Group finds ways to connect despite social distancing

  • Connectability Executive Director Jacqueline Daniel reads a children's book on camera at App Studios as part of the Smalltown Celebrity Story Time. (Photo by Matt Aiken)
    Connectability Executive Director Jacqueline Daniel reads a children's book on camera at App Studios as part of the Smalltown Celebrity Story Time. (Photo by Matt Aiken)

In a world where social distancing because of coronavirus has become normal day-to-day procedure, one local organization is having to think outside the box to fulfill its mission.
Connectability, which serves individuals with disabilities and their families, exists to bring people together out of social isolation.
Executive Director Jacqueline Daniel said many folks have been practicing social distancing for many years unwillingly.
"People who have a family member with a disability experience social isolation 365 days a year," she said. "And now everybody is experiencing that."
Now, like many in the community, Connectability is turning to technology to fulfill its mission.
With many upcoming events being postponed or canceled, the staff is devising ways to keep people connected virtually.
"We're always thinking about how to maximize the number of people we can reach," Daniel said. "We wanted to do something that was open ended that anybody could be a part of."
Their solution—get many local "celebrities" to read a children's book on camera for people to enjoy.
The initial phase of the project was a success, with 12 stories being recorded recently at App Studios in Dahlonega.
"Everybody was so happy to be a part of it," Daniel said. "It feels good to participate."
Presenters chose a picture book that is special to them, or one that they have read to their own children.
Nimblewheels Bicycle shop owner Ryan Puckett said he chose the book titled Pass It On because it is a story that applies very well in the current situation.
"If somebody smiles at you, smile back and pass it along," Puckett said. "It's about encouraging people to be polite, sharing good deeds and being nice to other people."
He said the book is a reminder that everybody is experiencing hard times right now.
"A smile can go a long way," he said. "A simple wave or smile can lift their spirits."
Camera technique is something he had to think about—reminding himself to slow down and allowing viewers enough time to look at the pictures.
Lumpkin County Elementary School teacher Jenna Marshall said that although she reads picture books and chapter books to her students every day reading in front of a camera is different.
"Because I cannot see my audience and how they are reacting to the story" she said. "I can't stop and answer questions or ask how they can relate the book to their lives."
She chose a book called What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada.
The message encourages children to be confident in their ideas.
"Sometimes we have ideas that we don't want to share with others because we are afraid of what they will say," Marshall said. "If we believe in our ideas and give them attention, they could change the world."
Lumpkin County High School music technology teacher Radford Windham chose a book he read to his sons Wyatt and Witt when they were younger.
The book, Big Brother, Little Brother by Marci Curtis, shows siblings how to deal with both good and bad times together, he said.
"The book also emphasizes the importance of siblings depending on each other," Windham added. "This was very enjoyable and I hope kids enjoy it."
Windham also performed a solo concert on live-stream from the same App Studios setting last week as part of Connectability's Meet Your Neighbor program.
"It has been so encouraging to see all the innovation and seeing people try new things," Daniel. "With all the loss happening right now [it's good] to see people connecting online instead of in person."
Daniel said they plan to post two stories per week (Monday and Thursday) on Connectability's Facebook page and website. There will also be a link to their YouTube page.