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These Kindness Rocks are part of a project under way by McKenna Gibson, a senior at Old Saybrook High School (contributed photo)

HARTFORD, CT – All over the state, efforts both large and small are helping people cope with the drastic changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few searches on social media and a Facebook request for positive stories about people showing a heightened sense of personal and social responsibility brought in a bunch of responses – far too many to list.

Here are some of those stories:

Kindness Rocks

In addition to suspending in-person classes for the foreseeable future, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted yearly community efforts that take place as part of projects for graduating seniors throughout Connecticut’s high schools.

However some students – like McKenna Gibson, a senior at Old Saybrook High School – are determined to salvage their efforts within the restriction of keeping a safe physical distance from other people.

Gibson’s initial plan, entitled “Kindness Rocks,” was to get Old Saybrook students in grades 1-12 to gather and paint inspirational words or symbols on pre-selected rocks. Those rocks would then be collected and displayed in a Kindness Rock Garden at the local library.

Though initially hindered by concerns over distancing, Gibson found a workaround by creating a Facebook page for her project and asking the Old Saybrook public to pick up the rocks and painting tools from a bin outside her home.

“I am creating goodie bags that will contain 4 rocks, paint, and a paintbrush. I can either drop the bag off at your home or you can come pick it up,” Gibson said in a Facebook post.

The project has received an overwhelming amount of positive responses, according to her mother, Dana Gibson. Her daughter is in the process of collecting each completed kindness rock and will be displaying them in a soon-to-be-announced location.

Distilleries Chipping In

Recognizing the acute shortage of hand sanitizer, at least two Connecticut distilleries are shifting their normal production of spirits in favor of producing free hand sanitizer to help communities combat the rising threat of coronavirus’ spread; Sono 1420 of South Norwalk, and Litchfield’s Distillery, according to a report.

The two join a growing list of 50 plus distilleries nationwide that have taken action to help Americans in a time of great need.

According to the report, both SoNo 1420 and Litchfield distilleries are giving away their sprays to Connecticut hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, government offices, and residents at no charge.

In a post on their official Instagram page, Litchfield’s Distillery said they would be giving priority to businesses and individuals most at risk of infection.

“Because our quantity is limited we’re donating what we have to local businesses that need to maintain a clean work environment and to individuals that are high risk,” the Distillery said.

Disruption Is More Stressful for Some

While COVID-19 has increased anxiety for everyone in Connecticut, that feeling is even more acute in residents dealing with spectrum disorders like autism who may struggle to understand why their schedules have changed so drastically in such a short time.

Emanuela Palmares, editor-in-chief of La Tribuna newspaper in Danbury, has been working to help her son, Caio, deal with the new normal of life under coronavirus restrictions.

“My son was feeling anxious and helpless and he had asked me to help him make a news show for kids with autism,” said Palmares, whose husband is State Rep. JP Sredzinski, R-Monroe.

In a series of Facebook posts, Palmares and Caio detail some of the activities, such as keeping a daily schedule for homework and tasks with checkmarks used for completion, that they’ve found useful for keeping motivated to finish the day’s schoolwork.

Today on CAIO NEWS…. nurses and doctors need help, a tip to help kids with ASD with their routine, a laugh out loud moment with JP Sredzinski AKA fire beard, and a freestyle rap by Mc Caio. Feel free to share… Caio says 👋 hi everyone!!! #caioninja #autismawareness #coronavirus #homeschool #danbury

Posted by Emanuela Palmares on Friday, March 27, 2020

Other methods include staying on top of hygiene practices such as hand washing by having fun and making a song out of it. In another post, Palmares showed how conducting pretend news briefings can help children with autism have fun while staying updated with new developments, such as school closure dates, without increasing their sense of uncertainty.

Philanthropists Stepping Up

Ray and Barbara Dalio, alongside Dalio Philanthropies, are donating $4 million in support of medical care and food for both the vulnerable and those on the front lines of Connecticut’s fight against the virus, according to the Greenwich Sentinel.

Of the $4 million total, $3 million is earmarked to sponsor childcare services for hospital workers throughout the state at 26 different centers. In all, the funds are capable of covering eight weeks of care for roughly 1,066 children at facilities in close proximity to hospitals where their parents work.

The remaining one million is slated for food for Connecticut residents in need:

• $500,000 will fund Foodshare, the regional food bank serving residents in Connecticut’s Hartford and Tolland counties, and they estimate that the funds will help to feed over 35,000 for a period of no less than ten weeks.

• $500,000 will be provided to Connecticut’s Food Bank for distribution throughout its six-county service area. The organization serves a larger network of over 300 member agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, residential programs, low-income day programs for children and adults, and senior centers.

Glastonbury Police Help Make A Child’s Birthday Special

COVID-19’s impact is as economically widespread as it is callous to so many of life’s simplest and most personal joys: like the excitement of a young child’s birthday party.

Such was the case on Friday, when an officer on patrol with the Glastonbury Police Department noticed a sign asking for passing traffic to stop and beep their horns in celebration of a child’s birthday, in lieu of family and friends being able to attend.

Glastonbury Police Captain Mark Catania said in a LinkedIn post that before long, “the officer took the initiative to round up some other officers on shift and make this young child’s birthday a special one.”

