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Exchanging Favors: Local Facebook Group Going Viral with Hitchcock Bravura

The Hitchcock plot of the original “Strangers on a Train” took a darker turn than the bright and empathetic favor exchanges happening because of this new Facebook group. (Original art)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The coronavirus has flipped the world upside down this year, and for those that aren’t able to fend for themselves, Gail Gordon in Alexandria, Virginia is there, using social media and the good-natured side of people to help out, via social media.

Her “Strangers on a Train” Facebook page was launched on March 14 to link those that are able to help those that are not, and in the first five days, almost 1000 people have signed up asking the question: “How Can I Help?”

How Can I Help?

“People generally want to help out in times of crisis,” she said. Gordon is finding that with a situation like the coronavirus, where the elderly with any type of health issue may be in danger, there is a greater good that is pulling people together, particularly in Alexandria where Gordon started her movement, which she hopes branches out to other parts of the country or world where help is needed. “If somebody needs help, this is a place to ask for it,” she said.

The full name of her Facebook page is “Strangers on a Train for Good During the COVID 19 Outbreak,” is based on an “old Hitchcock movie adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel,” she wrote on the initial opening of the page. The book is an analogy of striking up conversations between strangers, and with the virus, it’s an expansion of that conversation.

“Let’s be Strangers on a Train for Good. If you have elderly, disabled or needy family or friends in one area of the USA (or anywhere, really) post here. Maybe you can find someone somewhere near your loved ones to deliver a meal or groceries to a doorstep while so many are shut in, and you might be able to help someone who lives closer to you,” she wrote. The responses came pouring in after that:

“I’m in Alexandria, VA if anyone needs food delivered here, or pharmacy pick-ups and that sort of thing.”

“If anyone has friends or family in Chesterfield County, VA (near Richmond) who need assistance with meals, feel free to pm me!”

“willing to help if someone needs something in the Alexandria Fairfax City area.”

“I’m in Springfield, VA. Full disclosure, I’m 71, so that’s a risk factor but I’d love to help in any way I can.”

“We live in the Fairfax Station/Lorton area and are happy to make and deliver meals and do grocery runs (as long as things are in stock).”

“I’m way out in Seattle, with family in Philly that may need some assistance in the coming weeks. Let’s spread this network wayyyy out”

“I’m in Occoquan/Woodbridge/Lake Ridge, V.A. Happy to help.”

“Thank you for the fantastic idea…”

The number of responses keeps growing.

Around the Globe in a Hurry

One woman was stuck on the island of Roatan in Honduras and needed to get back home. No flights were going in or out of that island and no consulate was there either. The suggestions came in from all over the place, including a link to the American Citizen Services office there on the island.

Gordon does have a busy day job as a lawyer for a government contracting firm and volunteers when she can. In the past, she has done work for the Obama presidency, and is part of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. Her friends are involved in civic activities too, so it was in her blood to do this when the virus hit the danger zone.

Internet programs do have a certain level of danger because anyone can read them and react, possibly in a negative fashion, so Gordon recommended early on that “people can privately message each other to establish some sort of confirmation of legitimacy,” and take it from there.

The nearly thousand members that have joined the site began helping immediately online, and posting information on price gouging, DMV services, taxes and more.

With all the coronavirus news that’s constantly emerging, Gordon’s mainly keeping her eye on the Centers for Disease Control and the health department announcements, as well as the graph that is used to show how many are getting the virus. “The whole idea is to flatten the curve,” she said.

If you are interested in joining the private group, click here or search Facebook for “Strangers on a Train for Good during the COVID 19 Outbreak.”

MORE: New Web Hub in Alexandria Lists Beer-to-Go, Local Gift Cards, etc.

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