History is a collection of defining moments. Unfortunately, 2020 has yielded more than enough defining moments for a generation. But trying times bring out the best in those being tested; and I’ve always said southern Illinois is the best place to live because of its people. We help our friends and neighbors in their time of need, no questions asked – simply because it is the right thing to do.

Throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, our healthcare workers, first responders, grocery clerks and truck drivers have been working tirelessly on the front lines. What’s more, individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations stepped forward to help their communities get back on their feet.

In Mount Vernon, Cusumano and Sons partnered with the United Way of South Central Illinois and Laborers’ Local 773 to distribute boxes of fresh produce to food pantries and families – over 14,000 boxes a week.

Jadie from Pontoon Beach, Jo-Nita from Sparta and the Carbondale/Murphysboro Fabric Mask Response Team have made and distributed tens of thousands of masks to first responders, hospital workers and others who need them.

Angie from Edwardsville is organizing birthday parades for kids who can’t celebrate with their friends. Bobby and Ken from Swansea made intubation boxes for local doctors and hospitals. The list goes on and on.

Their inspiring stories speak to our southern Illinois spirit and the resiliency of our people. When we see problems, we find creative solutions to fix them. We persevere through tough times, and when we get knocked down, we get right back up and keep fighting.

We’re now just over half a year into a shutdown we never could have envisioned. Businesses are safely re-opening and people are going back to work. Kids are going back to school. But, there’s still much work to do.

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass four bipartisan bills to respond to COVID-19. That included $175 billion for hospitals, $26.2 billion for testing, and $659 billion for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In our region, those PPP loans helped over 10,000 small businesses keep the lights on, and most importantly, those loans helped keep over 100,000 southern Illinoisans employed.

Despite all the bipartisan work we have accomplished, there still is more to be done. It is my hope that when we return to Washington in November, Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin will return to the table to negotiate an agreement to provide additional relief for our communities. COVID-19 is a fight like we’ve never seen before, and it will take all of us working together to defeat it for good. But when we do, we will come back stronger than ever. That’s the southern Illinois way.

Rep. Mike Bost (R-12), Murphysboro, has served the people of southern Illinois since 2015 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to that he served for two decades in the Illinois House of Representatives.