Just like everywhere else, COVID-19 came to the small town of Leverett, Massachusetts. And when the town went into lockdown, Jinny Savolainen wanted to do something meaningful. Quarantine was especially isolating for her. In 2019, Jinny lost her daughter. And when the pandemic hit, she lost her job. So, she sent an email to the town listserv asking if anyone wanted to record remote StoryCorps interviews about their life during COVID. StoryCorps is an organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. These Leverett stories were then broadcast on NationalPubicRadio.
Portia Weiskel, a beloved town fixture for more than 50 years spoke with Jinny about a quirky quarantine tradition of a weekly howl at the Leverett Pond that started in lockdown and can be heard throughout the town. Mary Hankinson, a nurse at a long-term care facility, realized when the pandemic first hit how hard it was to access personal protective equipment. She coordinated a group of almost a dozen women who volunteered to make masks. They were hung on a rack outside the post office, where anyone could pick one up for free. Hundreds of these masks were made.
Jinny states “I believe our grandchildren [and] great-grandchildren will want to know how we fared during this pandemic,” “I think they will be in awe of the way Leverett has come together, in the kindest, most humble of ways.” What started with one email ended in a collection of over a dozen interviews.Taken together, these conversations paint a picture of small town life and community during an unprecedented time. As Jinny put it, “Just when things seemed so dark, I found some light in the words of the people all around me.”
Story shared by Tom Wolff, from Massachusetts, USA.