By A Lincoln County RJ Coordinator
When COVID hit the U.S., Maine courts suddenly closed in March and stayed closed through June. The spring felt like an adjustment period across the country, a dormancy, but we knew that it was also a time when families could be most struggling. Here in Lincoln County, we stayed in contact with youth, families, and volunteers throughout the months, making sure folks knew about Lincoln County Food Initiative and other resources as needs arose.
In the meantime, we met over Zoom, or stayed in touch with phone calls, emails, and texts. One mentoring pair, often with me included, met weekly over Zoom. We talked about animals, biking, food we loved, and more. We kept each other going when we could have been isolated. Our Lincoln County volunteer group met regularly over Zoom, hosting guests we might never have had if commute time had been an issue. We held conversations about Nonviolent Communication, restorative practices in schools, addiction supports in the county, and more, all sparked by hosting outside speakers.
When courts opened in July, staff went back in -- with our masks on and hand sanitizer by our side. For volunteers, RJPM's policy now allowed us to meet with distancing and masks, so our creativity in meetings expanded to even more flexible options. One youth and mentor pair did community service on town hiking trails. As new cases came in, we held circles and meetings in parks, on bleachers, and over Zoom. We continue to partner with other stakeholders, community members, and organizations so that youth and families are supported by many voices and many angles of service, laughing together as well as chewing on how to meet challenges -- never losing that human touch to the work we do, whether in person or online.
Our need to stay connected has been even stronger during this time, not lagging. Now more than ever, our work has deep meaning and value -- even if our means of connection take on greater creativity, and even if our circles are in the most unexpected of places.