Two Winnipeg pastors are encouraging people to hold a different kind of Whiteout party this spring — one held at home, to cheer on essential service providers.
In the spirit of the Whiteout street parties that dominated downtown to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets, Karen Schellenberg, of Charleswood Mennonite Church, and Moses Falco, of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, are suggesting that starting today, people should put up white paper cut-outs in their windows to express support for those who go to work during the pandemic.
Schellenberg, 59, said she got the idea after "some sleepless nights" and wondering how those staying home could show support to health-care providers and other people who provide essential services.
"I remembered how we (rallied around) the Jets and came out for the Whiteout parties, and I thought, ‘Well, why don’t we have a whiteout party?’" Schellenberg said. "Manitoba loves Whiteout parties, but we can’t get together."
Both Schellenberg and Falco, 29, are part of the Mennonite Church Manitoba group, a community with more than 40 congregations. Schellenberg said she knew Falco would be interested, so she reached out. He supported the idea wholeheartedly.
"We’re both big sports fans, big Jets fans, and if things were normal right now, hopefully the Jets would’ve made the playoffs and we’d be doing a different kind of Whiteout party," Falco said.
"So many of us feel like we can’t do much — this is something we can do," Schellenberg said.
The pair has suggested hearts and supportive words for the cut-outs, and adorning balconies and trees with as much white as possible.
They hope people will spread the word on social media using the hashtag #whiteoutMB. Some families from their respective congregations have already put up white hearts in their windows.
"When people drive by, they can see it, and we know that we’re united in this, and that we love and support those especially who are doing the tough work in this," Schellenberg said.
"And then to support each other as we continue to be isolated and know that that’s getting tougher for people. It’s week three, and it’s hard, and we just need to support one another."
Both emphasized that as self-isolation becomes the new normal, finding ways to connect with people in one’s community will become more vital.
"If we know that someone else is thinking about us and caring for us in our time of difficulty… what a difference that makes," Schellenberg said.
"I know for myself, for my family and people I know, being isolated can be really hard," Falco said.
"So coming up with new and different ways to reach out to each other and build those connections, I think, just helps our community as a whole."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.