BUSINESSES and community members in Clunes have rapidly responded to the coronavirus pandemic, bringing ideas of how to support each other physically, emotionally and economically to fruition.
Clunes artist Christie Flaws was inspired to do something positive for the community after seeing the early negative community reactions to COVID-19, with people rushing to shops and panic buying items.
"I decided I wanted to publicly make a space that showed people could think about looking after each other too," she said.
Called "a cup of sugar/ a cup of kindness", the mutual aid idea is one that has been developed in different forms right around the world and is a way for residents to support and care for each other through this challenging time.
Earlier this week the local postman dropped flyers into residents' letterboxes.
The flyers list the phone numbers of various volunteers who have offered to be contacts for anybody in the town in need of assistance during the social isolation period, especially for people in the 70+ age bracket.
There has been an exceptionally positive response, with Ms Flaws already receiving thankful phone calls from older residents who are grateful to have a number to call if they need to.
There is also a Facebook group, through which residents can keep in contact while discussing all things self-isolation - from self-care tips to sharing recipes, ideas to keep children entertained and other practical resources such as emergency relief and ways to order from local businesses.
I think that people are being so bombarded with information and I know for myself, it's pretty nice just to have a person on the other end of the line. Even if they don't have the answer for you, that human contact is really important.Christy Flaws
The idea may develop with time and could become a lasting resource for the town, even after COVID-19.
Ms Flaws said this was just one example of how people were looking after each other through the pandemic and was proving to be a time when people were reassessing what is important and are connecting with other people.
"All the science shows that when we do that, when we have that kind of social connection and particularly doing things for other people, it gives us a sense of purpose.
"I think that, particularly when we're in self isolation, those opportunities to feel like you're doing meaningful work are pretty valuable. Valuable for the people who are being asked for support as well."
Aside from rainbows and teddy bears in windows, she hopes that people will continue to come up with other ideas for ways to be kind and to stay connected, not just now, but always.
Meanwhile, the Clunes Tourism and Development Association has assisted local businesses by launching an online shop as a platform for community members in Clunes and surrounding townships to order items and to have them delivered to their doorsteps.
Jason Judd was one of the people who assisted with the development of the website - 'Clunes Online Store' - which already has a handful of businesses on board including the town's grocer, butcher, a winery and cafe and candy store - just in time for Easter orders.
As Clunes is a book town, it is also hoped a book shop or two will jump on board.
Mr Judd and his husband are members of the CTDA and have both worked in the technology space, so wanted to use their skills to assist the businesses in their town as well as community members.
As it's a small town, everybody knows everybody and community members are always volunteering for initiatives to benefit the wider community.
You learn to wave to everybody, to say hello to everybody and I think there is a real understanding here that you get through things better as a community.Jason Judd
While wanting to offer a way for community members in strict social isolation to still receive items, it was developed as an option for businesses which were looking for ways to limit social interaction by selling their products online.
"The other reason we did it is it gives businesses, particularly if they're selling fresh foods, the opportunity to only order the stock that they'll use rather than not knowing what their sales are going to be be like - so limiting waste," Mr Judd said.
"The focus is on keeping it local - so for businesses who operate locally and are offering things for sale."
Cafes and restaurants in the town are still trading with takeaway, but the website is simply another option offering online ordering and delivery.
There is no cost to be listed on the website.
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