University medical school announced last week it would allow students to graduate early to get more medical personnel into hospitals fighting the coronavirus. Students from the class of 2020 are eligible if they have already fulfilled their graduation requirements and if they will volunteer to join a New York University hospital starting in April. Dyson—a British company known for making fans and vacuum cleaners—is switching gears to start manufacturing ventilators. According to CNN, Dyson designed and built its own new ventilator in 10 days after receiving a request from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The company’s founder said the ventilators will be ready in early April. Airbnb is pitching in by offering free or subsidized housing to 100,000 first responders, relief workers, and healthcare professionals. Airbnb will waive fees for hosts using the platform during the crisis and invites them to offer their housing for free if possible. In downtown New York, the Four Seasons hotel is also offering free housing to medical workers. A handful of ABC TV shows are donating prop medical equipment from their sets to local hospitals. The medical drama Grey’s Anatomy contributed gloves and surgical gowns, and the spinoff show Station 19 gave away 300 N95 masks, which can protect against COVID-19. A mattress company in Georgia is donating 10,000 mattresses to New York City hospitals. Serta Simmons Bedding is completing the donation in partnership with Relief Bed International, a nonprofit that provides bedding to homeless shelters. The company says it can inexpensively produce up to 20,000 beds per day if the need for mattresses continues.

From Monday, March 30, 2020

A lit Christmas tree hangs from a pole at dusk as holiday lights illuminate downtown in Farmington, N.H. As the coronavirus spreads, holiday lights are going back up to provide a bit of emotional and actual brightness.

A lit Christmas tree hangs from a pole at dusk as holiday lights illuminate downtown in Farmington, N.H. As the coronavirus spreads, holiday lights are going back up to provide a bit of emotional and actual brightness. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

As worldwide COVID-19 deaths hit 36,000 and counting, there’s plenty of bad news to go around. But people around the world are still finding ways to have fun and encourage each other during the pandemic.

Communities in several countries have shown support for local medical workers by coming together to clap for the hard work they’ve done in fighting the coronavirus. The first community celebration of this kind happened this January in Wuhan, China, and later took off in Italy and Britain as well. The city of Seattle organized a collective celebration last Thursday night. People participated by clapping, yelling, banging pots and pans, and playing musical instruments. In several neighborhoods across the United States, families are re-hanging their Christmas lights to bring a little cheer to people stuck at home during the pandemic. One Rhode Island family used the activity as a way to keep busy while spending time together. Some families who have joined in by turning on their own Christmas lights admit they never actually took theirs down. American actor John Krasinski launched his new YouTube channel, “Some Good News,” this weekend to highlight some of the positive things happening in the world during the pandemic. On Sunday night, he posted the channel’s first homemade video, featuring video calls with fellow actor from The Office Steve Carrell and a young cancer patient. Some medical workers have taken to dancing to keep their own spirits up while working long hours on the job. Videos on social media show nurses attempting a hands-free partner dance popularized on the social media platform TikTok. A Twitter post from Sunday shows Israeli medical workers at a coronavirus testing site busting dance moves as patients cheer from their car. Without any games to announce, a British rugby commentator started slyly filming Londoners going about everyday life and voicing over the videos with a fast-paced, sports style commentary. Viewers have asked him for more of the hilarious videos, but he said that it’s not always easy to get away with filming people in public.

From Friday, March 27, 2020

Brothers John Evan, 9, left, an elementary student, and Mason Sinclair, 12, a middle school student, extend their learning with virtual projects on their Chromebooks at their home.

Brothers John Evan, 9, left, an elementary student, and Mason Sinclair, 12, a middle school student, extend their learning with virtual projects on their Chromebooks at their home. AP Photo/Dan Busey, The Decatur Daily

According to the website Education Week, most U.S. schools will remain closed into the month of April. Schools in four states are closed “until further notice.” In total, the coronavirus has shuttered 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and kept an estimated 55.1 million students out of the classroom. This rise in “accidental homeschooling” has forced both parents and teachers to find creative ways to cope with their new normal.

One Christian school in Lansing, Mich., created a parody of the popular Disney songs “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Go” to announce the launch of their online classes. The video features shots of the head of the school and the middle and high school principal singing as they wander the school’s empty halls. Early this week, a high school principal in North Carolina decided to visit each of his school’s seniors to make them feel special during a disappointing conclusion to their final year. To get to each of the school’s 420 seniors in the next few weeks, his goal is to visit 10 a day. He’s recording videos of each student and plans to compile the recordings into a highlight reel at the end of each week. Teachers and veteran homeschooling moms are finding ways to help parents now tasked with teaching their own kids at home. The homeschooling resource Sophia Homeschool created an “accidental homeschooling” page on their website where parents new to homeschooling can request free help from more experienced homeschoolers. Sophia Homeschooling offers online tutoring as well as a Facebook group where parents solicit advice from the homeschool community. The developer of the video game Minecraft is offering free educational content for students and teachers to help keep young minds learning during extended time at home. The programs include a virtual tour of the International Space Station, logic puzzle games, and a game that teaches about generating power. Some educational organizations have launched online courses for families in search of new material to study while cooped up at home. The Great Courses is offering a free trial for online access to courses and lectures. This week, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview provided a free online short course in worldview and culture.

From Thursday, March 26, 2020

Papa John’s is one pizza company in need of more workers.

Papa John’s is one pizza company in need of more workers. AP Photo/John Raoux, File

At least 18 states have closed all non-essential businesses, meaning that many small businesses and restaurants have had to lay off employees temporarily in their struggle to stay afloat. But other businesses are booming because of the coronavirus. Because so many people are stuck at home, takeout food and online shopping have seen a spike, which increases these businesses’ need for workers. Meanwhile, shoppers continue to do what they can to keep their favorite local stores in business, and some people with money to spare have taken generous measures to help fill the pockets of people left without work because of COVID-19.

With the increase of online shopping, Amazon is inviting laid-off hospitality workers to apply for one of the 100,000 new job openings with the online retail giant. The company is also raising its hourly wages and launching a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal employees. Amazon will use the fund to help employees experiencing financial strain during the coronavirus. Pizza chains are also seeing an influx of orders. Several companies announced thousands of new job openings. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s combined are looking for 50,000 new workers. Papa John’s announced intentions to make the application and hiring process “quick and simple” so that people in need of employment can begin working as soon as possible. Retail giant Walmart is looking to hire 150,000 new employees to meet increasing demand. Earlier this month, the company also announced plans to set up coronavirus testing stations in store parking lots. Drive-thru locations opened in two Illinois cities this weekend. Communities are supporting local businesses by purchasing gift cards or leaving extra tips. The website Asheville Strong provides residents of the North Carolina city with an easy-to-navigate database of local businesses and recommendations for how to support them. A coffee shop in small town Michigan invited customers to leave virtual tips using Venmo. The manager displayed names of the givers and the gifted amounts on sticky notes in the shop window. Two professional basketball players—Kevin Love and Zion Williamson—have pledged money to help pay arena workers who are now out of work because of canceled NBA games. Love donated $100,000 to Cleveland Cavaliers arena staff, and Williamson committed to cover salaries for all New Orleans Pelicans arena staff workers for 30 days. Meanwhile, the mayor of a city in Florida is donating his salary to help city residents pay their utility bills.

From Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Two visitors take a selfie with the Olympic “Flame of Recovery” burning during its display ceremony Wednesday. IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed to a proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.

Two visitors take a selfie with the Olympic “Flame of Recovery” burning during its display ceremony Wednesday. IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed to a proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Organizers have canceled numerous major events around the world to help halt the spread of COVID-19: film and music festivals, concerts, parades, races, games, and most recently the 2020 summer Olympics. Meanwhile, an increasing number of national, state, and local governments are ordering citizens to “shelter-in-place”—basically an order to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out for groceries or “essential” work. With so many families and individuals barred from public gatherings, people have come up with creative ways to enjoy group events without the crowds.

Despite lockdowns and race cancellations, runners are still finding ways to get exercise. In France, a man ran an entire marathon distance on his 23-foot balcony during the country’s lockdown. After organizers called off the San Diego half marathon, two moms ran the 13.1 miles on their own. Their two daughters stretched a long sheet of toilet paper across the sidewalk as a finish line. Some drive-in movie theaters are seeing a surge in popularity due to social distancing, and at least one church has adopted the idea. The First Baptist Church in Olive, Okla., hosted a drive-in church service this weekend. The pastor preached from a flatbed trailer in the church’s parking lot as members of the congregation sat in their vehicles. When the preacher called for an “Amen,” the congregants honked their horns. In lieu of in-person performances, several popular musicians moved their concerts online. Thanks to technology, fans can livestream home-shows of some artists using streaming platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Last week, the Christian band the Gray Havens announced it will host a free online concert on its website Thursday at 8 p.m. central. Unable to have classes in person, a ballet school in North Carolina is now holding dance classes online. Students can log in for a livestream of the class or watch a recording later. For those not already in a dance class, one online dance studio released free online classes with professional dancers and choreographers. The limits on social gatherings have disrupted personal parties as well, so some friend groups have celebrated with car parades instead. In New Jersey, friends and family celebrated a little girl’s fourth birthday by driving past her home and honking their horns as she waved from the yard. Friends of an Arkansas couple helped them celebrate the gender reveal of their baby by holding a similar celebration, this time with cars decked out in pink balloons and streamers.

From Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A patient wears a protective face mask as medical workers unload her from an ambulance at The Brooklyn Hospital Center emergency room in New York.

A patient wears a protective face mask as medical workers unload her from an ambulance at The Brooklyn Hospital Center emergency room in New York. AP Photo/John Minchillo

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases worldwide, so does the need for hospital equipment, health care workers, and supplies to help block further spread of the coronavirus. Some businesses and individuals are pitching in through donations or volunteer work. Others are using their skills to meet increasing demand directly. Here are a few examples of how some groups are helping the strained medical system:

Doctors and nurses around the world have come out of retirement to help fight the novel coronavirus. In a single day last week, 1,000 retired New York healthcare workers volunteered to help in the state’s overwhelmed hospitals. Similar stories have come out of Canada and the United Kingdom. As Italian hospitals started running out of essential medical equipment, a manufacturing company in northern Italy began using its 3D printer to make valves for respiratory machines. In the United States, auto companies including General Motors and Ford are in talks to begin manufacturing ventilators to meet an imminent shortage in the United States. Christian hip-hop singer Lecrae partnered with an Atlanta nonprofit last week to assemble and install portable hand-washing stations across the city. The small white stations hold up to 5 gallons of water and include refillable soap dispensers. The hope is that the city’s homeless will use the stations and help prevent the spread of the virus among their vulnerable population. A furniture manufacturer in Washington last week halted production of chairs and couches and switched to making surgical masks and face shields. Larger companies like the clothing brand Hanes and auto company Fiat Chrysler also plan to start churning out masks to meet increasing demand. California-based tool retailer Harbor Freight is donating its entire supply of gloves, N95 masks, and face shields to hospitals in the communities that have Harbor Freight stores. Other companies including IKEA, Apple, and Target are also giving away millions of masks to healthcare workers.

From Monday, March 23, 2020

Miriam Bago uses hand sanitizer before eating lunch at Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County Inc., on March 4 in Miami.

Miriam Bago uses hand sanitizer before eating lunch at Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County Inc., on March 4 in Miami. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of coronavirus deaths in the United States have been in adults 65 years or older. The high death rate among the elderly follows trends in China and Italy, where the elderly have also made up the majority of the death toll. This makes senior citizens one of the most vulnerable demographics as COVID-19 continues to spread.

To protect this segment of the population, nursing homes have locked down completely, and state governments are encouraging other elderly people to stay at home. Meanwhile, communities and individuals have found creative ways to help ease the burden of isolation for senior citizens.

Two Columbus, Ohio, siblings performed a mini cello concert for an elderly shut-in neighbor to help ease her extended isolation. Dressed in formal concert clothes, they brought their instruments to their 78-year-old neighbor’s porch and played for her—all while maintaining the 6-foot “social distancing” guideline. On St. Patrick’s Day, a daughter of two residents of a Birmingham, Ala., retirement home brought her violin and a music stand to the parking lot below her parents’ balcony. She played the song “Danny Boy” as her parents watched from above and her father sang along. An elderly man in Connecticut couldn’t spend his 67th anniversary with his wife because her nursing home was on lockdown. So he bought balloons and stood outside of her window, holding a sign that said, “I’ve loved you 67 years and still do. Happy Anniversary.” She blew kisses at him through her window. Family members of other shut-ins have found similar ways to celebrate with their loved ones. A New York woman had to cancel her 95th birthday party because of the coronavirus, but family members lined up on the sidewalk in front of her home and sang “Happy Birthday” as they held signs and balloons. She smiled and waved from her porch. A nursing home in North Carolina allows family members to visit with residents by stopping by their windows. The son of one resident makes frequent visits and sits by his dad’s window while they talk to each other on the phone. Young people across the country have organized volunteer groups to pick up groceries for elderly shut-ins. A recent college graduate in Charlotte created an account on the social media network Nextdoor offering to run errands for local retirees. Several people took him up on the offer. He delivered groceries and even fulfilled one request for nails from Lowe’s.

From Friday, March 20, 2020

In Keego Harbor, Mich., Monday, Roosevelt Elementary School student Connor Hall picks up a lunch from West Bloomfield School District worker Melissa Gonzalez.

In Keego Harbor, Mich., Monday, Roosevelt Elementary School student Connor Hall picks up a lunch from West Bloomfield School District worker Melissa Gonzalez. AP Photo/Ryan Garza

As the coronavirus lockdown spreads across the nation, some families are struggling to make ends meet. School-aged children who normally get a meal at the school cafeteria can’t count on that free lunch now that schools have shut down. And parents who lose their jobs because of the virus won’t always be able to cover extra meals in their tightening budgets. To address this problem, a growing number of restaurants and other businesses have made their own sacrifices to help make sure no one goes without a meal.

Some school districts have organized meal pickup locations for students out of school. In Dearborn, Mich., public school students age 18 and under can pick up a free lunch and breakfast from any of seven “grab and go” locations across the district. These meals will be available in Dearborn through at least April 3. Local restaurants in cities across the United States are providing free meals for children, each with their own style. A pie company in North Carolina is packing brown bags with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, milk, and a cookie. A restaurant and wine bar in Rochester, Minn., offers children freshly baked bread and pasta with their choice of marinara or meat sauce. Celebrity chef José Andrés is transforming eight of his now-closed restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C., into gourmet soup kitchens. For those who can afford it, the to-go meals will cost $7 apiece, but Andres says the food will also be available for those who don’t have the money. Those who want to help have the option to donate a meal. Disney is donating surplus food from its California and Florida theme parks to food banks. Cast members from the Walt Disney World Resort joined the park’s distribution team Tuesday to gather and organize the food before passing it on to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, who will distribute it to needy families. Due to several statewide restrictions on dine-in seating, many restaurants are only offering take-out meals. To help bring in business, one Mexican restaurant in Costa Mesa, Calif., is throwing in a free toilet paper roll for every $20 in takeout orders. Another restaurant in Chicago is also adding toilet paper to orders.

From Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jessica Averitt, the owner of L.A. Cafe, prepares a takeout meal for a customer Wednesday in Whitestown, Ind.

Jessica Averitt, the owner of L.A. Cafe, prepares a takeout meal for a customer Wednesday in Whitestown, Ind. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

To limit the quick spread of the coronavirus, about half of the state governments in the United States have ordered bars and restaurants to significantly decrease dine-in seating or close seating altogether. The limit on large gatherings has also forced other public areas like gyms and shopping malls to close. As a result, many businesses that rely on crowds of customers can’t keep their employees. Just last week, the number of claims for state unemployment benefits climbed by 70,000.

Here are some creative ways some businesses and individuals have helped alleviate each other’s growing financial burdens:

Last Sunday, a regular customer at a bar in Columbus, Ohio, left a $2,500 tip and asked to have it split equally between five of the bar’s employees. All Ohio restaurants were closed to dine-in customers starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, making the anonymous tipper the bar’s last visitor for the foreseeable future. Uber announced Sunday that the company has expanded its sick pay policy to make allowances for drivers affected by COVID-19. Drivers who test positive for the virus and enter quarantine or who can’t work due to public health policies will now have up to 14 days of paid sick leave. A property owner in Arkansas told its restaurant tenants Tuesday not to worry about paying rent for the month of April. Instead, the landlord asked that the restaurants “use this money instead to pay your employees and take care of your family.” Other landlords across the country have also chosen to waive or defer rental fees. As the spread of COVID-19 forces restaurants to shrink, grocery stores are booming. Kroger, the country’s largest grocery store chain, said Tuesday that the company has hired more than 2,000 new employees to keep up with the influx in grocery store demand and still has 10,000 openings, as of Tuesday. Residents in Durham, N.C., compiled a spreadsheet of local businesses that shoppers can continue to support through online shopping or by buying gift cards. Customers in other cities have also turned to gift card purchases to support their own local shops forced to shutter because of the coronavirus. Facebook says it will give full-time employees an extra $1,000 in their next paycheck and promises to give “exceeds expectations” performance reviews for the first half of 2020. These reviews will ensure biannual bonuses for all full-time employees. The social media giant also says it will give out $100 million in cash and advertising credits to help small businesses during the coronavirus financial crush.

From Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A North American X-15 on display in the National Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian is one of several institutions offering virtual field trips to students during the coronavirus shutdown.

A North American X-15 on display in the National Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian is one of several institutions offering virtual field trips to students during the coronavirus shutdown. Eric Long/Smithsonian

Countries across the globe have shut down schools and sent students home to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. The United Nations website ReliefWeb estimates that the number of students out of the classroom because of the coronavirus is approaching 1 billion. In the United States, many schools are switching to online learning, and educational organizations have found creative ways to help parents keep their students engaged while learning from home. Here are a few:

Social distancing means no big crowds at normally bustling tourist locations, but families can still take virtual field trips of some top travel destinations thanks to modern technology. Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian, the Sistine Chapel, and the Great Wall of China are among the many tourist sites taking history online through virtual tours. The Metropolitan Opera in New York is also sharing free streaming of performances daily at 7:30 p.m. The Institute for Excellence in Writing, a curriculum developer popular among homeschoolers, is offering a free three-week digital program in English language arts instruction. The publisher is one of many organizations rolling out free resources for parents teaching their kids at home during the coronavirus. An alpaca farm in Maine had to close due to COVID-19, but the owners decided to give virtual online tours to introduce home-bound fans to their 35 alpacas. Zoos across the country are also turning to social media to livestream their own virtual tours. The Virginia Zoo will be guiding online viewers on a “Virtual Voyage” every day at 2 p.m. eastern until the end of the month. For kids and adults wanting to practice new skills at home, published artists and authors are giving free tips and classes online. Every afternoon, author and illustrator Jarret J. Krosoczka is hosting YouTube webcasts on drawing, and children’s book author Kate DiCamillio is posting daily writing prompts to the Candlewick Press YouTube channel. To give moms and dads a break, published children’s authors are scheduling daily read-aloud sessions to stream on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Publishing companies, including Penguin and HarperCollins, are also planning their own daily read-alouds for “quarantined” kids.

From Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A worker at the Amazon.com Phoenix Fulfillment Center in Goodyear, Ariz.

A worker at the Amazon.com Phoenix Fulfillment Center in Goodyear, Ariz. Joshua Lott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As daily life continues to shift globally in the wake of the coronavirus, businesses are finding creative ways to help customers and their communities. Here are a few that have surfaced in the last couple of days:

Employees at one location of the Texas chain Whataburger delivered burgers to H-E-B grocery store workers Sunday afternoon. H-E-B employees—along with the rest of the nation’s grocery store workers—have been busy keeping shelves stocked for shoppers prepping for the nationwide lockdown. In small town Michigan, employees at a tea lounge use part of their mornings assembling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for free sack lunches. Last Friday, the shop’s owners started offering the free lunches to “anyone that needs them,” saying they’d continue until schools are back in session. The company that makes Dior perfumes switched gears at its facilities Monday and began producing hand sanitizer instead of its signature perfumes. It plans to donate the hand sanitizer to health officials in France who will distribute the product to 39 hospitals. With the surge in online shopping during social distancing, Amazon announced Monday that it’s looking for 100,000 employees in the United States to help keep up with new orders. The online retail giant also said it would raise its hourly wage by $2 through the end of April. Beginning Monday, internet provider Charter Communications began offering 60 days of free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access to households with K-12 and college students. Since last week, most students have moved to online or home learning as schools have shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Leah Savas

Leah is the life beat reporter for World News Group. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College and the World Journalism Institute and resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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