In the six weeks since the novel coronavirus began changing the way we live and work around the globe, across the nation – and right here in Essex County – nonprofits and small businesses have struggled just to survive. At the same time, they are being pressed to invent new ways to balance safety and service for the promise to thrive.

What we’ve all discovered is that the process is complex, multilayered and one that requires agility in order to adapt to the evolving landscape. As a region, we’ve seen the way our frontline nonprofits – food pantries, social service agencies and shelters – have stepped up in the face of extraordinary circumstances to take care of the most vulnerable among us. They have a job to do. And despite uncertain times making their jobs harder, our nonprofits are embracing their missions all the more tightly and bringing relief to those who need it most by thinking outside the box. Businesses are doing it too. We’ve heard the stories of local companies pivoting manufacturing processes to produce personal protective equipment and donating meals to those in need.

Though we have a long road ahead, when we pause to take stock in the work that has been accomplished over the last six weeks, it really is quite an extraordinary thing to witness, this coming together for the common good. To those working on the front lines, we thank you – sincerely and from the bottom of our hearts.

Not surprisingly, the stories of perseverance, creativity and unity stretch far beyond the frontlines of our current health crisis. Across Essex County, nonprofits and small businesses across the board are suffering the same grim realities in their struggle to survive and thrive. But still they persist – with ingenuity, resilience and a can-do attitude. Some are taking on new roles, acting as supports to frontline responses to the pandemic. Others are shifting gears by offering new and innovative ways to learn, create and connect. They are working remotely, going virtual, thinking about creative solutions and engaging with their audiences in new ways.

And we need them to do this.

We are all of us connected. And as our nonprofits and small businesses demonstrate agility in their service, we must be nimble in our support. For when the pandemic begins to subside, and we start to uncover where our new normal lies, Essex County will need its creatives and cultural nonprofits, its restaurants and independent bookstores, its local retail shops and service providers. And they will need us. We rely on each other now to keep our local economies strong and the fabric of our communities tightly knit, and we’ll rely on each other in the future as we recover and rebuild.

Across the region, nonprofits and small businesses are adapting to the current landscape. Below are just a few examples of how they are doing this:

The House of the Seven Gables in Salem has just announced the launch of its virtual tour experience of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. Take a narrated journey through the historic site made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel. Purchase a membership to gain unlimited access to the tour as well as on-site activities when they reopen; pay $10 for unlimited access to the tour and a $10 voucher for in-person activities; or make a donation. www.7gables.org.

RAW Art Works, a Lynn-based youth arts nonprofit rooted in art therapy, is inspiring creativity by presenting weekly community art challenges; free virtual how-to art tutorials and a downloadable coloring book, designed by RAW staff and youth to create connections through art. www.rawartworks.org.

The Cabot in Beverly is offering a Virtual Cinema series. Pay $10 to screen one of several independent films right from the comfort of your own couch. Your rental fee goes directly to support The Cabot and helps cover operating costs during the shutdown. www.thecabot.org.

Creative Collective and Creative North Shore have worked with more than 50 area artisans, creative small businesses and performers to host over 100 livestreams of workshops, wellness classes, story times and more. Visit them on Facebook to watch and see an upcoming schedule of livestreamed events.

View the new “Young at Art” exhibit – a virtual showcase of artwork from local teenagers – at the Salem Arts Association (www.salemarts.org), one of many local arts organizations to connect the community with art online.

Change is Simple, a Beverly-based nonprofit that offers STEM education to area elementary and middle school students, is offering free online science and sustainability classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. www.changeissimple.org.

Local artists and fashion designers like Skeletons in the Closet and Notso Kitty have responded to the crisis by making protective face masks for purchase by the general public.

Root, a Salem-based nonprofit culinary training program, has pivoted its focus to providing meals to the area’s vulnerable populations. By partnering with the city of Salem, Salem Public Schools, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, and Citizens Inn, Root is providing 300 meals to seniors in public housing and 1,000 meals a week to children and youth. www.rootns.org.

Restaurants all over Essex County are coming up with innovative – and safe – ways to serve customers. Visit www.restaurantlove.org, a new collaborative campaign headed by Beverly-based company MassPay that offers tips for supporting local eateries during COVID-19. The campaign’s new video documentary series, StayInTakeOut, tells the stories of local restaurants adapting their business models in the wake of the pandemic.

As your local community foundation, ECCF encourages your continued support of your favorite nonprofits and small businesses, which are working tirelessly to adapt to a crisis that continues to unfold. They need you now more than ever. And if you can, explore some new ways you might be able to support your community as well. Take a virtual tour, make a donation, buy some takeout or share these suggestions with a friend. We are all in this together.

To read more inspiring stories about strength in a time of crisis, and to learn about ECCF’s collaborative response to the coronavirus, please visit eccf.org.

Stratton Lloyd is ECCF’s COO and Vice President for Community Leadership. Michelle Xiarhos Curran is the foundation’s communications writer.

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