As vaccines begin to roll out and we mark the longest nights of the year, many of us are celebrating our first hints of future light and hope at the end of what has been a long and lonely ten months. Your re-opening committee has been meeting regularly to discuss not how to open our church – our church community has always been open – but when we might be able to see one another in person and how we can best do that safely.
By Maureen McNair
I met the homeless man I will call Angelo in a moment of synchronicity. Angelo, who was so gracious, considers his life a success. I want you to meet him too, at least virtually. Here are the events that converged to bring us together and what he shared about himself. County Public Health closed down another food pantry in Chula Vista for a couple weeks because that pantry has an outbreak of Covid-19. Again. Pantries cover for one another, so last Monday, I drove over to a donor of the closed pantry to pickup 185 pounds of free frozen meat. Our clients at the South Bay Food Pantry will be thrilled to receive such a bounty the Saturday before Christmas!
In September 2020, members of the Living the Homestretch committee shared a presentation on many different ways that people can learn, explore, and entertain themselves while remaining safe at home or socially distancing. The ideas shared ranged from scenic local walks, to programs offered by universities, to virtually visiting museums, and even to taking a peek into outer space! While some programs are specific to elders, many options are open to people of all ages. At the end of the meeting, participants shared their own ideas for fun and enriching pandemic activities, adding more options for anyone looking for a meaningful way to spend some winter weeks indoors. Check out the list here: safe_pandemic_activities.pdf.
Are you feeling alone? The NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness) has many helpful resources that might help. To learn about them, visit namisandiego.org/covid-19/.
The Reopening Team has been researching and responding to your questions as our region continues to experience fluctuating and sometimes confusing COVID guidelines. As San Diego is currently in Tier 1 (Purple) on the state's infection scae, gatherings of any size are considered unsafe. However, we have been sharing ideas and we invite you to read the questions and answers so far. Steve H. sent in this one "I agree that we cannot get back to “normal” for many, many months, maybe years. But that does not mean that we must have no in-person activities. Please tell me if you think this suggestion is not advisable, and why."
By Maureen McNair
Less than two miles from our South Bay Food Pantry in Chula Vista, UC San Diego Medical School is conducting a Covid-19 prevention study to evaluate a vaccine. Pantry volunteer Jude Outwater, a senior at Lesley University in Boston and son of Board Vice President Julie Forrest, organized a visit by a representative from the Medical School to recruit study volunteers. Medical School Community Outreach Specialist Aaron Gutierrez spoke to Pantry clients and volunteers to ﬁnd adults, aged 18 and older, who are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 and who might be interested in participating in the study, which does provide compensation.
By Maureen McNair
Last Saturday, the pantry held its largest food distribution to date. We gave away over 8,000 pounds of nutritious food. We distributed a variety of kinds of fresh produce, milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, shelf stable food such as cereal and pasta, and about 500 pounds of food donated by Starbucks. We also had the largest number of people come to the pantry for food. The prior week, we distributed food for over 150 heads of household, providing food for about 600 people. Last Saturday, we provided food for over 190 heads of household, providing food for about 800 people. Our pantry guests repeatedly express how thankful they are that we have this food distribution. One woman told me about her family emergency and how important we are to her. I want to pass on the gratitude I hear about to you. I am not completely sure why we saw such a huge increase in one week. But, I have a couple educated guesses.
By Maureen McNair
For the ﬁrst time since the food pantry opened, Lead Minister Rev. Kathleen Owens had her Saturday morning schedule freed up enough that she visited a food distribution. Kathleen did more than visit, though, she worked helping unload a delivery of food donated by Starbucks. There is nothing quite like repeatedly carrying 30 pound boxes of food across the parking lot to put into the cars of our pantry guests to drive home how labor intensive and physically exhausting pantry work can be. Kathleen is deﬁnitely up to the task! Rev. Kathleen also got to talk with regular volunteer, retired Rev. Arvid Straube, and some pantry volunteers that she knows because they are congregants. She also got to meet some, not all, of our volunteers from the wider community.
By Maureen McNair.
Inclement weather was bound to happen! Last Saturday, volunteers gave out food during three squalls which brought rain and wind during our distribution. It was a crazy day all around! As of Friday evening, we thought we would be receiving a delivery of 192 boxes of food on Saturday morning. But, at 6:30 am Saturday, the delivery company sent an email cancelling the order because the food was bad. It all worked out, I think. We had plenty of food on hand to substitute and who needed soggy cardboard boxes anyway? You Can Still Make Financial Donations Directly to the Food Pantry! Both one-time and monthly sustaining donations help us stay open! No amount is too small, or too large. Donate online. If you need food, there are lots of options, get all the details on our Food Pantry page.
