Penny Macphail used Nextdoor to kick-start Good Fairy Marin, a volunteer organization that connects helpers to those in need during the pandemic. (Photos courtesy of Penny Macphail)

Penny Macphail of Marin County’s Sleepy Hollow is the epitome of a good neighbor. She founded Good Fairy Marin, a small organization that connects local volunteers with people who need support while sheltering in place during the pandemic, after her elderly mother-in-law contracted COVID-19 in England after going shopping. 

 “She survived, but had a horrible time,” Macphail recalled. 

Recognizing that her mother-in-law’s experience wasn’t an isolated incident, Macphail jumped into action. Using Nextdoor as her online platform, she placed a call for Good Fairy volunteers, and in less than three months, more than 500 volunteer helpers signed on. 

Some Good Fairy volunteers shop for groceries, provide masks and bake, while others give plant seedlings, swap jigsaw puzzles, perform various errands or simply offer companionship via phone calls or Zoom meetings. And as an added precaution, all volunteers stay outside and remain at a safe distance for all home deliveries and drop-offs. 

Good Fairy volunteer Amy Forrest delivers containers of yeast, which will be used for a fifth-grade baking challenge.

Originally, Good Fairy Marin focused solely on the aging and at-risk populations, but has since expanded its network of help to individuals of all ages.

“We started off with [helping] seniors, including a 99-year-old man who asked us to supply a grow box” for his garden, said Macphail, “but now we’re also working with kids all over Marin.”

And as for the organization’s name, it “came to me in two seconds,” said Macphail before explaining that as a child her best friend imagined a fairy on her shoulder whenever she was afraid “because fairies look after you and help you help yourself.”

And though Good Fairy Marin has been a success, Macphail is looking to expand the program to provide service to the entire county. 

“We need to do more to help people in the Canal area and Marin City,” she said, and has put a call out for volunteers from those neighborhoods.