PITTSBURG, Kan. — On Monday, a group of community members met for a Zoom call hosted by the nonprofit Live Well Crawford County to brainstorm and devise a plan for a local-level effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It was just one of several such meetings planned locally, among hundreds planned to take place statewide by the end of December.
Last month, the nonprofit Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, launched the “Kansas Beats the Virus” campaign, “a statewide, bi-partisan public health intervention to activate and connect local leadership to combat COVID-19.” The campaign’s goal is to incentivize local leaders across the state to organize 1,000 virtual meetings by the end of the month.
The purpose of the local meetings “is to come up with something we can do right away, an action project to engage and support those that we influence, and slow the spread of the virus,” said Gentry Thiesen, who facilitated Monday’s Zoom meeting on behalf of the KLC. The action plan that emerged from Monday’s meeting was to launch a campaign to encourage people to use grocery pickup and delivery services in order to reduce the number of shoppers in area grocery stores.
By hosting the meeting, which was required to include 8 to 15 participants and ended up having about a dozen, Live Well — a local nonprofit originally created “to promote healthy lifestyle choices through education, motivation, and support for all generations” — became eligible for a $500 honoraria payment from the KLC.
Matt O’Malley, community liaison for Live Well, said that other area groups that have hosted or are planning to host “Kansas Beats the Virus” meetings include Pittsburg State University’s social work program, Pittsburg Area Young Professionals, and K-State Wildcat Extension District.
In response to a question from Thiesen, participants in Monday’s Zoom call identified several specific groups that seem to be struggling more than others during the COVID-19 pandemic, including children, student athletes, and senior citizens.
Later in the meeting, participants broke up into smaller groups for further discussion of potential action plans. Suggestions included creating yard signs similar to political yard signs but with messages about COVID-19 mitigation, posting selfies on social media while wearing facemasks, and various other ideas for social media campaigns, such as encouraging youth groups to run their own coronavirus mitigation social media campaigns.
Eventually, once the full group came back together, it decided on a campaign to inform people about grocery delivery and pickup options and encourage them to use those services, with the goal of reducing the number of people shopping in grocery stores and potentially spreading the virus. Elements planned as part of the campaign include social media messaging, printed flyers or informational sheets, and spreading the word through organizations such as area schools.
O’Malley said Live Well will also seek grant funding through the KLC to help pay for grocery delivery fees for those who may be unable to pay them, as well as to boost social media messaging for the campaign. On Tuesday, which was set as the start date for Live Well’s new grocery delivery campaign, O’Malley was optimistic about the impact it could have.
“It should make some sort of difference,” O’Malley said. “It should slow the spread of the virus locally.”