By Maureen McNair
Deer Park Monastery, located on 400 acres in the chaparral mountains near Escondido, is a monastery established in 2000 under the guidance of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a mindfulness practice center and monastic training center with two hamlets, one for monks and laymen and another for nuns and laywomen.
The volunteers had fun dressing up for our food distribution. And, as ever, our pantry clients are deeply grateful for the amount and quality of food we give them. I’ll be back next week with more pantry news. Meanwhile, take care and thank you for your continued interest in the pantry and generosity.
By Pat Gordon, First UU of San Diego Board Member
Our UU camp, Camp de Benneville Pines, located in the San Gorgonio wilderness, has been repeatedly hit hard this year and is in trouble. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all on-site events are canceled through April 1, 2021.The aftermath of the El Dorado Fire damage and the seriousness of the pandemic could require even further delays before we can consider re-opening. If we're to have a camp to bequeath to our children's children, then preserving what we have now is imperative. We almost lost our camp in the El Dorado Fire, this fire, and had it not been for the work of our staff and volunteers performing fire clearance duties throughout the summer, we would have. And yet, we'll still need more help during the spring and fall to rake pine needles and trim ladder fuels in camp- live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the forest floor into the tree canopy. Please continue to send healing thoughts and good words of appreciation to our devoted staff, as they navigate through all the added responsibilities that come with the fire aftermath. We must now address the newest threat to camp's existence - flooding.
By Maureen McNair
Here is a good reason to answer a telephone call from an unknown phone number, even in the weeks leading up the election: it could be actual good news! Shirley Koch works for Rady’s Children’s Hospital in a program called Health Stars. Health Stars provides early literacy intervention for low income and homeless parents with children up to age 8. It was Shirley on the phone calling to introduce herself and ask if she and her team could distribute books and literacy information at some of our Saturday food and Sunday diaper distributions. I immediately agreed. Not only that, after Shirley explained her literacy mission in more detail, I let her know she had hit pay dirt to help her meet the goals of Health Stars.
by Maureen McNair
Food pantry volunteers Loren and Dana Tomlinson are moving to Arizona at the end of November. They own a huge Ford pick up truck and have been reliably and enormously generous with their time and energy picking up food for the pantry. In fact, they are the only congregant volunteers the pantry has who have ever picked up food in a truck for the pantry. The pantry needs transportation in place no later than November 27. If you, or someone you know, owns a pick up truck or delivery van, now is a great time to volunteer!
By Janet James, Camp de Benneville Pines Executive Director
Hello from a smoky mountain top as I sit in my office pounding out this newsletter to you. We all could use some good news, so in this newsletter, we're focusing on the fantabulous summer we had full of creative Zoom camps! Our volunteer summer camp deans realized that the pandemic would impact our traditional camping season, and they jumped into gear to create a virtual camp experience for so many campers.
The team is studying how and when we might safely come together again in person. The following is an example of the thinking we believe is worth sharing. Here is the beginning of a recent article by Aaron E. Carroll, a physician in Indiana: "Stop Expecting Life to Go Back to Normal Next Year: Americans will need to take pandemic precautions well into 2021 — yes, even after a vaccine arrives by "Dr. Anthony Fauci warned us last week that Covid-19 is likely to be hanging over our lives well into 2021. He’s right, of course. We need to accept this reality and take steps to meet it rather than deny his message. Many Americans are resistant to this possibility. They’re hoping to restart postponed sports seasons, attend schools more easily, enjoy rescheduled vacations and participate in delayed parties and gatherings. It is completely understandable that many are tiring of restrictions due to Covid-19. Unfortunately, their resolve is weakening right when we need it to harden. This could cost us dearly".
By Maureen McNair.
