Cayce, Community & Care in the Time of COVID

As with many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic was a blow to Marilyn Greer’s personal and financial well-being. After losing her job at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center when programming was canceled for the rest of the year, she found herself stuck in her Cayce Homes apartment with no income.

“It was really hard for me at first. There was no money coming in, and it was also really hard mentally because I’m a go-getter,” Greer says. “I would sit on my porch to get some air, but I’m used to doing something all the time. I had to find other ways to release the stress and there’s no better way to do it than clean the house.”

While Greer kept herself busy at home, forced isolation was especially challenging for the gregarious and ever-on-the-move community activist. As Vice President of the Cayce Place Residents Association, a board member of both the Envision Cayce neighborhood revitalization project and the anti-poverty non-profit Martha O’Bryan Center, founder of the youth mentoring group Positive Attitude, and East Nashvillian of the Year for 2019, Greer’s life is centered around being a force for positivity. But being forced to exchange social distancing for social interaction didn’t blunt her care and concern for her community.

“A lot of people, especially young people lost their jobs. My neighbors had the same worries about money I did. Their kids weren’t going to school so they needed more food at home. A lot of them could rely on family, but thank God for the Martha O’Bryan Center.”

Although many of the community organization’s facilities and programs were shut down or postponed by the pandemic, they were able to continue supplying vital supplies to neighborhood residents along with escalating their partnership with Second Harvest Foodbank to distribute food boxes in the parking lot at their Seventh Street South facility.

Marilyn Greer photographed by Chad Crawford.

“They were giving out food boxes left and right,” Greer says. “I would say Second Harvest tripled the food they brought to Martha O’Bryan — milk, vegetables, and more. They also didn’t limit people on the amount they could receive, and that got me through until my unemployment started rolling in. It was the same for other people.”

In regards to combating the spread of the virus, Greer says the Mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) have been proactive in distributing information, reducing personal contact at business offices, and providing free testing for residents.

“I appreciate the Mayor and the Health Department,” Greer says. “They did testing here at the basketball court and at every MDHA property in town. Only a few people were positive and no one in Cayce.”

“This is a time when people really need help, and people just have to look out for each other.”
—Marilyn Greer

In addition to Cayce being fortunate in regards to the spread of COVID-19, Greer says the protests and social unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd and other incidents of police violence have had little negative impact within the Cayce community.

“Some people did go out and protest, but overall the community has stuck together,” Greer says. “If anything, I’d say people have come together more and are nicer to each other.”

As our country and the world continues to face new and seemingly insurmountable challenges, talking with Greer serves as a reminder that concern, compassion, and hope are renewal resources that we all can supply, simply by standing up and making a difference in our local community.

“This is a time when people really need help,” Greer says, “And people just have to look out for each other.”

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