Brooke McCarty has taken over her local subdivision clubhouse.
She’s using it to store tubs of hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, tissues and other hot commodities — most of which were recently donated by teachers from Columbia Public Schools. The items are being collected and donated primarily to families, but the need has extended to doctors and a hospice nurse who had run short of supplies.
When Columbia Public Schools announced it would be closing until April 13 because of COVID-19 concerns, McCarty saw a unique opportunity to give back. She realized teachers likely had cleaning supplies in their classrooms they wouldn’t immediately need and reached out to some at Beulah Ralph Elementary, where her three children attend school.
“They literally just started cleaning out all the shelves,” McCarty said. “We just started getting tubs full of hand sanitizer and wipes.”
McCarty, who has lived in Columbia for more than 20 years, is no stranger to helping her community. As chair of the Beulah Ralph Outreach Committee in the school’s PTA, she was already organizing a donation drive for food and supplies in preparation for CPS closing.
The funds within the PTA committee will help replenish donated items when school resumes.
Since asking for donations from teachers, the donation drive, called “Corona Cares,” has taken off.
Along with individual drop-offs, McCarty has received donations from teachers at Mill Creek Elementary and Fairview Elementary. People haven’t just donated the requested items — they’ve also contributed school supplies and even baby formula.
Other schools within CPS have started mimicking her idea, McCarty said.
“We are so fortunate in Columbia, because we have amazing partnerships and community outreach and individuals wanting to help other individuals in times of need,” district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said. “And we’re seeing that in large and small acts of kindness.”
Members of the outreach committee are walking the streets near Beulah Ralph and Mill Creek, and along Scott Boulevard, distributing flyers to residents and taping them on doors, encouraging them to reach out if they need supplies or nonperishable food items. If they do, McCarty and her committee will deliver supplies.
Even though some households will receive meal distributions during CPS closures, McCarty said there are still other families in need in the area.
“Many people ... , they don’t have gas to go across town and go find something that’s not there,” she said, referring to the current food and supply shortage. “Where it might be easy for you and I to go to six different grocery stores, the people that we’re helping can’t do that.”
Those aren’t the only people in need, though. On Thursday, two doctors came to her subdivision’s clubhouse, the donation drive’s headquarters, and asked if the committee had any spare hand sanitizer, wipes and masks because they could not find them anywhere else.
For McCarty, the experience was sobering.
“We need our front-line workers to have them so they can take care of us,” she said.
The committee gave the doctors the supplies and gave the donated baby formula to one who is an OB/GYN. It also sent a box of hand sanitizers to a hospice nurse who had completely run out.
For now, McCarty said the focus is still determining need and getting donations out while making sure the committee can deliver on what it promises.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised, with this group,” she said, “if you’d be seeing more of us.”