As Chattanooga's residents continue to mobilize to help one another and workplaces, city buildings and restaurants shut down over COVID-19 concerns, a new effort is making a space for those most at risk of the virus to help their neighbors, as well.
On Wednesday, Mayor Andy Berke's office launched a virtual phone bank for people to begin checking in on elderly residents. The mayor is especially looking toward the faith community to help in the effort.
Anyone can log on to the phone bank and begin calling elderly residents, but since the effort is virtual, it is an opportunity for people who are self-isolating to help their neighbors without putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus, said Lakweshia Ewing, a local Church of God in Christ evangelist and member of We Over Me.
Area churches, especially those with older congregations, see the need as Chattanooga deals with the COVID-19 outbreak, but they cannot always help, Ewing said.
"People want to do things but, without being able to go out or meet in large groups, it leaves them with hands tied that are ready to help," she said.
The phone numbers in the bank — gathered from the Eastgate Senior Center, the city's tax freeze program and other city events — make up the city's population of people over 60. People also can submit numbers to the phone bank, Ewing said.
Using a script and an online survey, phone bank volunteers will document the needs of the citizens so they can be connected to services. Senior citizens are at increased risk of developing serious illness from the coronavirus and are encouraged to self-isolate to reduce possible exposure.
A number of groups have mobilized in the last week to provide food for children after local schools closed. The phone bank is another effort to make sure no one falls through the cracks, Ewing said.
"The faith community is responding during this volatile time," Ewing said.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.