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‘Look For The Helpers’ In Iowa Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Braden Kopf
Special to IPR
Steve Shriver, owner of Eco Lips and other Cedar Rapids businesses, and Jeff Quint of Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery making hand sanitizer.

There’s been a flood of news this week as the governor has recommended schools close and has ordered restaurants, bars and gyms closed. Thousands of Iowans are finding themselves out of work due to COVID-19, and on Friday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed another State Public Health Emergency Declaration.

Despite the gravity of the situation, some Iowans are responding in truly beautiful ways. 

In breaking news moments, many of us like to quote Fred Rogers of the beloved PBS show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” he said, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

We cannot highlight all the Iowans helping in this story, but we wanted to spotlight a few. Want to recognize a helper in your community or flag a helper in your community we should know about? Tweet or post on Facebook using the hashtag #GoodNewsIA. 

Schools offering grab-and-go meals for kids

Iowa schools that are closing for at least the next four weeks because of the COVID-19 outbreak are going to be able to serve free meals to children

The state got a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver so schools can serve meals like they do in summer.

“This means schools will be able to activate their summer meal programs and provide meals in non-group settings through such means as drive-through pickup or grab and go,” Iowa Department of Education spokeswoman Staci Hupp said.

Ecolips and Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery team up to make free hand sanitizer

Steve Shriver, who owns Eco-lips and is a partner in Soko Outfitters in Cedar Rapids, was trying to order hand sanitizer for one of his businesses last week and realized there was none available for order. He had all the equipment he needed to mass produce his own but couldn’t source enough alcohol.

Credit Photo Courtesy of Steve Shriver

So Shriver reached out to Jeff Quint from Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery and partnered with the distillery for space and alcohol. The two rolled up their sleeves, recruited some volunteers and went to work.  

“As soon as I posted online that I was working on this project, I had parents with kids at home with cancer, businesses, daycares, dental offices, and other businesses saying we are extremely low,” Shriver says. 

Shriver and Quint are hoping to make 2,500 to 5,000 more bottles and gave the first batch away for free in a drive-through at New-Bo in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday. They plan to give away more on Saturday morning.

Corridor theatre teacher starts #ArtsCorridorHandWashChallenge

Mic Evans, who is a theatre teacher with Theatre Cedar Rapids, posted on Facebook to encourage artists to spread smiles, not germs. He called out 10 of his friends to pick a show tune and sing a song from Broadway while washing their hands, and post it online using the hashtag. 

Grocery stores create special shopping hours for seniors and immunocomprised Iowans

Starting Wednesday, March 18, Fareway grocery stores started reserving their first hour of business for customers who are 65 or older, expecting mothers, those living with a serious medical condition, and anyone with an underlying medical condition that increases susceptibility to serious illness from COVID-19 in all locations.

“We appreciate your advance cooperation from our customers in respecting the hour reserved for those that are at higher risk,” the store wrote in an press release.

Other grocery stores are making similar changes. New Pioneer Food Co-op in Iowa City will also offer special hours for seniors, reserving 9-10 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings beginning March 19. Hy-Vee will offer special hours for seniors, expecting mothers and those with an underlying medical condition. Hy-Vee will open from 7-8 a.m. 7 days per week, effective March 19. 

Des Moines musician and video producer creates DSMTV Live

Jon Locker, who is a gig musician himself and is a c0-owner of the company Jabbermouth Media, has collaborated with Sonic Factory Studios and Red Noise 6 to create a platform for central Iowa musicians to livestream concerts and ask for tips and donations while venues are closed. 

“Our goal is to create a virtual venue that could hopefully generate some money for musicians and production people who are out of work right now,” says Locker. “It’s not like we can weather the storm for too long, so we’re just trying to help. My hope is that when this is all over, it sparks more interest in local music and more appreciation for it.”

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer