How to Help Neighbors and Friends While Social Distancing


By Mayor Pam Hemminger

Just a few weeks ago, many of us had never heard the term “social distancing” before. Now, with schools cancelled and many working from home, the town has been receiving a lot of questions about how to help one another and stay connected while also staying safe.

Over the past week, my office has received many questions including whether it is safe to buy groceries for an elderly neighbor, if it is safe to take care of a neighbor’s children and how to connect to necessary resources.

Keeping an eye on our neighbors and helping one another out will be even more important in the coming days. A first step is to establish solid channels of communication and ways for sharing information. 

Looking online, I’ve seen many creative solutions ranging from a red/green paper system in the window as a signal for help to a call list of people checking in on one another. Each neighborhood is different.  If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to reach out and work out a communication strategy that meets the need of everyone in your immediate area.

At this point, social distancing is the key to keeping our community safer and reducing the amount of time that our lives are disrupted. There will be times, however, when a neighbor needs your help. In those cases, please use common sense precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Also, please make sure that you and your neighbors are staying abreast of new information being shared by the town and county.  For additional information on the coronavirus please visit the Orange County Health Department’s webpage at COVID-19 webpage or call 919-245-6111 for up-to-date information. Spanish language and other languages are available. The town also has posted information resources at

In addition to online and social media channels, the town utilizes a network of neighborhood liaisons who share and exchange information between the town and residents in Chapel Hill neighborhoods and homeowners’ associations. There is a good geographic distribution among the nearly 100 liaisons currently registered with the town. If your neighborhood is not yet covered and you’d be willing to share town e-mails with others, please sign up here.

Finally, please take time to fill out your census form! Having everyone counted will affect future state and federal funding for our town and, so, is vitally important. And, be on the lookout for scams and make sure that local seniors are aware of them too.

I am grateful that so many in our community are heeding the call for social distancing by staying home and making changes to daily routines. I know that these transitions have been hard. Yet I believe that through this experience, we can find opportunities for unique ways to connect as a community.

We will get through this because we are a community who cares and we will bounce back stronger than before this crisis.

Pam Hemminger is mayor of Chapel Hill.

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