Stephanie Gonter's "Community in the Time of Quarantine" group has grown to over 1,500 members.
When Ormond Beach resident Stephanie Gonter created a Facebook group to help the community deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, she had no idea it would grow to over 1,500 members in a matter of days.
The "Community in the Time of Quarantine" group was born out of Gonter's desire to help. As the former director of student services at Wyotech Daytona and employee of two local small businesses — Just Peachy Clean and Lola Grace Bridal — as well as Co-Dean of the Alive faith-based summer camp for high schoolers, Gonter received a lot of support when she posted on her own personal Facebook page that she was looking to help people in need of supplies and groceries.
She started the group on March 14, and in two days, she had already helped feed five different families and 13 kids.
“I didn’t really know where this was going to go or anything," Gonter said. "It was my hope to feed one. I’m hoping that through all of this we can continue to connect.”
Gonter, a mother of three boys, knows what it's like to be in need. In 2007, she and her husband lost their jobs and house due to the recession. At the time, Gonter had been pregnant with their youngest son.
That was a lonely time for her, she recalled. She empathizes with those who are facing financial hardships now because of COVID-19, and knows how scary it can be to reach out for help.
“I really just kind of wanted to make a place for people to get help and not feel like they’re a charity case, almost," Gonter said.
The community's response to the Facebook group has been amazing, she added. People have been dropping off food donations at her house, and she's been meeting others to pickup donations. As things progress, Gonter also wants to shift the group's efforts into helping food banks.
Gonter initially thought "Community in the Time of Quarantine," the name of which was inspired by Gabriel García Márquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," was only going to be composed of her friends and family. But as its grown, she said she hopes to continue to provide help and and a positive outlook for others.
“To be able to find something beautiful during a hard time I think is important," Gonther said. "This is a great way for us as a community to come together and really do something amazing during a hard time.”