With unemployment at historic levels, there are so many families who need help. The long lines at food distribution sites are a testament to the demand.
One South Florida woman saw the need and decided to connect people who lost jobs with people willing to help - an idea that has blown up around the world.
“When people think about the term ‘pandemic’ the way we’re using it today, of course, it invokes a lot of fear. But really, there are so many positive things that can go viral,” said Shelly Tygielski, a meditation teacher from Lighthouse Point.
For Tygielski, it has become a "Pandemic of Love" for her.
“Every little bit helps. We’ll match you up with a specific person or family and you can feel like you’re doing something to spread love and not fear,” she said.
About four weeks ago, Shelly posted a video to Instagram. With people losing their jobs during COVID-19, there was a need. She started linking people who needed help with those could help like Debbie Block.
“One family just asked help for groceries, so we sent them an e-gift card for their local grocery store,” Block told NBC 6’s Sheli Muñiz.
Fast forward a month later and Shelly is now at 25,000 matches between families.
“I really just thought this would be a community thing for the South Florida community, for the people who come to our meditation group on Sundays and that’s it and that would’ve been enough,” she said.
Volunteers started creating micro-communities across the globe, even catching the attention of celebrities like Debra Messing.
“For us, it was just the right thing to do as we see our own local restaurants and stores closing, we knew that many, if not all, employees were losing sole means of support for their children or families,” Block said.
Block said she helped three families in Daytona Beach, Miami, and San Diego. Shelly says the average request is around $150.
“The majority of people are just looking to fill their fridge with food and asking essentials for children,” Shelly told NBC 6.
People are also asking for help with COBRA payments after losing health insurance with their jobs. To get help or give help, just go to Pandemicoflove.com and fill out a short form. Shelly said the process is vetted and recipients can remain anonymous.
“If you need help right now, don’t be afraid to ask. I can only imagine what it is to ask for help, especially if you’ve never done it before. But Pandemic of Love makes it easy,” said Block.
Pandemic of Love also has a Spanish counterpart, you can go to Pandemiadeamor.com.