Amidst all the doom-and-gloom surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the most encouraging thing that has stood out are the many examples of compassion and creativity within our own community. Nowhere is this more obvious than within local businesses, which have been especially rocked by recent events.
Restaurants that are accustomed to full dining rooms and busy bars are now making family meal packages for pick-up. Businesses who are rooted in customer service and now doing business face-to-face are finding ways to do this virtually. Even the local, community newspaper has found a way to keep doing what they do, even if printing a physical paper doesn’t make sense right now.
Just one month after West Of Free Press celebrated its 15th year of being the community newspaper for West Ashley, everything changed. Their presses grinded to a halt as most of their advertisers closed their doors and people began self-quarantining. But the need for community news was greater than ever. So owners Lorne and Lindsey Chambers created West Of UnBound to help bridge the gap until they start printing again, hopefully in the next month or two.
“One thing I’ve come to realize over the last several month is that a newspaper is not just the physical paper it’s printed on," Lorne Chambers said. "Sure we call it a ‘paper,’ but a newspaper is a business, and in this case it’s a family. Beyond the paper itself, a newspaper is the decades of knowledge and experience of the people who put it together. It’s the community it serves, the readers, and the business who support it. And all of that still exists. That stuff didn’t go away when COVID-19 shut down the country. It just changed things. And we had to change with it. That’s why we created West Of UnBound”
More than a blog or a website, West Of UnBound is a dynamic digital magazine that reads like a traditional newspaper with pages that turn virtually but with embedded elements like videos, photo galleries, pop-ups, and links.
The debut issue of West Of UnBound (Homebound edition) dropped late last week. The cover illustration was a depiction of West Ashley’s beloved Coburg Cow wearing a surgical mask and the headline “Love In the Time of Covid,” and features inspiring stories of creativity and community in West Ashley. Just some of the stories included in the issue are about how students at West Ashley High School are making masks on their 3D printer for local healthcare workers, how a local pizzeria is donating food to West Ashley grocery store workers, a photo essay with Roper St. Francis Healthcare employees, and how Netflix’s Tiger King has been the ultimate escapism for some West Ashley residents.
There are also sections throughout the publication listed as “West Of TV Presents” that feature video messages, like the one from U.S. Rep Joe Cunningham, who represents the Lowcountry in Congress and who tested positive for COVID-19. There are also weekly installments of “Quarantune Sessions” featuring a local musician playing a song and “A Tip from a Bartender” which features a local bartender teaching you how to make a cocktail at home since the bars are closed.
West Of UnBound hits the virtual racks every Thursday afternoon via social media, West Of’s website (www.westof.net/unbound) and through an e-mail list. In this week’s installment of West Of UnBound, Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg has a video message for residents and we celebrate 350 years since the founding of Charles Towne right here in West Ashley.
“Rest assured, like our country and our community, West Of Free Press will be back soon,” says Chambers. “In the meantime, stay safe, stay home, take care of your loved ones, and enjoy West Of UnBound.”