By Raiza Giorgi
Santa Ynez Valley is not immune to the effects of the COVID-19 virus that has swept the world. Businesses are closed as this heavily tourism-based community has turned into a ghost town with empty streets. Schools have switched to distance learning, and all the senior care facilities have been placed on lockdown.
However, this isn’t the first time that the valley has seen crisis, such as when the Thomas fire and Montecito mudslide closed Highway 101 for weeks, which was financially devastating for a lot of local businesses. Most likely this isn’t the last either. The difference is in the attitudes of the residents and business owners who have come together to support others in need. We have put together this roundup of caring people who are working hard to help every facet of the community. We also have a short documentary on our YouTube page (or watch below).
The week before Easter brought in much-needed rain that will help farmers and ranchers get through another year. People were treated to amazing views from double rainbows and beautiful green hillsides, as a reprieve from the COVID-19 news.
People put their heads together (digitally) to come up with fun, positive activities to brighten people’s spirits as well.
The PVSR Hot Rod club decided to do a fun drive through various neighborhoods in the valley from Santa Ynez to Los Olivos, back through Solvang and a loop around Buellton. The club members also decided to drive the loop through the Atterdag Village of Solvang, as many of the residents haven’t left the facility in weeks.
“Residents and staff came out from every level to watch the parade of cars,” said Chris Parker, executive director of Atterdag. “This was so uplifting for many of the residents to see the community remember they’re here.”
Parker said Atterdag employees have been busy keeping the residents occupied with games, having social distancing coffee and cocktails outside. This situation weighs heavy on his heart as he knows how special and precious time is, and having to not let family and friends on campus to visit has been rough.
“I have a couple who has been married for 45 years separate because one is in skilled nursing and the other in assisted living,” Parker said. “I am making sure they get to at least have visits outside near one another.”
When the restrictions are eventually lifted, Parker is planning on how visitors will be screened when allowed on campus from taking temperatures and ensuring people still wear masks and gloves.
The Solvang Senior Center is also still going strong, even during this time of uncertainty and concern. Although all physical and social activities have been suspended until further notice, Executive Director Ellen Albertoni and Kitchen Manager Anne Twigg are still at the Center every day during normal hours.
“With the help of a fantastic group of volunteers, all of our 500 members have been contacted, checking in on their needs and offering a kind voice at the other end of the phone,” Albertoni said.
The facility has restructured its lunch program and is also offering mental stimulation by offering free wool and patterns to knit for the troops, as well as puzzles, books and games.
The senior center also has had great support from local restaurants like Solvang Restaurant, Veggie Rescue, Albertson’s, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Sysco Systems.
“Please call the Center at 805-688-3793 and ask for Ellen if you have any questions about available services or need someone to talk to,” Albertoni said.
Children have also had a lot of support from the community as their school routines have been upended. A lot of the neighborhoods have put teddy bears in their windows for kids to go on “Bear Hunts,” and held social distancing Easter egg hunts.
The Buellton and Solvang Parks and Recreation departments usually come together for the annual Easter Eggstravaganza, but this year volunteers went around to the neighborhoods and placed eggs in yards for the kids to find.
The Buellton Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Flying Flags RV Resort and Sideways Inn to hold “physically distancing” Easter egg hunts.
Resident Candice Signa and her family dressed up as the Easter Bunny and went on a tour of Buellton to cheer up the kids.
Signa was also a part of several local real estate agents and construction companies who pooled their money together to create nine opportunities for residents to get a $250 gift card to a local grocery store. Thank you to Signa, Karin Aitken, Patty Castillo, Carole Ann Colone, Danielle Elam Crystal, Marilyn Elam, Gigi Gerritsen, Michelle Glaus, Claire Hanssen, and Coast General Contractors Aaron and Katie Wright.
Karma Specialty Painting also gave away four $50 gift cards to Valley Fresh Market.
On Facebook, Bethania Lutheran Church Pastor Chris Brown created the SYV Coronavirus Community Advocacy group as a resource for people to ask for assistance, volunteer for grocery or other errands and where people can get free food.
Little free libraries placed around the valley last year have also become Little Free Pantries where people place food instead of books.
St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church created a free meal program for residents of any age in need to either pick up, or they will also deliver to seniors, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Tuesday and Saturday, beginning March 28. They are located at 2901 Nojoqui Avenue on the corner of Alamo Pintado Avenue. Visit www.smitv.org for more information.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is also providing home food delivery for seniors; anyone who is interested can call 805-967-5471 extension 305.
Recovery Outreach Inc., with volunteers from Ranch Hands and Recovery Ranch, have also set up a free hot meal service for anyone needing a meal. They are running daily from 4 to 7 p.m. at Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy, located at 691 north Refugio Road in Santa Ynez.
With the news that people are being asked to wear masks in public settings, local sewers have been putting together orders for hundreds of fabric masks for anyone needing them. Masks have been donated to local hospitals, grocery store workers, restaurants and everywhere in between. Dawn Farrier at the Creation Station in Buellton put a video together on her packaging system, as she is immunocompromised herself, she is doing most of the work herself and asks people to be patient with her. The fabric and elastic is flying off the shelves as people are placing online orders to make masks.
Jacob Grant, Roots Organic Farm, is preparing boxes of fresh organic veggies for pick up at The Lucky Hen in Santa Ynez and at Flatbread in Los Alamos. Each box is $30 and will feed a family for a week. This is a way to get vegetables without going to the market and without coming in contact with a lot of people. You can pay with Venmo or cash in the box.
The MOXI just launched MOXI@Home (http://www.moxi.org/athome) and are sharing activities inspired by their exhibits and programs daily on their Instagram and Facebook profiles @moxisb.
The SYV Marriott is available to use their rooms as a work from home office space from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a daily rate of $75. All rooms offer free wifi, local calls, room service and public areas are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day. Call or come by and we’ll take immediate care of you: 805-687-1000 or e-mail us at: AYS@syvmarriott.com. This promotion will go through April 30, or extended if need be.
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