With COVID-19 dominating headlines and social media newsfeeds, contagion is top of mind around the globe. Against this backdrop of fear, illness and an apparent scarcity of items such as toilet paper and milk, Round Rock resident Marissa Almaguer set out to prove hope is contagious, too.

“When I first heard about the coronavirus in our community, I wondered about the people who don’t have anybody, elderly people who live alone and others who might be scared,” Almaguer said.

She started Corona Helpers - East Round Rock on the social media platform Nextdoor to provide a place for locals to both ask for and offer help to their neighbors. Members of the group offer to run errands for people who are experiencing difficulty or fear about leaving their homes. Participants also help each other locate hard-to-find items such as eggs and hand sanitizer. Formed less than a week ago, Corona Helpers had 142 members as of 1 p.m. on March 18.

“I know asking for help is difficult,” Almaguer said. “I hope people feel safe enough to reach out because we’re in this together.”

Almaguer is not the only local resident using social media to lend a helping hand in a time of need. Members of Hutto and Pflugerville neighborhood groups have posted numerous messages,Wa including the following:

Jason Ouellette, the pastor at Way of Life Church in Pflugerville, recently took to Facebook to leverage what he calls a “serendipitous event” in order to help his community.

Several months ago, a church member ordered cleaning supplies and accidentally purchased two large cases of toilet paper instead of paper towels. The church has approximately 60 members on a given Sunday, Ouellette said, and that amount of toilet paper would have lasted them “years,” Ouellette laughed.

“We’re a really small church,” Ouellette said. “We were wondering what we were going to do with all this toilet paper. And then COVID-19 came along.”

Nearly 250 people responded to Ouellette’s Facebook post, in which he offered free toilet paper to those in need.

“I think it shows they’re trying to find hope and encouragement,” he said. “It’s something we’re all looking for.”

Despite being a small congregation, Ouellette said it is important to the church to help their community in any way they can.

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” Ouellette said. “But I think that’s everybody’s challenge, feeling like you don’t have the resources you need. But our focus is to take what we do have and do with it whatever we can.”

Round Rock resident Sherry Vanderhoff said she is taking a similar approach to helping her neighbors in need.

“I have the basics of what I need, but I also don’t have a stockpile,” Vanderhoff said. “I’m willing to share what I have, because I feel in these times that we all need to stick together, to step up and help our neighbors.”

Vanderhoff is providing hot meals and running errands for seniors and single-parent families in need in Round Rock. She said she is also collecting supplies for porch-drop bags with a few simple groceries, a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

“Those of us who can give should give,” Vanderhoff said.