“Reopening” Your Chapter or Affiliate

By William H. Grignon, Team Leader

COVID-19, “lock-down,” “stay-at-home,” social distancing,” and now, “reopening” are all part of the new lexicon of our “new normal”—a new normal that has seen our chapters and affiliates challenged in ways unimaginable just a few months ago. And there is still massive dislocation, much uncertainty, and many opinions as to how individuals and groups can or should “reopen.” Your PCB Peer Engagement Team does not have all the answers, but here are some thoughts about how your chapter or affiliate can think about “re-opening” into our brave new normal. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a comprehensive and fairly accessible website that can answer most of your questions. It can be accessed here: pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/

  1. Know your local rules. A quick glance at the Pennsylvania COVID-19 website soon reveals a bewildering array of federal, state, and local rules that vary from region to region and county to county. Before your chapter or affiliate can think about reopening, it is essential that you know what rules apply to your area and to abide by those rules. In addition, many public transit and paratransit entities are evolving their service rules and schedules, so try to keep abreast of these changes. Furthermore, even when your area “reopens,” many businesses, perhaps even including the restaurant at which your chapter or affiliate has held its meetings, may be operating under restrictive hours and rules of operation or may no longer be in business. Stay informed and plan accordingly.

  2. Check in with each other. You’ve probably been doing your best during the pandemic by holding telephonic meetings, Zoom meetings, and maybe even buddy systems. If so, keep up the good work. Contact, engagement, and a preserved sense of belonging and purpose are crucial to keeping your organization vital and strong. Reach out to one another, hold as many social events as your local rules allow, and find new ways of communicating with each other and keeping each other valued and in the loop.

  3. Ramp up your committees. Don’t let your forced isolation lull you into a stagnant slumber. Even if you don’t know when or how your area will eventually “re-open,” re-convene and re-energize your committees. Committees should be tasked with coming up with proposals for projects, advocacy initiatives, and social events that will involve and inspire your peers. Initially, these activities should be accomplishable under the current restrictive regime—think educational teleseminars with speakers from outside your organization; circulating committee white papers on relevant topics such as disability rights, public access, and the like; and fun stuff like telephone trivia, Zoom karaoke, email joke/recipe/DIY swap, etc. But there should also be some long-term planning.

  4. Plan for the future. Even though none of us know what that future will look like exactly, it is important to challenge your organization to look ahead, think about goals, and plan concrete, inclusive, and measurable actions to achieve those goals. Along with ramping up your committees, long-term plans will help your organization hit the ground running with focus and direction once your area goes “green.”

  5. Stay connected to your state organization. Your PCB Board of Directors has been working hard to keep the flame of PCB alive and well: working on numerous projects that will deepen, broaden, and strengthen the value of being part of the PCB peer network (look for big changes coming to the PCB website). In addition, PCB has just hired a Director of Outreach and Engagement. Her name is Melissa Carney. You will be hearing much more about her and from her, in the coming months. Take full advantage of, and contribute your special local knowledge to, this new PCB initiative as Ms. Carney works to more fully integrate PCB into the disability community across the state. Finally, your PCB Peer Engagement Team has been reaching out to chapters and affiliates, and remains at your service for ideas, advice, and support. Stay informed, stay involved, and stay strong!

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