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Pandemic Partners Redding: FB Group Gives and Receives Help

Join me in welcoming Sean McMasters of Redding, one of the founders of  the Facebook group “Pandemic Partners – Redding”.

Here’s the group description: “Welcome to Pandemic Partners-Redding. We want to be able to respond to the emerging needs of our neighbors during this challenging time. It’s simple – if you need help, ask. If you can help, respond out of the goodness of your heart. This can include running errands, picking up groceries, getting help with technology to stay connected to loved ones, etc. In a time where fear can be overwhelming, we choose kindness, generosity, and love for our neighbors. We believe that we belong to each other and that we will get through this best as we help one another. IMPORTANT – if you are having a medical emergency, please call 911.

Disclaimer: By engaging in any of the above, you are an independent person and responsible for your own health and safety. Please continue to practice handwashing, sanitizing, and distancing measures recommended the CDC. And please, in all interactions, treat people with respect, honesty, and kindness. *This page was launched as an affiliate page of Pandemic Partners-Bend in partnership with Vineyard City Church Redding for the sake of the common good. We have a long tradition of seeking to be the good news for our community, and we just want to make it easier for folks to connect.

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Hi, Sean. Welcome to ANC. Our paths crossed a few years ago when we both lived in the Garden Tract, and we both helped with Living Hope’s breakfasts. You’re a pretty active guy, but I see that you have created a new Facebook group –  “Pandemic Partner” –  especially related to the COVID-19 reality.

Before we get to that, can you tell a little about yourself as a means of introduction? (Sean, here you can tell as much as you’re comfortable, but you can also tell about your family, if you want.)

Hey Doni. We were Garden Tract neighbors for a bit! I moved to Redding when I was 15 and graduated from Enterprise in 1993 (go Hornets!). I’ve been married for 19 years to my amazing and beautiful wife who teaches 2nd grade in Happy Valley. We have three kids: 15, 13, and 11, and one dog named Indie.

I had a chance to study music at Cal Poly SLO, have a M.A. in theology from Simpson and am finishing another M.A. in counseling psychology from Simpson as well. I am the pastor of Vineyard City Church, which is a church I have been a part of for 20 years. I also do therapy at Family Dynamics working with men who wrestle with substance abuse. My family and I still cook breakfast at Living Hope every Wednesday.

Thanks! Obviously, you have a heart for helping people, so I wasn’t surprised to see the group you created especially for these scary times. Before we talk about the Facebook group, how are you and your family holding up in light of the COVID-19 situation? How has the COVID-19 stay-home order affected the McMasters?

To be honest, like most people we’re stressed. I don’t think we are especially afraid of COVID-19. We realize that things like this are and have been a part of human history for some time; unfortunate as that is. We are stressed because of all the small changes happening in our world: kids at home, empty shelves at the grocery store can be scary, non-stop news, aging parents, and not to mention the very real financial cost for us and others. We use part of our home as an Airbnb and we assume we’ll lose that entire income for months. That’s hard. However, we’re trying to practice self-care. Eating well. Resting when we can. Attempting to get good sleep. Not drinking too much Scotch and making sure we’re still exercising. There is much we can’t control so practicing Radical Acceptance (look it up) and practicing good preventative care (diet, sleep, exercise, etc) is important.

Thank you for sharing, Sean. I know a lot of readers can relate to what you are going through. So, about the group, Pandemic Partners-Redding. Can you tell about the group, and what inspired you to create it? (Sean, maybe tell about the timeline of it: when it started, and then why … did something happen, or was it just a thought out of the blue?)

Like many of us my family and I are wrestling with what are the real issues associated with COVID-19. However, I don’t want to stop there. I almost always ask: How can I help? Where are the opportunities to demonstrate God’s love in this moment? Sometimes these answers come easily and sometimes they take time to reveal themselves. In terms of Pandemic Partners-Redding I was checking out the NPR news page and one of the stories was about a Facebook Group called “Pandemic Partners-Bend” and I thought that’s brilliant. I thought this is great and we can do this. One of my professors in seminary said, “Steal the best with pride!” and that’s what I did with Pandemic Partners-Redding. The Bend group has been extremely successful. They really tapped into something important within their community. People need help and people want to help. Connect the dots and beautiful can happen.

