Dubbed HELPR—Help Enable Local Pandemic Response—the site at www.helpraz.org also is a place for people who wish to volunteer or give financial help. In fact, the site has received many more requests to offer help than to receive it, according to Nick Asolas, the communications director for Mission Community Church, located at 4450 E. Elliot Road, Gilbert.
Asolas said organizers have received more than 600 offers to help against a little more than 100 requests for assistance.
“Up to this point, 100% of those requests are needs that have either been met or they are in the process of being met right now,” Asolas said. “It’s been cool to see.”
The website includes job opportunity listings that are constantly updated; information on food banks, child care and school food programs; a social media feed from the Centers for Disease Control; and links to updates from Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek, the Arizona Department of Health Services and Maricopa County Public Health Department.
It also includes a simple tool to offer help in different ways or to indicate what help is needed when requested. Church members on the back end act as dispatchers for the help, Asolas said.
While Mission Church hosts the website, it is partnered with Central Christian Church, with a Gilbert campus at 965 E. Germann Road, Gilbert; Redemption Church, with a Gilbert campus at 1820 W. Elliot Road; and Sun Valley Community Church, 456 E. Ray Road, Gilbert. Central Christian and Redemption have multiple other locations.
Conversations among the churches resulted organically in combining forces, Asolas said. Each promotes the tool, and the tool has received responses from each community.
Asolas said the efforts to put together the tool started early when it became apparent the pandemic would be a community health crisis. Asolas said leadership at Mission, for example, was hearing from families in need and people who wanted to help but had no idea what that would look like.
From there, they spent time gathering resources, checking them out and building the website. Their efforts also received some welcome recognition from the town of Gilbert as Mayor Jenn Daniels mentioned the website on one of her video updates and the town website included it on a list of COVID-19 resources.
“We've had a great working relationship with the town, and their role has just been more signal boosting than anything,” Asolas said.
Asolas said he can point to several success stories. Early on, a household of homebound adults that had difficulty getting around in the best of times needed help getting basic groceries.
“Somebody from within our church offered said, ‘Hey, I'm available to donate my time to pick up groceries for people. I can give financially, however I'm needed,’” Asolas said. "We were able to put those two people in contact, and that person went out to the grocery store, out of their own pocket, purchased the groceries and left them on the doorstep for that family within 24 hours of them submitting their requests.”
The tool even has received requests from out of state, and organizers have been able to redirect requestors to where they can get help in their area.
“As somebody who works in the church, I think one of our primary functions is to care for our community,” Asolas said. “And that's one of the ways that we can shine light on what we're about. We're just thankful that we are here at this time to be able to do that and to lock arms with the larger faith community and help out.”