originally published by LNP + LancasterOnline

In a 1931 speech in London, Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, uttered this line: “In the midst of darkness, light persists.”

COVID-19 presents our community with darkness. And while heartaches and hardships have presented for all of us, our suffering is not equal.

I am not on the front lines in the war against COVID-19. From my seat as a fundraiser at Community Action Partnership, our county’s largest anti-poverty agency, I watch from my home office as my amazing colleagues do essential work to make sure families have what they need to be safe, healthy and stable during this unprecedented time. I hear from them the stories of loss, scarcity and anxiety that our clients are facing. Life is different and difficult for those whom CAP serves, and the darkness is very real.

But the light persists.

It persists in the form of overwhelming generosity from people in our community who want to support their neighbors in need. People who recognize that providing basic needs like food, shelter and hygiene supplies is both urgent and necessary.

I am not the least bit surprised by Lancaster County’s generous spirit. We are regularly recognized as a community intent on lifting each other up. But something feels different right now. Maybe it’s folks experiencing shared crisis that transcends any one group of individuals; maybe it’s a collective energy of working toward common goals. Whatever it is, let me introduce you to some of the light in the darkness.

A 10-year-old Lancaster County girl recently held online sing-alongs and collected donations for Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County. Her gift provided two full meals from a local chef for the residents and staff at our emergency safe house. In fact, more than 50 donors came forward to provide catered meals, which allowed for sanitation and social distancing during meal time at the shelter.

A local hobby club offered each of its members complimentary dues for the year and asked that they pay it forward — if they could, of course — to a local nonprofit. We have received several donations from these generous folks.

A personal friend of mine received a bonus from her employer for sitting on a COVID-19 task force. Instead of keeping it, she wanted to donate to a family in need. We connected her with a single mother in our We Can Do It job training program. That mother has three children and is struggling with bills.

Foxduck, a local printing business, initiated a T-shirt fundraiser in which 50% of sales of its “Solidarity” shirt went to CAP. That business donated nearly $5,000 — that’s more than 350 shirts! — which is both a reflection of Foxduck’s generosity and the generosity of our community.

Since his shows have all been canceled, a local musician has been holding livestreamed performances on Facebook and sharing the “tips” he raises with local charitable organizations. In honor of a friend’s birthday, he donated to the charity of her choice — Crispus Attucks Community Center — which provided her with a hot meal after she lost her hospitality job due to COVID-19. She says, “I went just thinking, gosh I need to eat something. I left with a real sense of pride for my city and a true appreciation for those working or volunteering their time to make an impact right here and right now.”

A gentleman donated his stimulus check to Domestic Violence Services, saying, “The virus might not discriminate, but the suffering is unequally distributed. I have a job, a steady income and, other than being restricted to my house and working from home, not much has changed in my life. But for many this isn’t the case. I don’t need the stimulus money the government is providing. So, giving it to those who do is an easy call. For many people, staying at home isn’t just inconvenient, it’s actually dangerous. Supporting Domestic Violence Services with my stimulus check seemed like a good place to start.”

These are just a handful of examples of the light I have seen since this pandemic first reached Lancaster County. We have received gifts ranging from $25 to $5,000 and every single one of them is meaningful and makes a difference in the lives of our neighbors who are struggling.

Between continuous updates on the toll of COVID-19, the endless circulation of misinformation on social media, the separation from our families, friends and community, the deaths of loved ones, the profound fear of this virus, the anxiety of the unknown, and whatever else we are experiencing, it’s easy to get lost in the dark. But this is Lancaster. There are people here with generous hearts, organizations innovating and authentically collaborating to meet acute and emerging needs, and a collective energy sparking hope in the dark.

And once the darkness gives way — and it will give way — I predict we will be left with a light that has not only persisted but shines stronger than ever.

Kristy Aurand is the chief development officer for the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County.

About the Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Lancaster County

The Community Action Partnership is Lancaster County’s largest anti-poverty organization, helping low income families move toward self sufficiency. CAP’s service profile interrupts inter-generational poverty with programs that support families and individuals at every age and place in life, in the areas of education and child development, health and nutrition, household stability and safety and empowerment. For more information, visit www.caplanc.org