Our calendars are built to facilitate human connection. The software platform was designed to get people off their screens and into classes, concerts, and community gatherings. When COVID 19 caused an unprecedented worldwide shutdown, we had to adjust to social distancing.
There was a pause, a moment of uncertainty. First came the cancellations. We were led to believe the community might only need to shut down for two weeks. People were confused. They didn’t know what stores and restaurants were open or closed, didn’t know what services were available. They didn’t know what they were allowed to do. They didn’t know where to find out information, or what was true. They didn’t know if they would have a job or a paycheck or a place to live.
We did our best to let people know what was, and wasn’t, going on. With so much uncertainty, it was hard to know what to post and for how long. Honestly, we are still doing this, and re-evaluating all the time. Fortunately, we were already set up for collecting, organizing, and presenting all this information. We just had to remind people that we were still there to help them.
It was a good time to already have an online community calendar in place. Our GatherBoard calendar allowed us to quickly adapt to the new online world. Even though it was designed to get people off-line, interacting in person, that was no longer an option. After the initial shock, we began to see action.
Soon the helpers reached out and we collaborated with Missoula COVID 19 Mutual Aid Community Resource, The United Way, and #KeepItCoveredMissoula by offering free advertising on MissoulaEvents.net.
We posted lists of restaurants still doing take-out, special grocery store hours, online classes from fitness studios and health clubs. We posted closures, cancellations, and meetings that had moved online. We posted reduced bus line hours, limitations and recommendations.
Then came the livestreams. Whole festivals were happening remotely, in living rooms. Webinars, meetings, education of all kind was moving online. And we were there to collect and share it all.
Things like “Roxy & Chill” (a local movie theater offering online streaming of movies), and “Howl for Missoula” (every night at 8 pm people step outside and howl to thank all the essential workers, and to join in solidarity with the rest of the community), became regular features on the calendar.
There were now posts about food bank meal distribution times and no-contact donations to Home Resource (a nonprofit community sustainability center with a building materials reuse store). Many places offered curbside pick-up; pottery, food, painting, beer, groceries, even margaritas.
Events quickly changed from in-person to online. People began creating new live, local, online events. They were popping up all over the place in a shotgun like spatter; on FaceBook, Instagram, and emails from local businesses. We scoured all the sources and created the tag page #VirtualMissoula so users could more easily find these.
Our CEO, Molly Bradford, was in Mexico when everything shut down. At first she thought she might just stay and ride it out, then she got word that the last flight out was leaving in a couple of days, and she didn’t know when there would be another one. She packed up her kids and all their things and came home to Montana, where they then spent 14 days in quarantine.
Listen here for an interview with Molly about how we adapted to this situation: Indoor Innovator Interview Series: Molly Bradford of Gatherboard
And while you’re at it, check out these interviews with Molly as well:
And this story in the Missoula Current: MissoulaEvents finds new ways to stay relevant as streaming becomes the new norm
With no active cases of COVID 19 in Missoula County, people have started cautiously going out to bars and restaurants again, albeit with limitations and restrictions. On June 1st, Phase 2 of Montana’s re-opening plan will begin. By mid-June, Missoulians should be able to begin gathering again, at “Out to Lunch,” and “Downtown Tonight,” and in group fitness classes. We don’t really know what it will look and feel like, or how long it will last. But we do know that MissoulaEvents.net will continue to adapt to the changes, because keeping our community connected is what we do.