When Veronica Coon started “COVID-19 Barter Group — Southern NV,” the idea was to connect people in need.
The first cases of the virus started to hit Clark County last month, and while people raided shelves at stores, her Facebook friends updated their statuses.
“They needed diapers, they needed wipes, they needed rice, they needed all kinds of things. They were shopping in different stores,” Coon said.
But in the era of social media, staying socially distant while connecting at the same time has never been easier, she said.
Coon realized that some people might have items other people need, and vice versa. So the Henderson woman created the group on Facebook to set up a barter system.
“We just don’t do it anymore, but it used to be really prevalent in our culture 100 years ago to barter,” Coon said.
Before she knew it, the group amassed more than 4,000 members.
People exchanged wipes for toilet paper. Eggs for masks. Bread for fresh vegetables. Shampoo for rice.
Through it all, they’ve maintained social distancing — calling, texting and leaving items at people’s doorsteps throughout the valley.
‘God put it on my heart to help people out’
As Nevada unemployment reached record numbers, the need started growing. The more people who posted, the more others with means didn’t accept the trade, instead giving cases of water and other items away, Coon said.
“God put it on my heart to help people out, even though I can’t monetarily help people, I knew that other people on my friends list could,” she said. “And my faith has been restored in humanity because of it.”
On a recent Friday, Henderson mom Kat Morris readied to make deliveries to 15 families, mostly seniors, and other vulnerable people she had met through the group.
Morris picked up meal kits from the Henderson barbecue joint Sin City Smokers, which, though struggling, is doing what it can to provide for those in need.
She carefully placed the red beans, rice, meatballs and pork meal kits on top of each other in her trunk and headed out.
In the 55-plus Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Las Vegas, Morris placed the meals outside Debbie Castrejon’s mobile home. Castrejon, 66, had cut-out hearts and a green ribbon in her window. The green ribbon signals to other residents she and her husband were OK. A red one signals someone needs help.
“I like to walk around 7 p.m., and make sure everyone has green ribbons,” she said from her porch, her arms crossed over her blue bathrobe. Her friend had just died from the coronavirus days earlier.
“Well, if nothing else, we’re here to just offer you words of support. We’ll be all right,” Morris told her.
‘As long as we stick together’
In another part of town, North Las Vegas member Chrissy Burley-Evans has quickly become “the mask lady” of the group. It all started with her 7-year-old daughter, who has a chronic lung condition.
Every year, her daughter gets a bad case of the flu and comes down with pneumonia.
“I knew I needed to protect her, and school was still in session,” she said. Her daughter had a blue paper mask, but Burley-Evans figured a cloth mask over it would add double protection.
The first mask Burley-Evans made bore the Golden Knights logo.
Now her dining room table is covered with them. She’s made hundreds of masks and shipped them to Massachusetts, Texas, California and to local pediatricians, who have requested some of her masks.
By the time Burley-Evans gets off work at a home health care office, her grocery store is usually out of the items she needs, so at times she has bartered masks for eggs.
She is donating boxes to medical professionals and sometimes charging locals $4 for the cost of materials and providing masks to the home caregivers in her office, who are still caring for seniors every day.
“Even though we have to keep our distance, the group brings a lot of people closer at the end of the day,” Burley-Evans said. “As long as we stick together and do what we need to we’ll be able to get through this.”