Alexandria, VA – The coronavirus has flipped the world upside down this year, and everyone is scrambling to keep their health while maintaining life as we know it.
For those who can’t fend for themselves, Gail Gordon is using social media and the good-natured side of people to help out via social media. She launched her Facebook page “Strangers on a Train…,” to link those who are able with those who are not and, in just a few days, over 600 people signed up and asked the question: How can I help?
“People generally want to help out in times of crisis,” Gordon said. She is finding that in a situation like the coronavirus pandemic, where elderly people with any type of health issue may be in danger, contributing to a greater good pulls people together. This seems particularly true in Alexandria, where Gordon started her movement. She hopes to branch 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. It’s a takeoff on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel. The story is based on a conversation and deal struck between two strangers, although their deal is not for doing good.
Where COVID-19 is concerned, says Gordon, “Let’s be strangers on a train for good. If you have elderly, disabled, or needy family or friends in one area of the U.S. (or anywhere, really) post here. Maybe someone near your loved one(s) can deliver a meal or groceries to a doorstep while so many are shut in, and maybe you can help someone who lives closer to you.” The responses poured in:
“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 kept growing from the day the page was launched.
One woman stuck on the island of Roatan, Honduras, needed to get back home. No flights were going in or out of that island and there is no consulate there. Suggestions came in from all over the place, including a link to American Citizen Services on Roatan Island.
Gordon is a lawyer with a government contracting firm and she volunteers when possible. She worked for the Obama presidency and is part of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. Her friends are involved in civic activities too. It was in her nature to do this when the virus hit the danger zone.
Internet programs have a certain level of danger because anyone can read them and react, possibly in a negative way, 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. Within a week, nearly 1,000 people joined the site and began helping online, with information on price gouging, DMV services, taxes, and more.
With COVID-19 news coming out constantly, Gordon mainly keeps her eye on the Centers for Disease Control and health department announcements, as well as a regularly updated graphic that shows how many are getting the virus and where they are located. “The whole idea is to flatten the curve,” she said.