As schools cancel classes and people are being encouraged to stay home, concerns grow over access to food, health and hygiene commodities. With the coronavirus pandemic impacting logistical chains nationwide, coupled with panic buyers hoarding goods, many retail stores are running dangerously low on essential supplies — a massive concern for vulnerable populations who may have to go without.

In Dickinson, a group has sprung up amid the crisis to practice Midwest values of charity and philanthropy. The group identifies individuals most at risk from the shortage of supplies and are actively helping them get what they need — be it supplies, groceries or even running errands.

“I was seeing on the various classifieds pages online people saying they needed this or that and couldn’t find it. I knew there were a lot of rural people like myself who are well stocked and would gladly help a neighbor in distress,” Nicole Dykema, administrator and catalyst behind the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Facebook group, said. “Let’s do the right thing and check on our neighbors. In the last 18 hours, it’s been nothing short of amazing to see the number of people who have joined our group and started helping their neighbors.”

The Facebook group garnered more than 1,400 members since launching late yesterday afternoon and have already begun helping the most at-risk and vulnerable citizens of the community.

Dykema said that North Dakotans have experienced times of hardship in the past, from blizzards to economic downturn, and have always known they can rely on their neighbors to be North Dakota Nice.

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“A mother of seven kids, including a Type 1 diabetic child, reached out to me from the group and said that her husband was let go from his oilfield job a week ago and her own job as a part-time bus driver for the public school was all the revenue they had. Her husband had just started a new job, but their first check wouldn’t come for two weeks,” Dykema said. “She has a child with special health needs and so within the hour, eight people from our community donated canned goods, perishables, cash and a gift card. I dropped it off at her house for her, and I know that it will go a long way in helping her in this challenging time.”

Social distancing is a term applied to certain actions that are taken by public health officials to stop or contain the spread of a highly contagious disease. The term isn’t lost on Dykema, who is a nurse, or the other administrators of the group, who have taken precautions to avoid potentially spreading the virus through contact by sanitizing donated items and using a good old-fashioned method of delivery.

“We want to do this with as little contact as possible,” Dykema said. “Everyone has placed the items on their porch and gave me their address and I went and picked it up. I left the donated items on the porch of the mother in need.”

Dykema continued, “If there is someone in need in this community, we have to do the right thing. If not us, then who?”

People interested in helping or in need of assistance can search Neighbors Helping Neighbors (Dickinson ND) on Facebook and join the public group.

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