Luther College staff members work with Decorah and Winneshiek Co. Mutual Aid Network to help those in need

The coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. and across the world. It is having a profound impact on the economy as well as on individuals everywhere. Every day routines and actions are disrupted. Elderly people may not be able to get groceries or medications, essential healthcare workers may not have care for their children and essential services may not have the volunteers they rely on. During a difficult time for people across the world and in this corner of Iowa, Luther College staff members are working with the Decorah and Winneshiek Co. Mutual Aid Network to help those in need.

            It all started with an email from Kayla Scholl, director of music marketing and Dorian programs at Luther, to those at Decorah Now, a website dedicated to building community through arts, cultural, and recreational events, and the exchange of goods and services. Scholl posed the foundational question, "How can we connect those with a greater need to those who may now have the capacity to help?"

"For me, life is about serving others, and finding ways to do that in all seasons of life is important, especially now," said Scholl.

            After receiving that email, Brad Crawford, administrator at Decorah Now, got to work with Scholl and the people at Winneshiek County Development and Tourism to start the Decorah and Winneshiek Co. Mutual Aid Network found on decorahnow.com. When users arrive at the site, there are two options to select from, "I can help" and "I need help."

            "We live in a place where people help their neighbors and their communities every day, and when a crisis of this size and speed hits, we understand that once your immediate needs are taken care of, you drop what you are doing and give everything you’ve got to the community response. It makes us all better off," said Crawford.

            After the initial groundwork was laid, Kristen Eggen took over the administrative role.

            "I had been working with Winneshiek County Development and Tourism to coordinate Winneshiek Idea House events and with the sudden necessity for social distancing, that work dried up and we funneled those resources to this work. I'm grateful to the county board of supervisors who have since then supported this project significantly as well," said Eggen.

            According to Eggen, so far they have helped more than 10 people who requested help and more than 120 people have offered their help or services.

"10 requests may not seem like much now, but we recognize this pandemic will ripple through our community in various ways and we expect the needs to grow," said Eggen. "During a time of crisis, people want to help. That's the case with the volunteers who started this initiative, that's the case with myself and that's the case with the rest of our community! Together we are weaving a tighter net that holds our community up in times of uncertainty and scarcity."

            According to Eggen, so far volunteers have been busy raking leaves, delivering groceries, connecting people with child care and referring people to community agencies and businesses that are offering programs to help during this time. Other volunteers, including Scholl and other Luther staff members, have been working behind the scenes to ensure this resource is fully functional.

            "Ask for what you need, and offer what you have - whether through the Decorah and Winneshiek Co. Mutual Aid Network or through your own neighborhood/church/social circles. Now is an excellent time to get to know your neighbors," said Eggen.

"I Can Help" and "I Need Help" forms are available at www.decorahnow.com/mutual-aid-network. Anyone without access to a computer can call (563) 362-2288 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.  For additional information email [email protected]

Luther College is home to more than 1,900 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.

Artist: Lauren Bonney