This pandemic has proven how fragile our connections can be. Tiny, invisible particles of proteins and nucleic acids have radically up-ended our entire way of life. Talking across a table, hugging, going to a favorite spot with friends, singing together, even seeing the lower half of another person’s face—all of it seems like an echo-memory from a bygone era.
Here at Patchwork Central, everything we do is about connection and community. The programs and services are simply a means to an end—creating the kind of community in which anyone would want to live and where everyone has a place. Many of the means we were using to make those connections were broken by the Covid-19 pandemic; the end, however—that vision of a flourishing and inclusive community—was not.
We had to re-define and re-build those connections from scratch. And we continue to do so.
The Arts & Smarts after-school programs moved many of its activities outdoors, everything from storytelling to digging sweet potatoes. Tutoring was re-imagined as “Homework Help” and moved to a different space where physical distancing was possible.
One child in the program had identified one of her “sparks” (something she’s passionate about) as “cats.” She found a stray cat that she named “French Fry” and started caring for it. Unfortunately, her family said she would not be able to keep the cat. One of our Arts & Smarts interns this semester heard the story. The intern checked with one of her connections, who, it turned out, ran a small business that wanted to hire a “shop cat.” So French Fry got a job! The intern joked that the cat made more than she did because at least the cat was paid in room and board. Through a series of new connections, a new kind of community emerged around French Fry the cat.
Our Neighborhood Hospitality also reinvented itself as Shade Tree Hospitality on the front lawn of Patchwork. Our “regulars” sat under a roof of leaves and sky instead of the ceiling of the Meetinghouse. The coffee, lemonade, and snacks started coming out on a cart instead of being handed through the kitchen window. People had to talk a little louder to be heard over traffic and through muffling face-masks. Neighbors continue to gather, even as the weather turns colder, to forge new connections and re-build their community in new ways.
People coming to Patchwork’s Food Pantry for an emergency supply of food also needed to adjust to new ways of connecting. The Food Pantry volunteers had to adjust to new practices of hand-washing, sanitizing surfaces, and social distancing while working in the food pantry. But the food still got handed out. The recipients still got to see the corners of the volunteers’ eyes crinkle in a smile as they handed the bags of food through the door. More new connections.
We at Patchwork—from the staff to the volunteers to the guests to the Board members—are tired. As many of you know all too well, it has been exhausting having to re-build patterns and connections from the ground up. Despite our fatigue, we keep laboring to fashion new ways of doing community while the fragments of broken connections lie scattered at our feet. This pandemic may have proven how fragile our old connections were, but it is also proving how resilient we are at forging new ones.
We invite you to join us. Your donation is not merely a transaction, but a connection. It is a connection between you and the community of Patchwork Central that, in turn, helps create more new connections. Even in the midst of this connection-breaking pandemic, you can help manifest the vision of a flourishing and inclusive community. Thank you.
In Community and Connection,
John Rich, Co-Director, Patchwork Central