By Susan True
A friend of mine recently said to me, âIs it Friday or June? Doesn’t that just sum up the 2021 chore? I felt the promise of what the year might bring when frontline workers started getting vaccinated, finally gave my mother a hug again, and the children cautiously returned to class. But then Delta jumped in and now Omicron is here and it seems the weariness of teachers, healthcare workers, small business owners and families dealing with debt and skyrocketing rents is making headlines every day. days.
But it’s not Friday or June. It’s December. Reality struck me on a cold gray evening when the sunset was just a vague idea behind the clouds. I stood at Walton Lighthouse with Bill and Brigid Simpkins and other residents of Live Oak who care deeply about our county. That night, as the ocean and sky shared a faint beauty, we turned on the holiday lights that adorn the lighthouse and cheered as they illuminated the stormy sky.
I have definitely felt my share of grief as terrible national news comes home every day. Yet this small gathering of people comforted me. These are just a few of the many members of this community who have helped turn the 2021 Time Warp into a Solution Package through philanthropy, heart and action. As the pandemic rages on and the scars of the CZU fires are rubbed raw by the recent but necessary rains, it is thanks to a lot of empathy, trust and collective work that local solutions to these very big problems emerge.
We have addressed the lack of Internet access during distance education. As part of an extraordinary cross-sector partnership between Cruzio, Pajaro Valley Unified School District and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Equal Access Santa Cruz County (EASC) now covers 30% of the Watsonville area and more than 700 students have internet access improved or new, with more on the way. Melissa Shaw, Grade 4 teacher at PVUSD, said: âAccess meant my students could connect, connect and collaborate, and stay on track without time-consuming and daunting workarounds. “
We’re putting secure housing and access to health care within easy reach for the residents of Live Oak. Health and Home, the project at 1500 Capitola Road, is a collaboration between Santa Cruz Community Health (SCCH), Dientes and MidPen Housing to build a 3.7-acre health and housing campus. He was booming in fundraising when the pandemic hit. Then everything stopped. Suddenly, Dientes was temporarily closed as dental care was considered non-essential and SCCH was providing COVID testing, food distribution and possibly COVID vaccines in addition to their regular services. But in 2021, by sheer force of will, these nonprofits and the community came together to get the project back on track. Now that construction is well advanced, health care will soon serve 10,000 patients per year, as well as affordable, permanent housing for up to 265 people. Cory Ray, a longtime Santa Cruz County resident and Community Foundation donor said, âNow a mom won’t have to wonder, ‘Am I paying the rent this month or taking me? my child at the dentist? “
With nonprofit partners and many generous individuals giving of their time and donations, we have helped families stay housed and helped Veterans find housing. Moms at risk of dropping out are staying in college, and fire survivors navigate the recovery process. We tackle one problem at a time, step by step, never alone.
That night, under the twinkling lights of the harbor mouth, my heart was full. It wasn’t full of the hope of 2021 or even the promise of 2022. It was full of gratitude for each day that we take care of each other. No matter what year ends or begins, it is our love and commitment to each other that will heal us over time. This is the big lesson of the last 20 months. Let’s continue, as long as it takes.
Susan True is CEO of the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation.