As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded during the last 18 months, we have witnessed unprecedented times along with sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Fortunately, we have also seen the best in people materialize in unexpected places. Strangers bonding over a good deed, local businesses holding fundraisers for their employees and neighbors helping each other in small but meaningful ways. Across Georgia and the nation, it’s helpful to reflect on the people trying to pay it forward. Find inspiration from these neighbors that are generously giving back to their communities that still need our help.

Grey C., a high school sophomore from Atlanta, started an organization called The Meal Bridge to generate business for local restaurants while feeding brave healthcare workers in the process. The Meal Bridge provides a way for people to purchase meals from local businesses for hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The high schooler’s mom posted on NextDoor and it resulted in many neighbors donating meals for over 60 hospital workers at Emory University Hospital in only three days. Grey has now coordinated over 2,800 meal donations for seven hospitals across Atlanta.

In one Smyrna HOA, the social committee began recruiting volunteers to sew masks. One volunteer, Susan P., said, “Helping friends and strangers in time of need is what it’s all about.” From measuring and sewing, over 15 volunteers have donated more than 400 masks to those in need. “Those masks have gone to hospice centers, they’ve gone to nursing homes, and they’ve gone to hospitals,” Susan said. “Word has spread in our HOA, and now more people are helping.”

A Board president in one of Braselton’s largest master-planned communities put his culinary skills to the test when the virus hit. Waleed H. is a full-time IT consultant and lifelong foodie who regularly cooks for family and friends. He shared on NextDoor that he wanted to offer free meals for healthcare workers in his community and asked for donations and volunteers to help package and deliver the lunches. His post resulted in many neighbors buying up to 20 meals at a time to show their appreciation for first responders.

Tracy J. has been a pastry chef for over five years in Midtown. Like many of her fellow hospitality workers, she lost her job when her workplace closed due to COVID-19. However, Tracy didn’t let the loss of her job stop her from helping others. She decided to deliver homemade cookies from her condo to local healthcare workers at Emory and Crawford Long hospitals to thank them for their hard work. She shared her recipe and posted about the project on Facebook to help fund the ingredients for a successful project. Neighbors in her building donated over $1,000. Tracy plans to donate half of the money to the Atlanta Community Food Bank to assist families experiencing food insecurities.

When Daniel M. wanted to volunteer, he didn’t have to look any further than his townhome community near Alpharetta. He went online to search for opportunities in North Fulton and found an app on NextDoor called the Help Map. It provides an interactive map of your neighborhood where you can mark yourself as someone who can pitch in for neighbors who need assistance. Whether you can drop off groceries for homebound people or hop on the phone to check in on elderly, at-risk neighbors, you can add yourself to the map so you can support others. Neighbors in need of assistance can then message you through the Help Map. Daniel said he befriended several neighbors that also felt isolated due to the pandemic.

Connecting with your neighbors is essential in good times and in times of need. As the situation with the coronavirus unfolds, we continue to be inspired by how neighbors come together to offer support, lean on others when they need help and stay connected with their local communities.

Even when times are tough, we hope you will find a way to help and demonstrate that there is always room for generosity. Stay well! We will all get through this together.