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Community Stories: Life During COVID-19

Here is Lacasa community building specialist Daniela Panetta’s story:

I am a first generation Italian American woman. I was born and raised in Elkhart and went through the local school systems up through college. My undergrad is in Anthropology and Spanish and I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Cultural Sustainability. What drew me to GPL was, in the past, always school related. However, now, I have recently reconnected to GPL with my current position with Lacasa, Inc. as the Community Building Specialist. I have the privilege of working with the neighborhood associations of Goshen, in which the library and its space are a resource for all those individuals. 

The pandemic has impacted me in a number of ways, one being that I have a lot of family in Italy. So before this became real on a local level, my family and I were in a state of stress as Italy was at its peak. The only thing we could do was wait, hope, and pray that everything would be ok; that no one would get sick. This pandemic also impacted me on a local front as my family owns Gerace’s Pizzeria here in Goshen. There were and still are so many unknowns for small local businesses. My daily routine or everyday normal life, as for many others, has changed forever. My work with Lacasa transitioned to an online platform and one where I was working from home. 

What has surprised me during the last few weeks… this is such a difficult question to answer at this time. Current events have broken my heart and spirit in a number of ways. In my position as a community resource person and in the path I have chosen to take in life as a cultural/community advocate, I value moving through spaces without doing harm, with kindness, understanding, and with an equitable mindset. I hope that we move to a place where more value and care is seen and taken.

In terms of the pandemic, I am so honored to be in a position where I get to hear about all the wonderful things that neighbors have been doing during this time. I have heard a number of things that include: offering their time and skills to produce masks, giving food to vulnerable populations, and/or passing along local resources. 

I could name a number of past norms that I miss, but it’s less about missing the past and now about understanding and adapting to the new way we will be interacting and moving in and out of spaces. 

I believe the new normal will be a more informed one. One where people are more aware of their surroundings and how they interact with others. Changes will look different for everyone depending on their situation. If they are high risk populations, expecting mothers or even mothers with newborns; their lives and those that surround them will have to change to keep these individuals safe. In our community, we will have to find different ways to engage, ways that will keep everyone safe. This is where technology can be a real asset. This is where I see the Goshen Public Library as a resource in connecting the community with available resources, other neighbors, and with online databases or electronic copies of books. 

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