Chronicling our community’s storyin our local newspaper over the last three yearshas been a fulfilling next step after publishing our book;The Story of Kennett- Shaping the future one child at a time. Joan Holliday and I thank Fran Maye, our editor, for his support. 2020 has put us on a roller coaster in our little piece of paradise. It is only fitting that we provide an overview, with an understanding that it is not over.
Where are we? Dr. Robert Redfield, Head of the CDC said; “The next few months will be the most difficult time in the public health history of our country.”
If our readers get one idea from this article it should be-“take care of yourself and your family.” Joan with the history of being Kennett’s Public Health Nurse for 32 years is saying loud and clear, “Wear masks, social distance, wash your hands and stay home as much as you can. It is only about 100 more days until there is a good chance the vaccines will kick in and the deaths in Chester County (440) will stop rising.”
Since Kennett is all about the kids, let’s start with them. The good news is the kids were not the ones who got sick. They did lose a good six months of their secondary education (years 12-18) but they learned to go to school virtually and manage projects;all valuable skills.
I was very proud of how the school districts in Southern Chester County worked on helping every kid have access to the internet and a working laptop. That doesn’t mean that every kid learned equally well on line or all connections were made.
There was also a full court press on making sure the preschool kids were kindergarten ready. The bad news is a parent can only take so many episodes of Paw Patrol-"No job is too big; no pup is too small!"
It didn’t have to be this way. Chester Countrywill have 10 people die in every 10,000 and Germany had about two. But then again if we go back to the 1918 pandemic, 70 people died in Philadelphia for every 10,000.
Something to be proud of was how KACS (the food cupboard) and the United Way with help from the community stepped up to the issue of hunger and homelessness. Square Roots, and the Opportunity Network working with lots of local non-profit organizations were able to take on what may have been a doubling of food insecurity and housing emergencies.
The community has even come up with a cookbook to raise money for the KACS food distribution effort. Make sure you have yours, signed by Mayor Matt Fetick.
I spent the summer and fall working for the Census. As the 2020 Kennett Census Field Supervisor, I had responsibility for our region. The Census Takers (Enumerators) that went door to door were some of my heroes. Working during a pandemic to count the last 40% of the population was a challenge.
On the whole the Commerce Department employees were real professionals doing everything they could with the resources they were given. I found that some of my Enumerators didn’t have the technical skills to do the job as this was the first Census that was all digital. I lost three.
A number of people didn’t feel the virus was a big deal and were pretty much oblivious to the risks. They just needed constant reminding about wearing a mask and keeping their distance. I did have a half dozen who understood the risks and after a few days on the job with people coming to the door without masks, it was too much for them and they quit.
And finally, there were the core of people who did understand the risks and were willing to take them to get everyone in our region counted. I was so proud to work with all of them. Thankfully COVID’s second wave didn’t hit us but there were car accidents, dog bites and angry citizens that came out and beat up ‘government employees’ trying to spy on them.
There was the election. I was so proud with our effort to make it easier to vote during the pandemic during which 67% of Americans participated. Chester County was a big part of the results, as it was the lynch pin that helped turn the Philadelphia collar counties blue that turned Pennsylvania blue that turned our country blue.
I believe we will all remember 2020 but what will we remember? It is not a uniform experience. I will remember I lost my mother-in-law Ruth, but we also gained our newest grandson Kilian Robert Murrer on October 13th.
We are fortunate to be on a pension and social security but there are some 20 million more people out of a job and millions that dropped below the poverty line. The top 1% of the richest Americans have grown their wealth to 30% of our country’s wealth and the bottom 50 percent of the population have dropped to less than 2%.
Let’s hope that the vaccine gets us through the pandemic and we can take on the challenges of the economic collapse, public safety, climate change, loss of classroom time and even immigration and health care.
So, from our house to your house, Happy New Year. Let’s be more determined than ever to continue our journey to a better tomorrow.