A parade of vehicles line up around the drive at the Hiawatha Elementary School as teachers, parents and students drove around town to make a “distant” contact with each other by waving and honking from cars as they circulated around town.

In a time of uncertainty, concern for safety and worry about the future, many local people, businesses and organizations are stepping up and reaching out to the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people in a panic. As of Wednesday morning, Brown County had NOT been placed on a “shelter in place” – or a stay at home mandate, but neighboring counties such as Doniphan and Atchison were given those orders earlier this week.

Just on Tuesday, a positive case in Doniphan County was announced by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. St. Joseph, Mo. – the closest urban city to Hiawatha – was also placed on a “shelter in place” order to begin Tuesday of this week. Everywhere you turn, authorities are warning to “stay at home” in order to beat the spread of the virus – but only go out for essentials.

Kansas schools were shut down last week by Governor Laura Kelly – at least for in-class learning. Instruction will continue for the 2019-2020 academic year, but as Hiawatha Superintendent Lonnie Moser said, it will look much different than what everyone is used to.

The school year ended with a bang. Teachers and students couldn’t say good-bye to each other or friends. Seniors suddenly were finished with all social interaction that comes with the end of their high school career. Prom has been canceled, but no decision has been made locally on graduation.

While schools are working hard to put in place a Continuous Learning program, teachers are trying to reach out to their students and parents via electronic methods as they prepare for the Continuous Learning program.

However, on Sunday, some teachers – along with parents – decided to reach out in a different way – with an impromptu parade. Word spread of the parade via social media and word of mouth and soon there were more than 50 cars parading through neighborhoods in Hiawatha as teachers, students and parents waved to each other from their cars and houses – keeping good on the “social distancing” mandates.

In the business and organization world, many people have taken to the Internet – where county commission meetings and church services can be found on Facebook Live and Zoom, conference calls are now the norm and phone calls are preferred rather than face-to-face meetings. Many businesses have closed doors to the public, but are still scrambling to run normally behind the scenes via technology from the work place, or remotely from homes.

Social distancing and concern over the spread of the virus has taken its toll on local small businesses, many of which are facing economic hardship over a loss of business walking through what is now a locked door. Many restaurants have offered take-out and delivery services only, while just a couple had retained dining hours for now. Others have closed completely until the emergency concern is passed. Downtown Hiawatha pharmacies – Tice Healthmart and Kex RX – each offer very essential services and have decided to remain open, but with doors locked. There are signs that direct customers to call ahead, or call from the sidewalk if they have use of a cell phone. An employee will ask what the customer needs, what type of payment is being used, and a transaction will happen at the door or on the sidewalk.

Our lives have very much turned into a bizarre world that none would have ever suspected would happen – but most are making adjustments to survive.

Several local people have made efforts to step up and help the community and businesses in various ways. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office has announced its deputies would be delivering essential items such as groceries and medicines to elderly and at-risk members in the community. Just call 742-7125.

Weather Tech Renovations of Hiawatha and BBCC properties have teamed up to put together care packages for elderly in the community and have delivered more than 70 so far.

Heath and Stacy Simmer of Hiawatha donated free meals from First Street Bar and Grill to the first 100 people on March 21. In a Facebook post, Heath Simmer said this serves three needs.

“Feed the community, help a local business owner and provide an income for people who work there,” he said.

While New China Restaurant has closed its doors during the emergency time, owner Lingling Zhang announced she was donating meals last Sunday to the first 150 people who called in.

Dentist Dr. Jordan Haedt, DDS, teamed up with Jr’s Place – a children’s store in downtown Hiawatha – to offer “sanity packs” to 10 families in Hiawatha.

“Although there is stress that comes with this situation, we are determined to remain positive and spread good in the world,” Dr. Haedt stated on her business Facebook page. “One of the greatest blessings that is occurring during this time is the opportunity to spend more time with our families and reflect on the things that matter most in life.”

Dr. Haedt said that with “social distancing” and a lot of families looking for new activities to do together, she and her husband, Nick, wanted to support a local business. The first 10 people to message the business page won a “sanity pack” and could message Jr’s Place with requests and the owners would deliver right to the front door of the winners.

The Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau is teaming up with Stacie’s Dance Academy of Hiawatha to give away $1,000 in Chamber Bucks – money to be spent specifically at businesses that are a member of the Chamber. The Chamber Bucks — donated by owners Stacie and Frank Newell — will be awarded through the HCVB’s “Social Distancing” Scavenger Hunt. Local residents can participate by placing the specific item – whether a bear, a heart or other items – in their window facing the street. People can drive by and spot the items in a scavenger hunt around town! For details on this, check out the story in Friday’s paper or go to the HCVB Facebook sites for details on how you can participate.

These are just a few of the ways that local people have stepped up and reached out to the community. Residents are encouraged to do their part to help and the community of Hiawatha will get through this together.

If anyone has a story to share about how a person or a group has gone above and beyond during this time, you can email it to

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