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Staying safe and happy

One community in the Harbour View area has been hosting a number of events designed to keep everyone connected yet safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fran Newman and Penny Neef are part of the social committee for their homeowners’ association and wanted to find ways to keep people in their community involved without being in large groups.

“With concerts and other events being canceled, we wanted another way for people to stay involved,” said Newman.

At the beginning of the lockdown, a happiness tree was created in a big cypress tree. A large banner was hung on it where people could place tags with thankful or encouraging messages on it. These tags thanked essential workers and offered encouraging prayers for the end of the pandemic.

A socially distant library was at Bill Jesse Park in The Riverfront, where people could get books or puzzles from different bins. The library allowed families to pick up a new activity to do while stuck at home. This event was such a success that the homeowners’ association board approved two permanent Little Free Libraries to continue book exchanges.

Also, at the park, along the sidewalk, community members could reserve a square for decorating to receive a gift certificate for a cupcake.

“What was cool about the gift cards is they were to a bakery owned by someone in our community,” said Newman. “She, like many business owners, struggled during the lockdown, so this gave us the chance to support her.”

For Memorial Day, participants sent in a picture of their decorated door, mailbox or yard. The winner received a gift certificate from another local business, Decoys.

One of the favorite events was the scavenger painted rock hunt. Neef being a former art teacher, painted rocks with the help of Newman to hide around the park. Six of the 80 hidden rocks had a particular star. Those who found ones with a star sent in a picture to receive a prize.

“The scavenger painted rock hunt was a huge hit,” said Newman. “People are asking us if we can do that again in the coming months.”

Most of these events were new, but the tradition of having a day for shredding old papers continued. After the delayed tax day, community members could bring canned food donations for the Oasis food bank in exchange for old documents in the shredding truck.

“I think people had time during the lockdown to go through papers,” said Newman. “It had to be the hottest day of July, and we had a line of people down the street and around the corner to have things shredded. We got so many food donations it filled up a truck bed and inside the truck as well as my SUV.”

Looking to the fall, the community is looking for more events to do, including a safe alternative for Halloween.

“We haven’t heard of other communities holding events like this, but we have gotten a great response,” said Newman. “The kids are excited to get out and do something, and the parents are excited that there is something safe for them to be involved in.”