High Grades for Connecticut

Additionally, reports are emerging that seem to indicate that Connecticut has handled social distancing as well as could possibly be expected.

Unacast, an industry-leader in location data gathering and contextualization, recently released it’s Social Distancing Scoreboard and gave the state an A grade for its efforts.

Grades are based on the decrease in average distance traveled and measured by cell phone GPS data. According to the report, Connecticut residents decreased their average travel by 46% since the COVID-19 crisis first began.

Any state with over a 40% decrease in measured travel was given an A, with an average score nationwide of B. Altogether, Connecticut was one of only 18 states to earn such a high mark.

The grade puts Connecticut on par with other New England states like Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

While still in the pandemic’s earliest stages, with an exponentially growing number of cases, it’s believed that the fruits of these distancing efforts will soon be realized as the crisis peaks, stagnates, and hopefully declines in coming months.

Children’s Museum Overwhelmed By Food Donations For Animals

We-Ha.com reports that the coronavirus forced the Children’s Museum in West Hartford to cancel its annual Gala at the Delamar Hotel. But museum staffers were overwhelmed to see the amount of support they received after posting on Facebook about their dire need for food scraps to help feed animals that reside at the facility.

A bin was left out back behind the Museum with a corresponding list of food items needed. That bin was soon filled to the brim, with more donations than staff could have ever imagined.

“You have touched our hearts and filled our refrigerators with so many tasty treats, that they are overflowing,” Museum staff said thanking patrons in their Facebook post.

Attorney Helping to Collect Homemade Masks and Other PPE for Hospitals

When it comes to fighting a threat of this magnitude, it’s all hands on deck. That’s precisely the mindset that Andrew Garza, co-owner of the Connecticut Trial Firm, has adopted.

The 32-year-old Farmington attorney was recognized by Law.com for shifting his efforts to making homemade personal protective equipment in addition to using his company’s Facebook page to help recruit others to help.

Working in close coordination with staff at Hartford HealthCare, Garza is asking for any public donations of goggles, disposable gowns, head covers, or gowns.

In addition, Garza and his wife, Jennifer, are using any materials they can get their hands on to sew disposable face masks in hopes of resupplying hospitals with vital gear, and are hoping to inspire others to do the same. They are coordinating their effort in a Facebook group called CTF COVID-19 PPE Community Response Team.

School Principal: Distance Learning Will Offer Innovations

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Clockwise from top left: Clayton Lehmann is photographed working with his teacher, Nicole Ruoppo, in the upper right corner, and the other student in the bottom right corner is Kiera MacKenzie; Jace Hemmig is shown building a volcano, and; Three students from L to R are Louisa, Josephine, and Edythe Brooks. (contributed)

Early reports indicate that distance learning is going as well as it possibly can at schools like Saint Joseph Grammar School in the North Grosvenordale section of Thompson, which serves students in grades Pre-K through 8.

“While our Distance Learning Program can in no way replace the in-person experience of learning, I do think that once this situation passes, we will hopefully have some new innovations that will become part of the fabric of the SJS community,” Principal David Sizemore said in a Facebook post.

Among these innovations are consistent video-conference classes to allow students to see one another, and the creation of an online discussion board for students to discuss an assigned book covering the Revolutionary War period, according to teacher Nicole Ruoppo.

Sizemore said that faculty are video-conferencing twice a week to go over curriculum and fine-tune their distance learning program.

“Feedback from the students thus far has been very positive, but their biggest complaint is that they miss each other,” Ruoppo added. “In the meantime, I’m going to make sure they keep learning and that we all stay connected with each other!”

Lee Co. Gifts Employees with Local Restaurant Gift Cards

Set against a backdrop of layoffs and furloughs dominating headlines across the state, some employers, such as the Lee Company in Westbrook, are committed to helping both their employees and local community during a tough economic stretch.

Along with receiving their normal paycheck last week, all 1,100 employees were surprised with a $50 gift card to their choice of local restaurants, according to a report from Zip06.com.

Hundreds Attend Drive-thru Wake in East Windsor

Social distancing didn’t stop family and friends from celebrating the life of Scot Stanton, who died at age 62 after a long battle against cancer.

Tractor after tractor, vehicle after vehicle, people drove by East Windsor’s Stanton Equipment last Friday to pay their respects in a drive-thru memorial service, many of them driving the same tractors that Stanton specialized in selling for over 40 years, according to NBC Connecticut.

Keep Calm and Sew On

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This is the photo from the Facebook group “Sewing Face Masks – Farmington Valley CT,” which is sewing masks to help protect people from COVID-19. (contributed)

A Facebook group centered around sewing homemade masks in the Farmington Valley has amassed over 700 members in a short period of time. The group, which is called “Sewing Face Masks – Farmington Valley CT” was pointed out for appreciation to CTNewsJunkie by a healthcare professional who works at one of Connecticut’s hospitals. The group’s motto is “Keep Calm and Sew On,” which highlights how indispensable civic involvement has become in the fight to keep Connecticut’s hospitals and healthcare workers properly equipped.

Mutual Aid Squad Connects Volunteers With People In Need

Other Facebook groups, like the greater Hartford area’s Mutual Aid Squad, are focused on aiding the public, and particularly those at greater risk like the elderly, in carrying out day-to-day tasks, such as visits to the grocery store, that might put them at risk of exposure to coronavirus.