Finding the brighter side to life amid COVID-19

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With COVID-19 dominating the news, many Camden County residents are clinging to the bright spots in the world around them, trying to lighten the mood and connect with others.    Neighbors are helping neighbors. Families are cheering for teachers, medical workers and other public...

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With COVID-19 dominating the news, many Camden County residents are clinging to the bright spots in the world around them, trying to lighten the mood and connect with others.   

Neighbors are helping neighbors. Families are cheering for teachers, medical workers and other public servants. Community organizations are spreading the love — from a 6-foot distance, of course — to whomever they can reach. 

Here are just a few reasons to smile in Camden County this week. 

Teddy bear hunt

Just like the popularity of painting, hiding and finding rocks swept across America a few years ago, this newest craze is something all ages can enjoy. Camden County is now going on a bear hunt, along with other communities like ours across the country, and it was designed with quarantining in mind. 

If you are wondering why teddy bears keep popping up across the landscape, it’s all part of this community-wide hunting expedition. 

They are peeking out of windows throughout several local neighborhoods, such as The Lakes subdivision, Laurel Island, Sugarmill Plantation, Shadowlawn and downtown St. Marys. 

Cynthia Hodges, who lives in in Kingsland, was one of the first to post locally on social media about this fun exercise that you can do from the safety of your vehicle. (Obviously, the driver needs to focus on driving while their passengers hunt.)

Hodges saw a Facebook post from outside of the area, so she decided to help spread the idea here as well. Although her children are grown, she helps care for her two young granddaughters and they are getting a little stir crazy at home. 

“Gas is so cheap but you can’t go anywhere,” Hodges said. 

They want to comply with social distancing guidelines and stay away from others, but getting out of the house can be a nice mental break, she said. 

A windshield tour of the neighborhood is one way her family has found a way to focus on things that are not so bleak.

Michelle Simpson, another Kingsland resident, helped spread the word about the bear hunt and even incentivized the hunt with prizes for those who participate. She thinks it is important to find fun diversions like this because it helps us focus on something besides the four walls around us. 

“It is something we can do together. Everyone can participate,” Simpson said. “I am so overwhelmed at how far this has gone. Now we even have some businesses that are participating.” 

The same group also is participating in an Easter egg hunt, which is similar to the bear hunt. For details, there is a Facebook page called “Camden Georgia Virtual Egg Hunt!” 

Others in Camden County have created their own customized bingo cards with frequently spotted items. Passengers can see who can spot the items needed to spell out B-I-N-G-O as they take a leisurely drive around town. 

Teacher parade

Camden County teachers have been parading through the neighborhoods where their students live over the last few weeks to let them know they love them and they are here for them. 

A few families heard the honking and came running out of their houses, expecting to find a traffic jam. Instead they saw a caravan of teachers in decorated cars and trucks. Even a few school resource officers took part in the parades. 

And in turn, some of the students made signs and stood outside to wave and cheer for the teachers. 

It has been a trying few weeks since schools closed indefinitely on March 17. Almost overnight, all public schools transitioned to distance learning, using online tools like Google Classroom, so that teachers and students could continue to interact. 

It has been an adjustment for both sides and this was a way to brighten their spirits and have a little fun. 

“Every day, the ‘car parade’ has chosen a different neighborhood to visit and it has been wonderful to see so many smiling faces … on both students and teachers!” stated a post on the Camden County Schools page on Facebook about the Crooked River Elementary School parade. 

Camden County schools also have been staffing food drive-throughs and drop-off locations along school bus routes to distribute free meals that many of the kids would normally have gotten through the school nutrition program. (See a complete list on page 2 of this edition)

Last week, several school board members also showed up to distribute McDonald’s Happy Meals to the people in line to get food. 

According to the school system, nutrition workers and volunteers have distributed more than 20,000 meals since the program started. 

Self-quarantine signs

For the elderly or those who are medically at-risk for having complications from COVID-19, self-quarantining may be the difference between life and death. However, staying away from people makes it hard to communicate that. 

Maureen McGrath of St. Marys said her mother recently had chemotherapy and has a weakened immune system. Although they keep in touch by phone, she is also staying away from her mom. McGrath shops for her, but carefully leaves her purchases on her mom’s back porch and wipes everything down.  

“I would feel so horrible. I wouldn’t want to give this to anyone,” she said.  

So she printed up some laminated signs to place on the door of her mom’s house, figuring it was a good idea to let others know that she was self-quarantining inside and not answering the door. 

Others expressed interest, like the ladies her mom knows in the St. Marys Garden Club. 

“It just snowballed from there,” McGrath said. 

She ended up making about 150 signs to distribute to others and Launch Printing in St. Marys also got her permission to make some extras to sell. 

Since the signs are covered in plastic, people can also leave messages on them instead of ringing the doorbell. McGrath said it lets delivery people and neighbors know why she isn’t answering the door. And, she added, it helps first-responders know of her at-risk status if they had to approach the house for any reason.