It all started with pictures posted on Facebook of empty aisles where essential household items such as toilet paper and canned food once sat. Getting our hands on simple, everyday necessities has become a challenge during this time of social distancing.

As COVID-19 precautions become the new norm, a few Columbia residents created a Facebook group called “Work together during COVID-19 crisis — Columbia Missouri” in order to boost morale, help those in need and share vital information.

The description of the Facebook page says its goal is to “remember the vulnerable” and to come together. The group encourages members to ask for help no matter how big or small the request may be.

Elizabeth Hemphill, one of the group’s administrators, came up with the idea after seeing several posts of empty shelves at local grocery stores. Hemphill wanted to create a place where information could be shared and seen easily.

“Then we just started sharing, and it spread like wildfire,” she said.

The shortage of some supplies is not the only reason Hemphill created the group. It’s also avoiding the loneliness and depression that can come with self-quarantine, being laid off or a sudden change in lifestyle.

Hemphill said it’s important to spread a message of positivity. An example of this was a recent post in which she asked group members to talk about what they are thankful for.

“I want people to know that they are not alone,” she said. “No one is alone.”

The page was created Sunday and was approaching 8,000 followers Friday afternoon.

Karina Koji, another administrator of the group, said helping moderate the group takes up the majority of her day.

Koji said there are therapists and counselors who joined the group to help residents who are adjusting to rapid change.

“We want to make sure we can get people help who need it,” Koji said. “I am so glad that I can contribute to society in some way, and I feel like that’s how a lot of people feel in this group, that they are doing something good.”

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Public Life Reporter, Spring 2020 Studying Spanish and Photojournalism Reach me at bmkr99@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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