New forum to keep Anchorage residents together while apart

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - It's been more than two weeks since Anchorage residents were ordered to hunker down. At this point, many who are staying at home are learning to embrace technology even more to connect with loved ones. In the amount of time the city has been under the order some may have lost touch with the community. There's a new group on Facebook to do that.

It's called
Anchorage Connects, and is the collaborative effort of The Anchorage Public Library, Welcoming Anchorage, and local artist to bring the community together while they remain physically apart.

Sarah Preskitt is the Alaska Collection Librarian for the public library who said the page was formed after the creators were thinking about how to document and archive how the city and its residents are reacting to the pandemic.

"I think we take for granted just how many people we run into on any given day," she said, "those little interactions that we don't think about. I think people are really missing that."

On the group page, she said people are free to post about what they've been going through since the coronavirus changed nearly everything about how we live.

It can be about ways people have kept themselves busy at home, at work for those essential workers, or really anything that can be expressed online.

If people are lacking inspiration on what to talk about, virtual prompts are posted on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Preskitt said people can answer in any form they'd like.

Anchorage's First Lady, Mara Kimmell is also part of the page's creation through Welcoming Anchorage. She said people should feel encouraged to be creative while posting.

"Whatever form you want to add something is great," Kimmell said, "whether it's a video, a song, or a poem, or a painting, or drawing, please put that on the Facebook page."

The truth of the matter is that COVID-19 isn't something to take lightly and the creators know that. They said the page should also be used as a forum to express the bad parts of life right now, and even reach out for help.

"It's not a group therapy you know, these aren't mental health professionals running this group," Preskitt said, "but we do want people to be able to talk about, 'hey, I'm not coping so well with this.'"

There are rules to the page that are similar to most Facebook groups. Preskitt said people should act as they would at the library or a public park. The rule of thumb here is to be nice to your community.

Preskitt and Kimmell said the core of this page is having a way for the city to look back at itself when this is all over. The responses people post to the prompted questions are all going to be archived by the public library, similar to a time capsule.

Kimmell said one day Anchorage residents will look back at this time and remember a time of resiliency and teamwork.

"We'll see that," she said, "we'll see that we rose to this challenge in ways that bridge these distances and really capitalize on our compassion and our sense of community and our sense of strength that we bring from that."

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