It started with a Facebook post.
A county employee exposed to COVID-19 violated the Mississippi Department of Health quarantine mandate when she shopped for medicine in a local store, and it was made public via the popular social media site.
As often happens when people have differences of opinion, posts were shared, people were tagged, comments were made and disagreements ensued.
So, what should you do if exposed and potentially positive for COVID-19? How will you get medicine, food, and other necessities if a mandate requires absolute isolation and you have no close friends or relatives able to help?
Enter Amber Grammer, a 23-year-old, stay-at-home mother. Grammer thought the solution to the problem was easy.
“The debate was whether a potentially sick person has the right to go get what they need or should they totally isolate themselves and risk doing without,” Grammer said. “People shouldn’t feel like they have no option but to run their own errands.”
Grammer said she knew that Vicksburg is filled with kind, loving people who would be more than willing to help someone in need, so she posted an idea.
“Maybe someone could create a page for people to come and ask for help from people here in town?” the post read. Before long, 29-year-old Brandi Toney volunteered to help create and run the page.
“I haven’t been in public since March 2020 because I have a neuromuscular disorder and this virus can be fatal to me. But I’m blessed with an amazing support system, and some people aren’t that lucky,” Toney said.
“People that think there is even an infinitesimal chance they are COVID-19 positive have got to start staying home. Period. There is no room for debate. None. If you go in public, you are potentially killing countless people. That’s a law for a reason.”
Toney does not want anyone to feel hopeless and without options.
“Vicksburg has too many kind-hearted people for that to even be an issue,” she said.
The Facebook group is called Vicksburg Lending Hands, and Grammer and Toney’s first post was to make clear that the page is not just for those who need help due to COVID-19. They describe it as a place to go for anyone needing help running errands, getting meals or any other necessities.
The page states that it is for the ill or elderly, single parents or those struggling financially to come ask for help. Grammer and Toney also request that those people willing to volunteer their services and time not hesitate to offer.
The group has already gained nearly 300 members in less than a week that it has been up.
Members are added through friend-of-a-friend invitations, but those people wanting to join can also request to do so. The two creators and administrators said the page is set as private just to make sure it is limited to local residents.
“There is no shame in asking for help. None!” Grammer said. “We’re all just trying to get through this day by day, but if we can just slow the spread of this virus, we’re taking a step in the right direction.”