Growing up I loved watching Mr. Rogers. I loved guessing which sweater he would change into, watching him play in the neighborhood of make-believe, seeing the trolley, and of course listening to him sing "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". He always felt like a safe place.
Years later, I read a quote by him that I have carried with me:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
Fast forward to March 2020. A global pandemic has begun sweeping our nation. Everything is shut down and we are ordered to stay home. (My family still takes the severity of the situation very seriously, and have been doing everything possible to keep ourselves, our family, friends, neighbors, and community safe as well). During those orders I was forced to explain things to my children that I had never considered telling a 3 year old. Answering questions beyond my scope of knowledge, and grieving alongside them for the lives they used to have.
In April, a good family friend, John Borack, had a wonderful idea to do a mobile DJ party. We loaded him up into the back of our truck, strapped him down next to his DJ equipment and drove down every street in our neighborhood. Blasting music, spreading cheer, honking, waving, smiling and laughing with both friends and strangers. Completely uplifting!! And so popular, he was asked to do it again the following weekend, so we did!
During those two tours, my mind was exploding with possibility. Elvis and I were practically shouting ideas at each other the entire time. People seemed to be longing for some sort of interaction. We wanted to remind them that the community was still alive and well, here to support each other, even in the scariest of times.
So I set off to do just that. I tried to create DIY activities that could be enjoyed at home, and socially distanced or virtual activities that could be enjoyed together. It's been a complete trial-and-error journey, and I have learned and grown tremendously. I didn't do everything myself - in fact, many others helped formulate, gather, and implement these ideas. Some brought their own ideas and I just helped them along.
Last week, I was asked to attend the January 19th Fountain Valley City Council meeting to support a family friend being elected as the President of the Fountain Valley Community Foundation. I was happy to oblige, as the position is well-deserved, and should be celebrated. While I was concerned about sitting through the meeting, I also felt it would be an educational opportunity for my girls, and we ultimately decided to go.
During the meeting, the current President of the FVCF asked the Mayor if I could join him at the podium. I walked up, and he began to talk about the events I had arranged as Green Valley Neighbors. I stood there, my face as red as a tomato, while he spoke very kindly about me. You see, I didn't start to do the activities and events for any sort of recognition. In fact, quite the opposite, as the attention has always been something I shy away from. I have been trying to help our neighborhood because I am blessed to able to do so. Because I love where I live - and the friends, neighbors, and community that I live with.
Ultimately, I was presented with a "Community Champion" award for my "dedication, creativity, commitment and support of the Green Valley community and to the City of Fountain Valley."
I am both shocked and feel extremely honored. Fountain Valley is filled with incredible volunteers and organizations!! To be recognized as one of them is amazing.
And with that said, I need to thank every one that helped make all of those events and activities possible. Without the constant support and encouragement from our wonderful group of neighbors, none of this would have happened! So many of you have participated, or continued to be such a positive influence, and that has kept the light shining over the last year.
Special thanks to those that have given an extra helping hand - Elvis, John Borack, Kayla Borack, Meghann Bacon, Jay Adams, Isaiah Adams, Paul Zive, Jane Smith, Krystin Moberg, Dr. Smith, Don Gifford, Mike White, Melissa Arena, Jennifer Drilling, and Tom Vo Jr. Also thank you to the GVHRA Board of Directors for agreeing to allow facility use to accommodate some of the events.
My hope that 2021 will bring health and more happiness, and of course, more Green Valley Neighbors events.