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Constance Alexander: Calloway County Collective makes lists, solves problems in lockdown era

Grocery list, bucket list, hit list. Doesn’t matter. Any list is an attempt to still the beating heart of chance. Mary Scott Buck, founder of the Calloway County Collective, can tell you all about it. Every day she makes a list and checks it more than twice, to mobilize a band of volunteers in a battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got started because on my Facebook newsfeed I kept seeing that people needed things. They wanted to know where to get this or that,” she explained, “and it seemed to me like a good idea to share information in a timely manner.”

One of the first needs was simple. As local businesses reduced their working hours and adjusted their services, websites were not always updated to reflect changes. Restaurants, for example, limited their menus and adjusted payment options for pick-up and delivery. Without timely updates, customers had to go hunting for accurate details.

(Photo provided)

“So we made a list of all the local restaurants and gathered all that information,” Mary said, adding that another fervent maker of lists, Catie Bates, took the lead on that effort.

Never one to take credit for the Collective’s accomplishments, Ms. Buck declared, “People help me. A core group of about ten people helps at the office, and twenty to thirty more run errands, pick stuff up, and deliver things. And if I ask, people offer to help.”

With Facebook and messaging, every day is crammed with activity. The day I interviewed her, Mary was in her husband’s truck on winding county roads, her husband at the wheel. The Collective had a 400-pound hog from Bill Duncan, and Mary was hoping to purchase more to provide meat for hungry families.

The next morning on Facebook, she announced the result of these efforts to the Collective’s nearly 5000 followers.

“Alright friends,” she wrote. “I really REALLY tried to buy 30 hogs for us. But due to the complexity of dealing with livestock and processing meat and storing 4,500 lbs. of pork… I’ve decided to admit (for once) that it’s more than I can handle.”

Not all needs are as weighty as those hogs. Operating out of 701 South 4th Street in Murray, in currently unused space in the Head Start building, the Collective’s work includes all sorts of tasks.

Day one of National Nurses Week, they dropped meals off to employees of Murray Calloway County Hospital. On site, the Collective sells masks and sanitizer at affordable prices. If cost is a problem, arrangements are made.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Recently, free boxes of clothes were donated. “They fell into my lap,” Mary said.

The backstory on the clothing is on Facebook: “When someone says, ‘You wanna buy 74 boxes of brand new clothing?’ And you know people need them… You say “YES” and then ask for help! These are still in the packaging!”

“After the boxes were unloaded,” she continued, “we got a request to help someone having car trouble. So Jessica and I went to her, but she needed more assistance. Then Ashley Walsh also came to help! We still couldn’t fix it, so I called a friend and he came to help too. He was on his way to the recycling center when I called him and checked out what he had with him! Talk about timing!! So we also ended up with a clothing rack, all because we were helping each other. Isn’t that beautiful!?!”

Also beautiful are the Collective’s Blessing Boxes, which are free pantries located around Calloway County and stocked with non-perishable items.

Asked what she has learned through these experiences, Mary said, “I can’t change people, but I can change how we handle it when people need help.”

“It is sometimes easy to forget that people live in situations that we can’t imagine,” she remarked, adding that the Collective is “a reminder of how grateful I should be for what I’ve been given. It reminds me to be compassionate and think of other people.”

Her husband and sons Jordan, 16, and Logan, 9, admire Mary’s dedication to the cause, and they pitch in too.

“It’s difficult but worthwhile,” she said. “And it has brought us together.”

Find Calloway County Collective on Facebook for information, including hours of operation.

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