The Proverbial “Pandemic” Box Forced Us to Think Outside of It

(Horatio Jung)
The 2020 Classic Car Show became a Car Tour with both drivers and volunteers wearing masks as they toured the Lamorinda area.

    COVID-19 has affected us all in ways we don’t yet recognize or understand. COVID today is such a part of our vernacular; it’s used as a verb, the butt or essence of jokes. The pandemic would’ve been enough, but Californians also suffered through devastating wildfires, debilitating air quality and inconvenient PG&E outages. Everyone experienced challenges this year and we’ve had to navigate the best we could. Loss was a big one for many, including financial security and not just for individuals and businesses, but for nonprofits too. Like many of you, the needs and demands of those we care for became greater this year, incurring more expenses with less financial stability. Your support is needed more than ever.
    Hundreds of studies are taking place on the human toll of these events, and not just the extreme of losing loved ones, but the emotional, life-altering daily toll due to shelter-in-place, fear of the unknown, isolation and physical distancing. I could go on about the devastating effects – loss of life, loss of livelihood, loss of how we traditionally celebrate rites of passage such as proms, graduations, weddings and births, but as with all change – good or bad, new opportunities open. Human beings are resilient and we adapt, we think outside the box, and become creative, finding solutions to new problems or developing new workarounds. Sometimes it opens up another part of us, such as our compassion, gratitude or clearer vision.
    Organizations operate similar to humans; they experience loss, fear the unknown and forced to alter the way they conduct business. Nonprofits, including The Orinda Association (OA) and its Seniors Around Town program, also experienced loss. We experienced loss of revenue sources and freedom to provide services and events that we have in the past, but we never lost sight of our mission and purpose.
    Everything we do, such as create and print The Orinda News, organize and execute the July 4th parade, host public forums, provide free transportation for seniors, collaborate with our community partnerships on the Classic Car Show and celebrate Orinda volunteers, involves masses of people participating, planning and gathering. They all require what we can’t do right now; bring people physically together in planning and celebration. So we adapted, we thought outside the box; we made it work and we hope for good results.
    The first major event impacted was our annual Citizen of the Year and Wm. Penn Mott, Jr. Environmental Awards dinner. How do you adequately celebrate the achievements of individuals’ unselfish works when we can’t publicly acknowledge and give thanks to them? We still have to figure this out, but for now, it’s postponed.
    Another major event was our July 4th parade. The OA Board had to cancel the parade and activities, and this would have been year 37. The committee tried to get the community to celebrate together – but apart. It was creative, just not the same. We’ll be back even stronger in 2021, The Orinda Association’s 75th anniversary!
    The third major event impacted was the Orinda Classic Car Show in partnership with Orinda Motors, which is the annual fundraiser for Seniors Around Town and other local nonprofits. The dedication of Bill Waterman, Diane Lautz, John Vanek of Orinda Motors and the entire car show committee made it a safe, community fundraiser. They thought outside the box and created the first Orinda Classic Car Tour, livestreaming the event, capturing the essence of attending the tour in person, talking with the car owners, hearing their stories, learning their sources, connecting with a shared passion for automobiles. Attended in person by close to 100 drivers, virtually seen by hundreds, with potential to be shared by thousands on YouTube. We will be back Sept. 18, 2021.
    The Volunteer Center and The Orinda News remained open Monday-Friday as an in-person community contact, continued publishing and mailing the newspaper, albeit working from home, in the office and through countless Zoom meetings. We all became more tech-savvy!
    Public forums will be livestreamed this year, maybe reaching more citizens than the traditional town hall in person style. We will be back in 2021.
    Seniors Around Town had to temporarily suspend its transportation for seniors program, but immediately adapted and replaced it with one providing grocery and errand shopping with home delivery and reassurance calls connecting seniors with a friendly voice to help reduce isolation and depression. The Volunteer Emergency Support Program (VESP) was also created, staffed and mobilized. Meeting the needs of 70 seniors, providing more than 275 volunteer hours. Transportation services resumed in June, with shopping service and reassurance calls continuing on now through wildfire season.
    This holiday season there are more people in need everywhere. Find the organization that touches your heart and give generously. These nonprofits did not stop doing their good works during the pandemic, in some cases they risked their lives to continue serving or they adapted as needed and worked even harder to meet their constituents’ needs. We didn’t go away, in many ways we got better.

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