Early food preparation last Friday for our Saturday food distribution went smoothly. Jared Blackwell, Kate Collier, Steve Gelb, Steve Howard, Andrea Travers, and I carried 3,350 pounds of food into the pantry and securely stored it. We even arranged the cantaloupes, potatoes, and apples in such a way that Saturday morning, we could create an easy assembly line to put the produce into bags. We worked hard, said our goodbyes, and went home. Then, my phone rang. It was a friend who operates a food pantry in San Ysidro. She was delivered 48 extra USDA boxes of perishable food, including eggs, cheese, meat, and a full gallon of milk. In total, it was nearly 1,600 pounds of food she could not distribute or store. “Can you take it?” She asked.
by Maureen McNair
Recently, during the same week, two adults visiting our South Bay Food Pantry told me they had not eaten in three days and I received an offer for 11,000 pounds of free apples. We all understand that people in our community go without food because they don't have the money to buy it. And, we know that many more than two people in our region went hungry that particular week. The produce wholesaler offered me the apples for free, if I would take them all. The transportation was our responsibility. The apples were harvested in Washington State and transported in a refrigerated semi-truck to the produce wholesaler's warehouse near the San Ysidro border crossing. But, the wholesaler couldn't find buyers for the apples. They were perishable and took up valuable warehouse space. If he didn't give away the apples, the company would have to pay the costs to transport the food to a landfill and pay the fee to use the landfill. That was more cash out of the business' pocket toward an investment that had already lost money. So, it made financial sense for the produce wholesaler to make a tax-deductible gift of the 11,000 pounds of apples.
By Everett Eastman, from the "Once Upon a Pandemic" service on August 16, 2020
What drove me, scheduling a bouncing day of hospital, clinic, back again? Do As Much As I Can In One Day sometimes rings hollow in the CE, the Covid Era, new normal, pandemic. Bender of human ties, you have many names. Gazing at Our First Lot, familiar, lonely in being filled by not us. I parked early morning, donation to the church, to us, I think. Into the hospital. Processed, sanitized, checked-in, badged, sanitized, find the way, don't touch-oops, sanitized, wandered, don't touch-oops. Sanitized, checked-in, wait and wait, brought back, sanitized. Checked in, informed, injected, informed, instructed, sanitized, released, find the way, don't touch-oops, sanitized, walked out. Repeat again, hours later. It gets old for all of us.
From the "Once Upon a Pandemic" service on August 16, 2020
By Maureen McNair
Four hundred years ago, in the first quarter of 2020, one of San Diego's two major food banks, Feeding San Diego, brought on our little pantry as a partner. They paired us with a Chula Vista grocery store. Several volunteers and I trained at Feeding San Diego (FSD) on how to pick up free food the grocery store would otherwise send to the landfill. FSD scheduled our first appointment to pick up free food. But, that week, as bad luck would have it, the governor closed the state because of the Corona virus. FSD canceled our appointment because there was no food. So, we never got food through this partnership. Feeding San Diego (FSD) then closed itself for two weeks to reorganize so it could support the increased demand for food from its existing pantry partners. I am sure many of you recall the food shortages and empty store shelves. FSD was very kind to our pantry, giving us thermometers for our refrigerators and freezers, a scale, a freezer blanket, and inviting me to online training. But, they also made it clear they would not be able to give us the one thing our pantry needed the most - food. That remains their official policy now - no food to new pantry partners. Until, one recent day, I received a gift by way of text.
By Maureen McNair
Last week, Dana and Loren Tomlinson took their pickup truck on vacation, went boating on a lake, and left me to figure out food pick up and delivery for the pantry. The three of us have a good thing going. We plan what we are going to do to get food to the pantry, then we follow the plan. Since our pantry does not own a pickup truck or delivery van and I own a Prius, I called around to other pantries to see if anyone had an extra truck to deliver food for our Saturday morning distribution. Saturdays are busy food distribution days so I made lots of calls. Pantry friend Andre, who lives and works in Carlsbad, came through for us, and this is not the first time. Once, Andre decided our pantry needed another refrigerator. So, he gave us a used one, which he drove down from Carlsbad in the back of his pickup truck. When Andre arrived in our parking lot with the refrigerator, I noticed he did not bring portable ramps. Portable ramps are gadgets that allow a person to take an appliance strapped to a dolly and roll the appliance from the truck bed to the ground. "Did you bring portable ramps?" I asked Andre. "I have what I need," he said. Andre then reached into his pickup truck bed, wrapped his arms around the full sized refrigerator, lifted it to the ground, and carried it across our parking lot into what used to be the church social hall. I followed Andre carrying a reasonably-sized object - an iced latte.
The First UU Church of San Diego blog is your resource for upcoming events and past event recaps. Leave us a comment to let us know what you think!