Finalist for Person of the Year: Grassroots group opposes misinformation | News, Sports, Jobs


The members of “Let’s end COVID!” Pose in front of one of their many billboards Front row (left to right): Betsy Reichenbach, Tim Mahoney, Karla Sexton, Beth McMahon, Barb Hemmendinger, Lynn Estomin, Gwen Bernstine. Back row (left to right): JanAnn Todd, Ron Frick, Chris Smith, Joe Smith, Mike Heyd.

A grassroots organization founded by health, education and religious officials and other community members, Let’s End COVID! has worked tirelessly to help end the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all. From billboards to radio and television commercials, their work to educate the community about COVID and vaccinations can be seen everywhere.

“Lots of organizations, you have a few people doing a lot of the work. We have everyone who does a lot of work in this organization and they are very well informed ”, said co-founder Jim Smith. “That’s what’s great about this organization. It’s so different from a lot. Anyone says or has an idea, we will implement it quickly.

The idea of ​​shared responsibility has not gone unnoticed, with Let’s End COVID! Group member Lynn Estomin saying: “I will say that it was a real pleasure to work with this group because it is a working group… Each one has a different expertise and each one does their part and more. It has been a really wonderful experience in terms of working with people in the community ”, Estomin, who works on creating graphics and advertisements for the group, added that she has asked many community members to request garden signs to be displayed on their property, further raising awareness of the group’s cause. “We had over 400 people who wanted to put these pictures of trusted members in their backyard. We asked two of the biggest churches in the black community to pick up signs to hand out to their members… (as well as) lots of word of mouth.

The purpose of the group is explained in their mission statement, which is listed on their website, stating that End COVID! is “a group of concerned people in north-central PA who are working to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic through education, awareness and mitigation.”

“(We) had a number of conversations about the lack of information about COVID, the misinformation circulating about COVID, and the lack of coordination that was occurring between various groups…”, said Joe Smith. “So what we did, we were so frustrated that we thought about putting together a group that could work out some of these issues to see if there is anything we could do locally for Lycoming County and surrounding area. to help end COVID… So (we) handpicked people from diverse backgrounds.

Smith says that by creating a diverse group of individuals to make up the organization, they recruited individuals from a variety of fields and backgrounds, including the healthcare and medical communities, the religious community, and the community. educational. He also mentioned organizations such as Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition, STEP Inc., and River Valley Health and Dental as partners supporting their end goal, with River Valley in particular helping to manage the financial aspect of group outreach.

“The River Valley Health and Dental Center has a long history of supporting the goals and missions of the organization. Group member Carla Sexton said. “Because it’s a grassroots organization, obviously it didn’t have the structure in place to be able to take the funding that we got from the county and the city and be able to manage it in a very disciplined way. River Valley provided the financial systems and structure the organization needed to be able to accomplish its mission.

The group has publicized vaccines and dispelled misinformation through a number of formats, including radio and television ads, billboards, and the use of weekly editorials in local publications, including the Sun-Gazette, which Chris attributes to have been used to “Identify gaps in misinformation, or where there is no information on COVID. “

She said the content of the forum eventually expanded to cover topics of reasons for taking the vaccine and dispelling myths and misinformation regarding vaccine use in the pandemic, as well as testimonials from different people. of the community, detailing that of a woman. who recently contracted and survived his battle with the virus, who resided in a rural community.

“She lived in a remote area, she never had the flu shot, never had the flu, she didn’t have many visitors and yet she still contracted COVID. And how she got it (because) her husband worked in the community…. He brought it to her at home…. So this is only one way for us to fill in the gaps ”, she said.

The editorials also helped show the group that their efforts to help the community don’t go unnoticed and, in fact, resonate with people.

“I got calls from other people who saw this article and said, ‘I’m so glad this article appeared (in the newspaper) because this is what happened to me and I thought I was the only one. “” she said. “… That was before I even got into the billboards and everything. People were paying attention and I think of all the media that was discussed we are having an effect. People say they see things… This is the most important message I see. People who know people who have been affected by COVID. “

Let’s End COVID! has also gone to great lengths to increase public confidence in the medical community by presenting several familiar faces of the region in their education campaign, often including people who may represent communities more hesitant to receive the vaccine.

“We identified people from different strata of the community who had different reasons for being reluctant to get vaccinated. We researched and found that respected individuals within these communities had more of an effect on the transmission of information than an individual recognized at the state or national level.

“For example, a lot of people trust their doctors. So we recruited Dr Redka and other doctors for billboards, radio ads, TV ads, bus signs… ” Chris Smith said.

Speaking about the amount of effort the group has put into their message and mission, Karla Sexton said.

“What I’ve seen from this group that’s different from a lot of other efforts I’ve been involved in is that it’s really… quite a storm of effort, if you will, to try. to pass the messages on to the community… ”

“We have been a flexible organization and I think many of us are determined to do this to the best of our ability – to help ourselves, our neighbors and our families resist and persist.” says Barbara Hemmendinger.

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