Corvallis, Ore. -- The restrictions on mass gatherings haven't just affected sporting events or parties. It's also fundamentally changed the way various charities and fundraising organizations get people together. 5Ks and fun runs are a thing of the past in a COVID-19 world. The Walk to End Alzheimers is one such group that is having to adjust to that new reality, moving their Walk to a virtual setting in which people can do it from their own home. But that does pose some challenges.
"It's really changed the Walk," says Zeth Owen, who is the Community Relations Director at Regent Court Senior Living and also does work for the Walk. "It's been difficult in a lot of regards because we're not havinbg a physical walk this year, we're having a virtual one. And so when you're trying to get people back and engaged in that, they're not as apt to get too involved in that because it's not a personal in person thing."
A lot of outreach is now being done on social media, perhaps more than ever before, to try and get people interested and energized about doing their part but just socially distanced.
"Facebook has been primarily where we're going," Owen explains. "We use email. We have a raffle that we're doing for a grill. So we're trying to get people's buy in and check us out in a lot of different ways. But Facebook and any networks we can reach out to. The hospital has been really big in supporting and spreading the word to all their folks."
For Owen and his group at Regent Court, they've had to adapt in similar ways. In past years to help raise money, they would hold a car wash and sell tacos to those coming in. With COVID-19 eliminating a lot of what made the car wash possible, the event was changed to a Taco drive-thru.
"How do we do it safe in a way that people can still feel like they're contributing to a really great cause?" Owen says. "And that's when we thought of, let's go contactless as much as possible but still lean into the theme of tacos."
What happened next was, perhaps, unexpected. Lines of cars through the lot of Regent Court and grocery store runs to keep up with the demand. Owen says that the contactless drive-thru for a taco lunch outpaced some of their pre-CoVid events in terms of fundraising.
"I would say we're on board for selling about 1000 dollars in Tacos within the first hour and a half of doing this," he happily mentions. "People are coming out they're donating a lot with their purchases and so the community has really rallied behind us today."
Between smaller fundraisers and bigger events like the Walk to End Alzheimers, Owen believes ingenuity is key. The optimistic view is that when things do return to normal, the best ideas from the pandemic will merge with the return of public gatherings.
"It takes a lot of creativity," Owen explains. "And all of my team has been working about how are we gonna get this to work. One of the big things that has stood out is being mobile friendly. We have a card reader that can take payment without having to exchange a bunch of cash. Having people drive through and it be really quick for them. THey've loved it so far. We're getting rave reviews and they're getting people to tell people and I think those are parts that will extend well beyond COVID."