Posted: Friday, Jan 22nd, 2021
Ventura’s Top Moments of 2020. Yes, There Were Bright Spots.
Yes, COVID-19 has hurt us in so many ways, so many of them beyond imagination and words. Yes, there is so much scary and uncertain. But Ventura has always known what to do in the face of those twin pillars of despair. And Ventura is not alone. Across the country, communities have defined community in all the right ways. Grocery clerks stocking shelves through the night so they’ll be ready when the elderly come in to shop first. Schools using their kitchens to feed kids. NBA players writing checks to pay out-of-work arena staff. Companies turning their production lines to making ventilators. Countless businesses, small and large, displaying innovation and sheer pig-headed determination.
Fifteen rounds and more.
Nelson Mandela, who knew something of hardship and the long-term picture, once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Mandela also saw the power of selflessness.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
In 2020, so many Venturans made a significant difference.
Here are a handful of those differences — and reason to rethink.
Maybe we don’t look at 2020 as something to be entirely forgotten.
Maybe we look at it as something to carry with us after this pandemic is gone.
An example of how we can work together to make things better.
A Handful of (Many) Moments
Early in the pandemic, there were shortages of so many things. A group of Ventura Unified School District students made face shields for local doctors and nurses who desperately needed protective gear. Working from home, a talented group of high school, middle school, and even elementary school kids used 3D printers to make face shields, as many as 40 a day. They called themselves STEMbassadors, and they received local help on many fronts, from outright cash donations to the clear Plexiglass sheets donated by local companies like American Plastics and FASTSIGNS.
On the Westside of Ventura, things have hummed along selflessly — and creatively — throughout the pandemic. Early on, Ventura’s Amanzi Hotel donated school supplies to children on Ventura’s Westside, and the Westside Community Council collected goods and raised funds for sorely needed school supplies. The Westside Community Council also organized donations of masks and protective eye goggles, dropping them off at the Ventura County Medical Center. Westside businesses Ventura Spirits and Noble Laboratories made hand sanitizer for the Ventura County Office of Emergency Services and first-responders and healthcare workers. And just last month, Bell Arts Factory, a humming enclave of talented local artists, created Punto De Intersección (Point of Intersection). Like most great ideas, it was a simple premise. A Ventura artist paired with a Ventura Avenue small business; the artist created a limited edition of their art and the businesses offered the art item to their customers for the art equivalent of a song — or free. Giving talented artists exposure, and helping bring customers into local businesses.
All the stores sold out (or gave away) their art works in a few days.
And there are plans for more.
Restaurant workers are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Right out of the blocks, The Local Love Project and Winchester’s Grill and Saloon partnered to feed the families of restaurant workers and give them household supplies; from batteries to toilet paper. Rincon Brewery partnered with World Central Kitchen and their #chefsforamerica program to take care of local 805 First Responders in Ventura County and Santa Barbara County and health care workers in Ventura. Rincon Brewery’s Chef Steve Stroh made delicious meals, delivered daily by a hard-hustling crew.
With the substantial risks they (continue to) take always on their minds, some local doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers turned to living in RVs to protect their families. Seeing a need for more RVs, the ever-kindly-thinking Amy Towner (CEO of Health Care Foundation for Ventura County) reached out to Jeff Sukay (President of the Kirby Auto Group). Her request was simple. Could he provide more temporary housing for doctors and nurses? Sukay donated a fleet of RVs.
The pandemic changed life daily — and changed daily life. So many things went on sudden standstill; givens were suddenly not given anymore. School graduations, for one. But make no mistake, graduation in Ventura County was still celebrated with unabashed love and enthusiasm — and maybe a little bit of subterfuge. A caring group started a Facebook page “Ventura County Class of 2020 Adopt A Grad.” It wasn’t just high school. No, it was established to spread joy to even the wee-est of graduates (Preschool). Members adopted a graduate. They then performed any manner of kindnesses, from sending cards, to leaving a surprise bouquet of flowers at the graduate’s door. As one anonymous good deeder said, “Just surprise reminders that, although times are different, this is still a special time for them!” And their mission was bigger than the here and now. The group’s page stated, “We have always been good at showing our Ventura County Pride, let’s rub that pride off to the generation coming up the ranks!!!”
Clouds do have a silver lining. Cats and dogs are finding homes — lots of them. Pet rescues and animal shelters across California have seen adoptions soar, and Ventura County is no exception. Throughout California, shelters are reporting waiting lists for adoptions. Another change; far fewer people are bringing their pets into shelters. Once was a time when folks brought their dog or cat into the shelter because, in a busy, busy world, it wasn’t getting the attention it needed. Now, people are home. And animals aren’t the only ones who need love and attention. A hospital worker who recently adopted a kitten put it simply. “I needed someone to welcome me home.”
So many have helped and continue to help; maybe even you. So many have done little, not-so-little things; ordering takeout from local restaurants, making a small online local purchase. And here’s what happens when that happens. This message to the community from Shana Elson, founder and owner of Top This Chocolate in Ventura Harbor Village… “Thank you for supporting small businesses! Sales initially plunged 95% but your online orders have allowed me to bring back two of eight employees. The chocolate factory is humming again…”
And, last but not least, let’s not forget the special things that have always been with us.
That will continue to be with us after this darkness is gone.