Volunteers for the grassroots network Columbia Community Care organize donated groceries and household items at one of five distribution sites in Howard County, Maryland.

In her normal life, Erika Strauss Chavarria is a high school Spanish teacher in Columbia, Maryland.

But when schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, she moved her classes online, and found another way to help. In March, she founded Columbia Community Care, a grassroots network of neighbors helping neighbors.

What started as a Facebook group with about 40 members has become a network of more than 4,000 people. The group runs five sites where it distributes donated groceries and household items, and two pop-up food pantries where volunteers can safely shop to deliver groceries to families who can’t leave their homes.

Every day, people post offers of help — from free books and bicycles to donations of fruits and vegetables. One of the group’s taglines is “choose compassion.”

All over the world, people like Erika are mobilizing to help each other through the pandemic.

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