The street view of Philly during the coronavirus is like a dreamscape (nightmarescape?) of blank sidewalks, eerily quiet streets, closed shops, distant wary smiles—some hidden behind masks—of warily distant neighbors.
It’s like the negative image of our normally bustling, traffic-clogged, boisterous city—heightened this week by the fog that shrouded the skyline for a couple days.
But then the fog cleared, and the skyline reappeared, and the image that shone out over the city from its highest point spoke to the other thing that’s happening all over town: love, in the form of a bright white heart, lit from the windows of empty Four Seasons Hotel rooms.
It’s in that same spirit that Philadelphians in this terrible time have once again proven themselves to be the beautiful souls of community, kindness and good citizenship that we have come to expect in times of need.
Just as it’s hard to keep up with the latest viral stats, and dizzying news of updated closures and mandates, it’s hard to keep up with all the stories of individuals, organizations, companies and communities doing good for each other.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. This week, we’re launching a new series, Small Acts of Citizenship, to highlight those who are stepping out of their bubbles—at a safe, and healthy distance—to be there for their neighbors.
Be inspired by these folks; know that we have each other’s backs; and help us out by letting us know of any efforts you’ve witnessed, or are involved in. We got this.
- Photographer Kristen Kidd of Lansdale is offering gift cards to her photo studio for anyone who buys a gift card from a local business—even multiplying the value 10 times, up to $500. (The cards will be redeemable after the quarantine is over.) Find more on her website.
- Another photographer, Andrea Cipriani Mecchi, a freelancer whose business disappeared last month, is spending these weeks documenting families—from a distance, through glass—for free. (Though donations are welcome.) You can see photos here, and get in touch through her website for your own.
- Citizens across the country have been concerned about the lack of medical supplies available for hospital workers, and one nurse in Philadelphia is among those doing what she can to help with the shortage: Gloria Friesen, or “Miss Muffet,” as her website dubs her, is a nurse in the Pulmonary ICU at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and is sewing washable scrub hats for members of her unit to keep them safe during this pandemic. She also provides patterns that enthusiastic sewers can attempt on their own at her website.
- Local fashion design company Alice Alexander is among the many who have also been making and donating masks.
- Tech entrepreneurs David Bookspan and Anthony Bucci this week launched Save Philly Eats, a website that partners with local restaurateurs to offer special (post-coronavirus) events, like a six-course home dinner with Laurel’s Nick Elmi (for $6,000). All the funds raised now go directly to helping the restaurants stay or re- open after the quarantine.
- When Penn shuttered its campus in March, it laid off 140 dining hall workers without pay. That prompted students from the Student Labor Action Project to create a change.org petition demanding that the university pay the workers, employed through a vendor, Bon Appetit. Over 8,000 people signed it—and this week, the university reversed course and announced it would pay its workers through the end of the semester.
- Looking for a way to connect with neighbors, South Philly resident Robin Mack-Ward, a realtor, used the Free Library’s One Book, One Philly program as inspiration for launching One Philly Coronavirus Public Art Project. Every weekend, Mack-Ward pins a different theme for artwork on the top of her Facebook group, which now has over 2,800 members. Participants interpret the theme however they want, display their artwork in their windows, and then send a note to the group with their address so people can view them (safely).
- With restaurants shutting their doors due to the quarantine, servers and bartenders who depend on tips are now finding themselves laid off. Philly’s Kalaya restaurant, like many small businesses struggling to make ends meet due to the quarantine, has gone a step further in helping the community. On its Instagram page, the Thai restaurant pledged free meals to any family within the restaurant community who are now out of work, and are asking chefs to donate meals if they have any extra food in their pantries.
- Ride share company Lyft announced two projects to help senior citizens stay safe and survive: Seniors can get free rides to a ShopRite within a five-mile radius during senior hours between 7 and 8am; and working with the National Council of Aging, they are offering some caregivers free rides to get essential supplies. Seniors should use the code SHOPRITERIDE to use the program.
- When Pisietta Arrington, who usually brings donated food to her Community College of Philadelphia campus to feed hungry students, heard the college was closing in mid-March, she pivoted. Now, she has a weekly meal pickup outside her Northeast Philly home, which has already fed more than 40 families and seniors—and she plans to keep going.
- Seeing two problems—restaurants struggling to make ends meet and hospital workers too overwhelmed to take real meal breaks—local friends Cole Berman, Bill Conners, Mike Davis, Woody Klemmer, Mike Mayock and Alex Penza devised a way to solve both. They launched Fuel the Fight, which raises money to pay restaurants to make meals and deliver them to hospitals in the area, including Temple, Penn, Jefferson and Bryn Mawr. So far, the group has raised $64,000—well above their $50,000 goal, and provided local restaurants with $500 to $1000 each to feed around 50 hospital workers.