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As Texans across the state band together during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, one woman in the South Texas town of San Diego saw a community need and found a way to fill it. 

Alissa Oritz, also known by many as “Nikki,” is a stay-at-home mom who has always enjoyed being involved in her community. After helping organize a fundraiser for her sister-in-law’s battle with cancer in 2012, Alissa became more involved in local outreach and became known for her work in organizing fundraisers for people in need around San Diego. 

“I realized quickly that in our community, we have so many people with big hearts and everyone comes together in each other’s time of need,” she said.

In March, Alissa became nervous as she watched people struggle to find the supplies they needed amid the coronavirus outbreak, and was distressed as social media “overflooded with negative posts and sadness.” In response, Alissa created Vaquero Community Support.

Named for the local school mascot, Vaquero Community Support is a Facebook group where people in the San Diego community can communicate with each other about food and supplies needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

People in the group can notify others about the availability of certain supplies in stores. If there is a shortage of toilet paper at a particular store or if new toilet paper is in stock, for example, people can notify others of that situation. This allows people to avoid visiting several stores for products and putting themselves or others at greater risk. People also share tips and information and offer to pick up and deliver supplies to those in need. 

“I can’t tell you how many times myself or someone needs just one item from a store, and someone there offers to pick it up,” Ortiz said.

Making the project even more effective is the presence of store workers and city officials in the group. Store employees in the group communicate when trucks will be arriving with new products and answer many questions. City officials have also been responding in the group.

“They’ve done a great job communicating with us and resolving any issue extremely quickly,” she said. “It’s really brought the community together.”

Alissa is already organizing another project called a “blessing table,” similar to an idea she heard was being done by someone in Taft, Texas. The concept is a table placed in a public area where people can leave groceries and supplies for other people to take, free of charge. She received approval from the city and anticipates starting that project next week. 

“I’ve accepted I have no control over what’s going on in the world, but we have nothing to worry about when we have God and a group of great people beside us,” Alissa said. “Every town should organize a group like this. It really brings unity.”

Have you seen someone step up as a citizen-leader, volunteering in your neighborhood to help others during the coronavirus pandemic? Let us know—we want to tell their stories. Please send to [email protected].