Community uses social media for COVID-19 support

By Simon Ruppert

With an increasing amount of district people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of support pages have been set up on Facebook which aim to help.

Whether someone is in self-isolation, struggling to get essential shopping items, or maybe having difficulty finding activities for the kids, there is a lot of assistance available.

A couple of examples of these pages are Benalla Elderly Relief Drive, and Need Something 3672.

Both can be found with a quick Facebook search and both are offering different ways for local people to support fellow community members.

Goorambat's Meredith Tolliday is an admin on Need Something 3672 and said it had been heartwarming to see how many people were happy to help.

“A young woman from Violet Town called Nicole Butterwoth set the page up with her mum and aunty,” Ms Tolliday said

“They asked me to be an admin and I was happy to help.”

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Ms Butterworth said the idea came from similar pages she had seen set up.

“I had seen a few similar pages appear, as I am in a couple of Euroa and Violet Town groups,” Ms Butterworth said.

“There was a lot of people who needed help and others offering help, so we set it up and it grew pretty quickly.”

Ms Tolliday said the page admins were being quite strict about the people who could join and the content which could be shared.

“It isn't about people promoting their businesses,” Ms Tolliday said

“There are other pages for that.

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“And we want to keep it local. We had a man from Wangaratta want to join, so I asked why? It turns out he does a lot of work in Benalla and he just wanted to help if he could, which is great.”

Ms Tolliday said another rule was that people were not allowed to post medical advice about COVID-19.

“We won't share medical advice from unchecked sources,” she said.

“A lot of people online are sharing information without finding out if it is correct. And that is not helpful to anyone.

“This page is about how people in the community can help each other. We don't need all the coronavirus information clogging up the page.”

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With the amount of misinformation being shared via Facebook and other social media platforms, it is important that people only take medical advice from official sources.

The best place for that is the Australian Government Department of Health, or the World Health Organization.

One good news story that Ms Tolliday points to is a disabled lady living in Goorambat who posted to the page that she could not get into Benalla to go shopping and was also running out of money.

“She has been housebound for a while and relies a lot on the Salvos,” Ms Tolliday said.

“Everybody wanted to help her and it was great to see.

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“I live close to her and I would have run food around there, but before I could a lady in Dookie brought food to her and a few local people in Goorambat popped by to check she was all right.”

Not only is that exactly how the page is designed to work, it highlights one of the traditional benefits of a small town - that people look after each other.

The Benalla Elderly Relief Drive page operates in a different way, for a different purpose.

However it is another example of the community supporting those who need the most assistance.

Page manager Carol-Lee Repia said that once the panic buying started she was noting a lot of frustrated elderly people who were unable to do their shopping.

“Some looked bewildered by what was going on,” Ms Repia said.

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“I was frequently stopped in the supermarket by elderly people who expressed to me that they were struggling to buy basic essentials.”

So she set up the page with the intent of ensuring the vulnerable in our community were able to get what they needed during the pandemic.

“Benalla Elderly Relief Drive requests donations of basic food and toiletries from the community,” Ms Repia said.

“We request simple items such as meat, pasta, long-life milk, butter, bread, toilet paper and canned foods - all the things that were stripped off the shelves.

“We also ask the community to nominate elderly people in the community who are in need of help. We also ask people to volunteer to help with deliveries.

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“We are also very aware of people who are not seniors of the community that are struggling.

“We have received requests from people who are disabled and who are also very ill.

“I have been in frequent contact with Janet from Waminda Community House. They provided food parcels for vulnerable people. But because they are considered non-essential, they have had to close.

“I hope with more donations we can eventually help to take up the slack.”

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Ms Repia hopes the community continues to be so generous in these tough times.

“Please donate and share our cause,” Ms Repia said.

“Any local businesses that would like to help, please do. The elderly we have reached to date have been amazed by the community generosity. Some were brought to tears.

“They are really doing it rough.”

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