In the wake of 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene, Upper Valley organizations and volunteers scrambled to identify and support emergency needs in their communities. To better coordinate and serve, a coalition of over 45 human service agencies and faith-based organizations formed Upper Valley Strong. UV Strong is active only in times of crisis, and this spring the coalition came back together to respond to the pandemic. UV Strong works to determine the needs of the community, to increase coordination between those trying to help, and to gather and distribute funds to aid their efforts.

A simple, powerful example of the coordination efforts is the Childcare and Family Resources page on the UV Strong website. Well-organized resources for locating childcare for essential workers, financial assistance for families needing childcare, baby supplies, COVID-specific parental education, and child abuse and domestic violence support are collected together. By facilitating a dialogue between the organizations who work to support families, UV Strong helps ensure that needs are effectively met while avoiding the duplication of services. Even more importantly, having everything in one place makes it easier for parents to find and utilize the resources.

UV Strong also collects and distributes funds. Over $60,000 dollars, donated by community members and organizations such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, have already gone out to support local efforts. These funds have helped the Upper Valley Haven set up a new outdoor food tent and Willing Hands to put an additional truck on the road, bringing food to the people and organizations that need it. Another grant has allowed LISTEN to add a paid kitchen staff in order to meet a 125% increase in demand for its community dining program.

Barbara Farnsworth, manager of community health improvement at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and co-chair of UV Strong, says we all can be part of UV Strong by checking in with our neighbors. “See how people are doing and if they need help. Many folks can’t get out right now to get their groceries or medications. Or maybe they’re at an age where they are high-risk, so they’re not comfortable getting out. Neighbors helping neighbors is one of the really essential ways for us to get through this.” She recommends using the UV Strong website to familiarize ourselves with the broad range of services available in our communities, and then reaching out to neighbors.

As the first peak of the pandemic recedes but its impact persists, UV Strong’s work remains vital. By giving time and/or money if we are able, we can ensure that support services reach the people who need them.