COVID-19 tragedy in Maine and #BetterTogetherFund

Julian Rowand HeadshotThe global pandemic has been difficult for us all.  Living and working in cooperative communities lends itself to the mutual aid and networks of support that are needed during challenging times.

One of CDI’s Resident Owned Communities (ROCs) in Maine is coping with the tragic loss of one of its members to COVID-19.  His wife, still in shock and grieving, has generously allowed us to share their story, so that others affected by the pandemic might receive the support they need at this time.  I’ve decided to not share their names or to identify the community out of respect for privacy at this time.

There are many ways that we can support those impacted most by this pandemic, like this member in Maine.  CDI has been working closely with our communities to ensure members have access to available assistance and working closely with our Boards to ensure that the Cooperative continues to operate smoothly.  Our network, ROC USA, and local partnerships have been active and impactful during this crisis.  We have also heard countless stories of members reaching-out to support one-another during this time.

The tragedy in Maine highlights the need for support during this time.  It also highlights our collective ability to support our communities in times of need.  The couple moved into the community about a year ago.  I met them at the annual meeting for the community this past December.  He was extremely outgoing, humorous and engaged in the life of the community.  In early April, during a check-in with the Board President, he informed me that this member was in the hospital.  At our next check-in I learned that he has passed.  I asked the Board President to pass along my information to the deceased’s wife, when appropriate, because I knew the ROC USA had established an Emergency Fund for ROC members affected by COVID-19.

I heard from her the next day.  She was still in shock, grieving, overwhelmed.  She had been in quarantine at her home for over a month.  Obviously, she was unable to visit her husband during his hospitalization and treatment and continued to quarantine after his passing for the safety of others.  Her husband had been one of the early casualties in the state of Maine.  She said that the community had been very supportive and that her friends there checked-in on her often.  She was relieved to know that there was an Emergency Fund created to assist members affected by COVID-19.  For each dollar raised for the #BetterTogether Fund, ROC USA and ROC Association will provide a combined match of one dollar, up to $10,000.

I reached out to ROC USA when I got off the phone with the member and received a call back immediately from ROC USA President, Paul Bradley.  Paul shared his sympathies and condolences.  He was able to utilize the fund immediately to provide some lot rent relief for the widowed member.

CDI was also able to connect the member with Coastal Enterprises, Inc (CEI).  CDI has been partnering with CEI to offer free assistance to those impacted by the pandemic.  CEI has been working with our ROC members by helping them navigate the state and federal resources, like unemployment insurance, available to those affected by the pandemic.  At the beginning of April, CDI and CEI hosted a call to let ROC leaders know about the free assistance available from CEI.  Many ROC members have since availed themselves of these services.  CEI is now also helping the widow with her personal finances, at this time where she is overwhelmed with grief.

We are in this together.  If you live in a ROC community, reach-out to neighbors most vulnerable.  To the Boards: all the community building that you’ve done over the years of being a ROC, certainly comes in handy now.  If you, or someone you know in the community, has been affected directly, let us know.  Finally, if you are resourced and able to donate to support the ROC USA Emergency Fund, please do.  Your contribution goes directly to support our members, like the one in Maine who lost her husband.

Written by Julian Rowand, NEROC Cooperative Development Specialist