Southeast side fights COVID-19 with kindness and masks

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — What started as an effort to provide masks to healthcare workers at Parkview has grown into a mission across county and state lines to do the same for people on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.

They have gone by Southeast Fort Wayne Community Response and Southeast Fights COVID but they say they aren’t really an organization — rather a group of people will a common goal of looking out for their neighbors. It all started back in March with the initial push to make masks for Fort Wayne’s healthcare workers.

“We in that weekend produced 2,000 masks for Parkview with the medical-grade material that was dropped to us,” said Melissa Fisher, Lead Pastor at Faith United Methodist Church.

Fisher began calling family friends, other woship leaders, as well as community leaders to get in on the effort. She said Parkview ran out of that material within the first week and she realized the need was bigger than just hospital workers.

“We quickly changed our direction and focused on the most vulnerable populations of our community and the southeast side, and then essential workers.”

She was not the only one who realized that. Cedric Lee Walker, Lead Pastor of Joshua’s Temple Missionary Baptist Church, was out shopping for essential items when he looked around and realized there were very few make being worn on the southeast side of town.

“I was alarmed after having heard so many in the African American community were casualties as a result of COVID-19 all over the country and immediately I just wanted to do something about it,” said Walker.

He started his own effort to get masks made, and then was connected with Fisher and they combined their operations. They have donated masks to be handed out by the Boys and Girls Club, the Utopian Grocery Store, and Big Momma’s Kitchen. Walker said he even keeps a box in his car to hand out.Around 30 to 40 people are volunteering their time to sew the masks and others have donated cloth and ribbon to make them. 

Although they are largely benefiting Fort Wayne, it is not just the city’s citizens helping out. Fisher said their sewers live outside in Fort Wayne in towns like Harlan, Ligonier, and even Convoy, Ohio. Their backgrounds may be different, but the goal is the same.

“It crossed through socioeconomic status, it crosses through political views, it crosses through race, culture. It  crosses through anything you could think of that somebody could say that could divide us as human beings.”

Walker said that willingness to help others is the sweet that soothes the bitter, and that it is reassuring to know that even during hard times people are still wanting to help others.

“It lets me know that people care and that the world is still full of love,” said Walker. “The word of God says all you have to do is ask and it shall be given so you never know who’s there to help, who can identify with your needs. If you, as my father would say, stay closed mouth you have to learn how to ask for whatever it is that you want.”

According to Walker, that kindness has made a real impact on the southeast side.

“Wherever we go, we’re seeing more and more people wearing masks and that’s all I wanted to see,” said Walker. “Get people wearing masks, thinking about your health, think about your children’s health, think about my health. Let’s think about one another’s health.”

To date, the group has made put more than 4,500 masks in hospitals and on the streets. They say they want to keep going until they reach at least 10,000 masks. Information on how to donate supplies or founds can be found by reaching out on their Facebook page, or by emailing CityLife@yfcin.org.

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