Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the state have shuttered and shifted to remote learning. In the Five Town area — Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport — a group of more than two dozen area teenagers, including some back in the Midcoast during university closures, have joined the Five Towns Babysitting Task Force to provide free childcare to those in need as the pandemic continues.
Being able to give back to the community, especially during a pandemic, is what inspired Camden 18-year-old Lexi Smith, who returned to the Midcoast after her university’s closure.
“I got involved with the Task Force because my university has transitioned to remote classes for the remainder of the semester, and I suddenly have a lot more free time on my hands,” Smith said, in an email. “Though this would not appeal to some teens as it’s a free service, it’s important to stick together and be kind to our neighbors while we navigate this stressful uncharted territory. The Task Force is a great way to give back to our communities, as they have done so much for us.”
The volunteers are current or former students of Camden Hills Regional High School and the Watershed School, ranging in age from 14 to 21.
Organizers of the task force have started assigning volunteers to families, with childcare services being offered this week.
Volunteers will be careful to follow suggested guidelines to minimize spread of the coronavirus, according to organizers, and college-age volunteers are not starting as a volunteer until after they have had ample time to self-quarantine.
The mission of the task force is to assist the community in a troubling time, providing an avenue for working parents who otherwise would be left without many options.
Priority is being given, in part, to the families of healthcare workers, organizers say, to assist those battling the illness on the front-lines.
The task force’s mission of assisting the community in a time of need is exactly why Rockport resident Robyn Walker-Spencer, 18, decided to volunteer her time to this cause.
“I think that at times like these — where the virus isn’t only impacting those affected but also entire communities — there’s a general feeling of helplessness,” Walker-Spencer said, in an email. “Like we can’t do anything. Volunteering my time to these families is my way of feeling like I can do something, and give assistance to people who really need it. We’re stuck at home anyway, so I’m glad to be able to help.”
The goal of the task force is not to provide discounted babysitting, but to provide daycare services to working class families unable to afford regular childcare, according to organizers.
As such, organizers ask those who can afford to pay a childcare professional to do so, thus freeing up the volunteers to direct their services to those more in need.
For more information, check out their Facebook page.
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.