Opinion Piece by Lisa Aquino published by ADN on March 23, 2020

These are challenging days, but it is during this time we must find the drive in our spirit and the love in our hearts to reach out. We are connected, and we can stay connected through COVID-19 or anything else that may come. It’s our connection that makes us human and makes us a community.

Catholic Social Services strives to create community. We are here for you and for every person, in particular the most vulnerable among us, who often feel the most lonely.

In this time, many people are feeling especially lonely and forgotten. The need to stay distanced from others to prevent this virus from causing more death, illness and loss for all of us has also decreased the chance for human connection.

We have great tools now, like phones with cameras and the internet to facilitate connection, but those are hard to use when you are having the worst day of your life, and you are just trying to make it through. At this time, Catholic Social Services is staying open. There are people out there who need us, and we want to be there for them in the best way we can.

We are taking every precaution to protect our employees and our clients. For example, our St. Francis House food pantry has become a fast-tracked version of our regular service, and food is pre-boxed and distributed at the door. Our shelters, Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House, are open, and we are training and protecting our staff in all the ways we can, with expert advice from our hospital partners.

We are adapting to this challenge so our community can still be connected, and our clients can get what they need to survive and thrive. We are staying open because we know our clients are some of the most at-risk people in this community. We will not let them become COVID-19 statistics. Each one of them is an incredible individual and, with your support, we can keep them both sheltered and safe.

I had great joy this week amidst the extreme challenges. My sister had a baby, her first. A sweet baby girl named Margaret Jane. Seeing that new life and the hope in my sister’s eyes for the amazing future of her little girl reminded me of the hope I have for my kids and for this community. We are going to get through this, and little Margaret Jane will have a bright future in this amazing world. On her first birthday, I hope this crisis is long gone and remembered only in our prayers for those who died and our improved planning for the future, so pandemics like this do not hurt so many people next time.

This message goes out to our town, Anchorage, our children, like little Margaret Jane, and all of you who support each other every day. Here’s to celebrating life and all the joy we have.

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