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Denise Andrade-Kroon gives back to the community by leaving free items outside of her house for community members to take, including books. // Photo courtesy of Denise Andrade-Kroon

By Bailey Sytsma

With stores closed, leaving many people out of work, community members have used this time to give back by leaving items outside of their homes for anyone who needs it.

Denise Andrade-Kroon, a photographer in the Bellingham area, began leaving books that people would ask for outside of her home in paper bags with the receiver's name on the front. Andrade-Kroon and her husband came up with the idea while trying to find ways to give back to their community during the pandemic.

“My husband used to be a librarian, so you can imagine the amount of books we have in the home,” Andrade-Kroon said. “Rather than sell the books, we decided to give them away as a way for us to give to the community right now.”

Andrade-Kroon, is considered high risk for COVID-19 due to having asthma as well as compromised immunity so she makes the transaction as safe and clean as possible so neither party is in contact or at risk.

“We wipe them down, put them in a brown grocery bag, set them out on a white chair in our gravel driveway about 50 feet from our front door,” Andrade-Kroon said. “There has been no contact.”

Jacob Burton, a worker for Teal Jones Lumber in Sumas, was one of the people who responded to Andrade-Kroon’s book giveaway post online. 

“I was interested in the post because she stated that she had a connection to a librarian so she was giving away books, and I like to read,” Burton said. “This quarantine has inspired me to try to pick up the language I took in high school again.”

Burton has been able to practice his German during the pandemic with the books given to him by Andrade-Kroon, without having to spend money by buying books online. 

Andrade-Kroon was not the only one to have this idea. Johnny Mao, a fourth-year student at Western, gave his television and exercise bike to another student before moving home.

“I thought it was more useful for someone to use it instead of collecting dust in storage,” Mao said. 

Mao was given both items for free and said he wanted to do the same for someone who needed them more than he did.

Andrade-Koon said other ways to help the community is through checking on friends’ and neighbors’ mental health and keeping in touch.

“Getting in touch with the elderly or immunocompromised in your neighborhoods or communities to see if they need anything, check in on friends that struggle with their mental health, write letters to people you love,” Andrade-Koon said.

Katie Olvera, a licensed clinical psychologist at Western, said other ways to help the community are by helping yourself.  Practicing self-compassion and patience when feeling anxious or distressed is a way to remove judgment from how people are handling this experience, she said.

“I've seen and read many suggestions on social media and news outlets to stay physically active or to use this time as a way to commit to a new exercise program,” Olvera said. “For some people, this might be a fairly easy thing to do. For others, though, they might struggle to do so because they're feeling depressed, anxious or unmotivated.”

Olvera said it's important to recognize  we're all reacting to these circumstances differently.

Dick Mattila, a marriage and family therapist in Bellingham, said that routines and staying both physically and socially active are something he encourages his patients to do.

“I encourage the use of video, Zoom to interact and to make a routine and check in regularly,” Mattila said. Mattila recommends creating a bedtime and wake up routine, exercising through YouTube videos and going for walks and bike rides. 

Matilla said that a good family routine gives purpose and reduces anxiety. 

Olvera said that self care is also a crucial aspect during this isolating time.

Going on a walk or a bike ride? look around, there might be neighbors leaving a few items on their front yards for free.


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