Marshalltown residents stay connected to loved ones

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - In this March 23 photo provided by Julie Bufkin, her 7-month-old boy, Calvin, interacts with his grandparents, Debbie and Allan Cameron, in Chandler, Ariz., on a FaceTime video call from his crib in Tempe, Ariz. The Camerons are among the grandparents all over the country going through a piercing distance from their loved ones for their own protection during the coronavirus crisis.

Social distancing guidelines have made it difficult for people to stay in touch with their loved ones. Though it is best to stay at home, there are still many ways to connect with family and friends. Marshalltown residents are getting creative and using technology to maintain relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Felicia Perez is a Kwik Star employee on leave to care for her children while they are not in school. Since the pandemic, she has been connecting with family members through a group chat room.

“We started a family chat room to get back into having yearly gatherings of the family, as we tend to get busy,” Perez said. “But since the outbreak we have been connecting almost daily either about where the toilet paper stash is or who needs items ordered online.”

The group includes Perez, her cousins, aunt, mom, brother and sister-in-law.

When asked if this has helped them stay connected, she said, “Yes I believe more so as we all are essential workers and are worried deeply about the other. Social isolation does a number on you but this has helped keep nerves and anxiety down.”

Perez said they send each other funny memes or videos, including some of her children.

While attending to each other’s emotional needs is necessary right now, she said they also use the chat room to make sure every has the supplies they need.

Perez and other family members care for their older relatives by ordering groceries for them online and having them delivered to their door.

“Checking in on each other emotionally will help us through this,” she said.

Amber Thorson-Hill, commercial printing assistant at the Times-Republican, has been using video chat to stay connected with relatives.

Two of her daughters were able to talk to their older sister, grandma and aunt for their birthdays.

“They all loved it because they still got to see each other and they were able to play games with each other on the screen,” Thorson-Hill said.

For those who have birthdays in the month of March or April, it may be a little less festive this year. Parties can still be had over video, though, safely in separate homes.

Co-director of Bobcat Academy Ashley Buzbee-Johnson’s children are inviting friends to participate in a dance challenge. Her daughter Lily saw a similar idea on one of her competition dance sites and thought it would be fun to do.

“She decided she wanted to hold her own, so they set up a contest,” Buzbee-Johnson said.

For the Dance! Dance! Challenge, participants ask Siri, Alexa or any other device to play a random song or press shuffle on a playlist, then dance for 30 seconds to the song that plays while recording. Videos can then be sent to dancedancechallenge@gmail.com or posted on Facebook. The videos are due by April 4 at 4 p.m., and prizes will be given for the top three performers.

“They are making Perler bead medals for winners and maybe gift cards for ice cream or something too,” Buzbee-Johnson said. “It’s been a lot of fun for them!”

The contest began on Wednesday and since then, around 6 people have submitted videos.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further challenged communities by preventing loved ones from seeing each other. Marshalltown residents have found ways to overcome this by using technology to stay connected with one another.


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