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Pandemic of Love

From little acorns, mighty oaks can grow! That's what Florida resident Shelly Tygielski experienced when she threw an idea out on Instagram in March this year, and discovered that the word 'viral' doesn't have to be negative.

Shelly started out by simply hoping to make a modest beneficial impact on her local community. She launched her Pandemic of Love in Fort Lauderdale after seeing people around her losing their jobs and being worried about both money and their health as the coronavirus creeped in around them.

It all started on 14 March when Shelly posted a video on her Instagram announcing her idea of connecting those with a need, due to loss of income, with those who were in a more fortunate position and could assist in some way. When she woke up the following morning and checked her Instagram responses, her 'little acorn' had received 400 requests for assistance and 500 offers of help. 48 hours later she posted this image on her social media page:

Now, Shelly's Pandemic of Love has raised millions of dollars for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. “I wanted to turn from this environment of fear to an opportunity for us to create connection, community and strengthen the bonds of love between us,” Shelly told CNN.

“I really just thought this would be a community thing for the South Florida community, for the people who come to our meditation group on Sundays, and that’s it - and that would’ve been enough,” Shelly told WTVJ News.

Word soon spread and her idea blossomed into a mighty oak as people in the US and around the world, inspired by Shelly’s initiative, soon set up similar online exchanges under her Pandemic of Love banner. It's now being put to good use in practically every state in America and another 16 countries, thus far; with the majority of people seeking help simply wanting to stock up on food and supplies for their children, and that the average request is about $150.

Looking back over the last couple of months, Shelly reflected: “On a personal level, it shows me that a person can make a difference when you aggregate this act of kindness. You know viruses can be scary things, but the word ‘viral’ does not have to be negative. A lot of positive things can go viral like hope and faith and love. And love can be the cure.”

By the beginning of June, the platform had raised more than $13 million and has connected over 130,000 people with the help they need. Want to get involved? If you or someone you know is in need of support, or if you are in a position to give and would like to do so, visit the Pandemic of Love website to find out more.

Shelly says that But while COVID-19 has created a large and visible need, Shelly hopes that the Pandemic of Love project will continue to grow even after the days of coronavirus are over.

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