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This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.

Metcalfe Park Community Bridges has been distributing mutual aid packages to residents to help them during these trying times. (Photo by Sue Vliet)

When the news of the pandemic broke, those who could afford it flocked to the stores and stocked up on essentials. That was months ago, and unfortunately the pandemic isn’t ending anytime soon.

Experts expect to see a surge in cases as the weather gets colder. During a coronavirus media briefing, Darren Rausch, the director of the Greenfield Health Department, noted that positive cases have began appearing across the country now that school is back in session.

Over the summer, Shavonda Sisson, director of programming at Public Allies and founder of Love on Black Women, posted a status on Facebook urging people to start preparing their households and families for the pandemic come fall and winter.

“I was giving a lot of thought to how I’m preparing my family” for the pandemic, Sisson said on why she posted the status.

Sisson explained that when she was a child, her mother was constantly planning and preparing the household for various events and seasons. Her mom would stock up on non-perishables, buy things on sale, put them in the freezer and pull them out for Christmas or Easter.

Fortunately for Sisson, who adapted her mother’s habits, when Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order began last spring, she found herself a little more prepared for the quarantine, compared with the majority of people who felt overwhelmed.

“The more prepared I am, the more I feel in control — and there’s so little we can control right now,” Sisson said. “Getting things now protects my family against the brunt of it.”

Sisson isn’t the only one trying to get the word out about the importance of planning ahead. Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, a local grassroots organization, which has been distributing mutual aid packages since the start of the pandemic, recently started including information packets on how to prep your house for the pandemic.

“This pandemic is still out here, and it’s real,” Melody McCurtis, an organizer and deputy director of priorities for Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, said.

Furthermore, now that school is back in session, a lot of parents need extra support.

“We’re trying to navigate all these issues, and it feels impossible, but we know our families are resilient,” McCurtis said.

Below is a list of suggestions from Sisson and McCurtis on what families can do to prepare for the months to come.

1. Plan ahead and prioritize items

Sisson said that planning ahead can lighten stress and make things easier when the inevitable feeling of being cooped up in the house begins. Sisson advised anticipating what your household’s needs are going to be and to help formulate a plan.

For example, buy some extra toilet paper now instead of waiting, because who knows what is going to happen later. Prioritize items that are hard to find such as Lysol spray, Sisson said.

Prepare for what you can, advised McCurtis.

2. Use coupons and accumulate items over time

Sisson suggested using coupons and slowly accumulating a stockpile of items. Don’t overbuy items but keep enough in the house to keep everyone comfortable, she said.

When you stock up, you limit the number of trips to the store over time, Sisson said.

3. Think of your family

Some items that people might consider purchasing are the household’s favorite non-perishable snacks. Sisson also recommended looking into crafts or board and card games that can be easily sanitized and swapped with a neighbor.

Sisson also updated the family’s library cards to download book PDFs, looked at new recipes to break mealtime monotony and purchased a treadmill to help her children stay active.

It’s important to stay active, she said, and while not everyone can afford a treadmill, there are other forms of exercise such as jumping rope.

4. Utilize mutual aid services

McCurtis noted that a lot of people have lost their income or are waiting for their unemployment check to come through. Additionally, the prices of essential items are going up and some items are harder to find. This is where groups such as Metcalfe Park Community Bridges or Ayuda Mutua step in to help.

Starting in the third week of September, Metcalfe Park Community Bridges will have packages ready.

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