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'People helping people' goal of new community connection platform

A screenshot of the HelpSLO.org website.

As health officials began confirming the first COVID-19 cases in San Luis Obispo County, one local woman decided to create a way for people to help each other. HelpSLO is the result.

Dr. Leah Wood is a professor at Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo resident. Last weekend, she decided to take some action.

“I woke up and thought, I've got to try to reach out to my local community and see if there's other people that are interested in looking outward and focusing on helping one another, maybe that's something we can do,” Wood told KCBX News Tuesday. "As things started to really feel more intense on Saturday morning.”

Wood says her first thought was the social networking service Next Door, to see if someone had the same thoughts.

“And Next Door had put up a kind automated post people could do for exactly this thing,” Wood said.

To get an even bigger reach, she created a Facebook group.

“And within hours, it had just blown up and there were many, many hundreds of members the first day,” Wood said. “By now I think we have 3,500 members.”

Then people started contacting Wood to ask if they could start their own local group, and the movement is quickly spreading. Now there’s a Help Santa Maria, Help Paso, Help 5 Cities and Help Atascadero.

Wood created a website, HelpSLO.com, to organize it all.

“The purpose of this group is that if somebody is in need of something serious; serious help for something, they can post and say so,” Wood explained. “And then people can respond to that call for help. It's not monetary. [We’re] not allowing any posting for fundraising, no GoFundMe campaigns, no promoting small businesses that are offering discounts. It's just for volunteerism and donations. So, people helping people.”

Examples of postings include community members who want to help deliver groceries to housebound seniors, and those who need delivery of needed medications.

Wood says there are guidelines and policies in place to keep everybody safe, like using a designated drop-off spot in the yard instead of coming to someone’s front door. And so far it’s working, she said.

Learn more, get involved or ask for help at the website HelpSLO.comor via the HelpSLO Facebook group.