Mutual aid website aims to help county residents affected by COVID-19 outbreak

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A newly created, volunteer-run website aims to serve as a hub for the response to the coronavirus outbreak in Bennington County.

Bennington County Mutual Aid, accessible at benningtonaid.com, allows people who want to volunteer or donate goods to complete an online form that allows them to itemize the skills and resources they can offer. Organizations can also submit requests for volunteers through a separate form. When an organization submits a request, the pop-up website contacts volunteers.

The site also provides links to an array of other resources, including the Bennington County Regional Commission's COVID-19 information page and information shared by the Vermont Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Counties across the state have started similar programs, and it didn't seem right that Bennington should go without," Dane Whitman, one of the volunteers involved with the project, wrote in an email. "This isn't about reinventing the wheel, but just another way to connect extra helping hands to people in need. We look forward to working with the many organizations that are already doing great work in Bennington County in response to this crisis."

Last week, BCMA helped Meals on Wheels of Bennington County "organize outdoor work parties to peel a 200 [pound] donation of sweet potatoes," Whitman wrote, adding that the local Meals on Wheels nonprofit has taken on dozens of new households since COVID-19 reached Vermont.

The Kitchen Cupboard, a food distribution program at GBICS, a Bennington-based nonprofit dedicated to helping community members meet basic needs, "is a bit short-handed, and has started delivering groceries for clients who can't leave their homes," Whitman wrote. The nonprofit is using BCMA's website "to help recruit about a half-dozen new and dedicated volunteers."

The BCMA "project has been an epic effort from many people in our community," said Andrea Bacchi, a volunteer who built BCMA's website. "It's times like these that reinforce why I love Vermont and its people so much — we have a strong community that looks out for one another."

The website has been shared on Facebook by state Rep. Kathleen James, who represents the Bennington-4 district, as well as the Bennington County Regional Commission and the town of Bennington.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.

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