There is one huge difference between the coronavirus and past pandemics like the Spanish Flu in 1918, or Typhoid Mary in 1908, or the Yellow Fever scare of 1793.

The internet.

It’s our umbilical cord to the outside world right now. We’re using it to do our jobs, to go to school, to practice telemedicine, to stay in touch while this thing rages all around us.

We may all be cloistered away in our homes, but we can still convene and commune and conduct commerce with each other every day via Zoom and Google Hangouts and Facetime and Amazon.

And more than anything, we can use it to help each other during this time of great need.

To that end, the Gazette and Gazette Charities today are launching COS Connect, an internet portal to bring together the people and organizations in the Colorado Springs area who need help and those who can provide it.

We think this is the perfect job for us to because more than anything, we at The Gazette are conveners of community. Sure we report and write stories and shoot photos and display ads that sell your wares, but all of that is in service to bringing people together, providing a tent pole for the city tent.

Likewise, Gazette Charities invests every day in the fabric of community by helping to fund the organizations on the front lines of providing the services our community needs.

We are creating this online portal to take advantage of the internet’s speed and ubiquity to get volunteers and masks and food immediately to those who need them most. There’s not a moment to waste. The faster we can get the help to where the help is needed, the quicker we can “flatten the curve” as they say and make this virus go away

If you want to offer some help or support, go to http://cosconnect.gazettecharities.org/ and click on the button that best describes your area of interest or ability. Organizations who are in need of volunteers can contact us at info@cosconnect.gazettecharities.org and we will post their projects on the site so volunteers can sign up for them.

We’re hoping it’s that simple.

And we’re getting help ourselves in making this happen.

We’re launching COS Connect Sunday in collaboration with Pikes Peak United Way's 211 Emergency Response, Pikes Peak Community Foundation's Emergency Relieve Fund, and Exponential Impact's Survive & Thrive Small Business Recovery Fund. We hope more organizations and civic-minded Springsians — and maybe even people who just find themselves with extra time on their hands — will join our cause, spell that COS, and we can put together a parade of hope.

We think the need for such a portal is acute right now. Social services agencies that assist the needy with food, shelter and other basic supplies are scrambling to keep up with growing demand as employees are being laid off from businesses, schools have closed and all facets of life slow down.

With churches, organizations and businesses closing in-person services and scheduled drives canceled, donations and numbers of volunteers have shrunk dramatically.

At the same time, a benevolent spirit has erupted in our city, as our reporter Debbie Kelley put it. People throughout the Pikes Peak region are making enormous sacrifices for the sake of their fellow citizens.

For example, the Salvation Army in El Paso County, COSILoveYou, Pikes Peak United Way and Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado have created a food box delivery program for seniors 60 and older without transportation.

Across the community, people are volunteering at Care and Share Food Bank, which CEO Lynne Telford said is distributing food to 267 partner agencies across southern Colorado. Others are volunteering through COSILoveYou, which connects faith communities to assist the community, to call thousands of isolated and shut-in people, asking if they need anything, Executive Director Stu Davis told Debbie.

In just 30 days, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's Emergency Relief Fund hit the $1 million mark in dollars raised to help organizations throughout the area. As of Friday, they had granted nearly $650,000 to almost 40 nonprofits.

These groups all need fresh troops. Were hoping COS Connect will bring them some. We want to help match all that benevolence that has surfaced with the precise pressure points where it's needed most.

With a little luck, we can use this marvelous tool we have that our ancestors didn’t have, the internet, to greatly ease the suffering caused by this runaway virus, and maybe even cut down its run a little earlier than we could have in the past. We also hope COS Connect will help us emerge from this with a stronger and more resilient safety net for years to come.

If we could somehow fully tap the geyser of goodwill that I know is rumbling underground in our city right now, I’m thinking we could knock down the walls of Jericho. At the end of the day, wouldn't it be great to look back and know we collectively had done everything possible, everything in our power, to turn this thing back and save one another's lives?

That’s a COS worth fighting for.

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