From “Sangry” to SO GOOD: What One Woman Can Do

The coronavirus pandemic certainly paralyzed many of us in ways we had never expected—stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses, fellowship, sports, performing arts, and other activities. Changes in how we work, learn, socialize, and grieve. When the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change,” most of us probably never expected a year-long rollercoaster ride that affected every aspect of life for people around the globe.

Many people felt helpless during this time, not being able to visit loved ones, tend to the sick and dying, or participate in our regular community building activities.

The Women’s Service Day team adapted by forgoing our annual in-person event and, instead, promoting Women’s Service Season—invitations offered each month from August through October—to help women and children in our community during a pandemic: by safe in-person or at-home volunteering, giving financial or in-kind support, or joining or amplifying nonprofits’ events. 

Several of our regular volunteers took Women’s Service Season to heart, driven by their passion to serve others. Lisa volunteered at the Community Action House Food Pantry. Alyssa shopped for foster kids to fill “first night” bags in support of Hope Pkgs. Virginia cleaned up the grounds at Benjamin’s Hope, a community residence for adults with developmental disabilities. Joanie orchestrated a garage sale in her neighborhood to benefit Community Action House.

These examples show how we can really be creative even during challenges like a global pandemic. But sometimes the drive to serve is so strong, you just have to engage your friends. And coworkers. And so on.

“Despite being so grateful for my considerable blessings—a roof over our heads, lots of good food, kids who are healthy, oh, and toilet paper—the joy that often flows from gratitude escaped me,” said Joanie, who lives in West Michigan. “I felt an intense collision of sadness and anger over COVID-19, compounded by issues of social injustice and seemingly cavernous political divides. And I have been, at times, disheartened and paralyzed because it all seemed so big and out of my reach.”

She got so antsy to just do something that would have a positive impact—something within her reach that would make a difference beyond what she could do alone. “I did not want to stay in that place that teetered on despair and immobilization,” said Joanie.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

Joanie reached out to the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland (CFHZ) to learn more about the Community Stabilization Fund, designed in 2020 to address the most urgent needs in our community resulting from this sudden and essentially unparalleled pandemic: financial stability, health, and education.

She contacted some of her former coworkers and invited them to make a commitment in matching gifts, up to $4,100. Then she learned Herman Miller Cares (Herman Miller’s Foundation and Global Giving Program) offered to contribute another $5,000 toward the match. It spread like wildfire: Herman Miller Cares and CFHZ communicated the initiative internally and through social media.

Here is the outcome—from one woman’s idea that persuaded 50 community members to participate: $29,000 raised.

This funding has the potential to support:

  • 58 individuals/families with direct cash assistance of $500 to help pay for rent, utilities, food, and hygiene supplies
  • 250 more individuals with alcohol and drug addiction treatment supported by Ottagan Addictions Recovery (OAR)
  • Retooling of programming to help our most vulnerable students avoid slipping behind in school through Ready for School, Outdoor Discovery Center

Read about the impact of this fund in CFHZ President Mike Goorhouse’s review of 2020. The organization reported over $1 million raised specifically for this fund.

Joanie went from “sangry” (sad + angry) to feeling SO GOOD. Joining and rallying others is an impactful way to make a difference during a difficult time like the coronavirus pandemic—and a way to build community when we can’t be together in person.

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” – Marianne Williamson, author and activist

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