What was your hope for the group when you created it?

The idea and my hope for the group  is to create a community who help each other. Some people post a need and then people within the group help out with that person’s request. I’m a huge fan of community, “We the People,” and allowing people to voice their needs and giving others the opportunity to help. We all have needs, some are physical, but we all have, in my opinion, a need for meaning. Helping someone will give you more joy than constantly trying to get your own needs met. That said, some people aren’t in the position to help themselves so, say for instance our elderly population during this time. My hope is that a group like this can meet the real needs of people who need it and give people hope and meaning through helping others. My mother is 72 and she has an auto-immune disease. She’s at risk and so are many elderly people. How can we network these people who need to isolate resources they need? Many people would love to get groceries for our aging friends.

What’s been the response so far? Any surprises?

The response has been positive so far. At first new people were joining the group like crazy, which was great, but at this point it seems as if the group has slowed down, which has been surprising to me. I think there are several issues we are bumping into: People are overloaded in terms of information, people are more stressed than normal (small stressors add up quickly), and I think people are embarrassed to voice their needs publicly. I have received several requests for help in private messages and I’ve encouraged people to post on the group. One person told me that it would be too embarrassing, which I understand. Unfortunately there is a stigma to being a person who needs things. The group also serves as a hub for pointing people toward certain agencies and groups who are able to help. My hope is that people are accessing these services as a result of our group and that people do start posting needs.

Is Pandemic Partners affiliated with any religious group?

No, but it was started by one! Vineyard City Church administrates the group and brings guidance to it, but the group is not religious in any way. The Bend group was also started by a church, but their group is not religious either. There is much we can say about the church historically, much of it bad, but there is a great deal of good within that history as well. One of the good parts is that churches have a long history in terms of social justice and helping the poor. This is something we are inspired to do because Jesus was constantly reaching out to those on the fringes, the foreigners, the poor, and the disenfranchised. I’m thankful to be a part of that tradition within the church and to continue that tradition here in Redding where so many are in need.

Pandemic Partners is brand new. How do you picture it going forward as time goes on?

I would hope it continues to be a platform where people can voice their needs and then have their needs met. We can help out our fellow brother or sister in very practical and simple ways. One of the things I often say is: If we all do a little, no one has to do too much. Maybe Pandemic Partners goes beyond this current situation we have with COVID-19 and allows us greater insight into how we can help others in practical ways. There were a great many people in need before COVID-19 and I don’t think the virus will make things financially better. Redding has a long history of having a decent sized population in poverty. Maybe a group like this could be one part of a larger story in which we see people taken out of poverty and given what they need to take a step in the right direction.

Are there any particular needs that are especially dire in our community right now, that you’d like people to know about?

So far, most people have been asking for housing assistance and food items. That said, I think the biggest need we have right now is bravery. Bravery to share our needs in spite of the feelings of embarrassment. There is no shame in being helped. I went to Cal Poly, my wife graduated top in her class and we had to live with my mom for two years because we were in financial need and because of her help we were able to get back on our feet. I think most people are willing to help because they themselves have been helped by others. By sharing your needs with others you bring meaning into their life and when you get the help you need you can remember those who helped you by helping someone else. Nobody gets through life without a little help.

What else would you like us to know about Pandemic Partners?

Please pass on the word that this resource is available for everyone within Redding. It is a simple idea with profound possibilities: If you need help, ask. If you can help, help. We have guidelines in place to make sure people stay safe as they help. Join up and get the help you need or help others who have needs.

Thank you, Sean. Stay safe!

You too Doni! We appreciate all that you do for our city.