COVID-19 and its resulting mitigation efforts left us aghast. We, as a nation, were unprepared for the shock we were to endure when halting our busy daily lives. Unsure of what the next day would bring, uncertain of our safety and our future, we turned to each other for strength. We buckled down with our families and thought of how we could get through this with the best of outcomes. Not only did we meld with our immediate families to present a united front in conquering the unwelcome plague we were fighting, but our care and concern began circling outward to our neighbors and our overall community. Despite the foreboding, simmering fear of the unseen assailant, many stood tall to be leaders and true champions in keeping spirits lifted and the needs of our most fragile community members met. Proving the definition of Brentwood Strong, many giving hearts in our town answered the call to lend a helping hand to others, creating beautiful moments that mark this pandemic lockdown with a lesson in positivity. These stories are just a few to be celebrated and shared as a retrospective admiration for the people of Brentwood’s backbone and thoughtful grace throughout the COVID-19 shelter-in-place.
Vicky Little, Owner
SIP AND SCOOP
As soon as we found out that people would have to shelter in place, we knew businesses everywhere were going to endure a frightening struggle to survive. We also knew that local morale would take a turn for the worse. I immediately began brainstorming ways to help in any we could while still managing our own adapted store operations and family dynamics. In the beginning of the lockdown, my initial action was to start reposting and sharing restaurants that were open for curbside and to-go orders in an effort to use our social media influence to garner support.
Several friends contacted me trying to collaborate ways to fill community needs, leading to me teaming up with Heather Taylor to create a donation drive for masks and also Anissa Williams of Neighbors Helping Neighbors of East County to provide food and treats, all benefiting our frontline workers. My family and I decided to also bring some joy to families by doing ding-dong ditch porch drop offs of ice cream for birthday surprises. With our store located downtown, we have a lot of walking and biking foot traffic. We created a mask donation effort through the store so that we could provide free masks to the elderly. Personally, I signed up to be a family sponsor with Brentwood Strong. This organization set me up with an elderly couple with compromised immune systems. On a weekly basis, I provide their necessary groceries and check in on them periodically to make sure they are okay. I have stayed with this couple the whole time we have been sheltered and will continue to do so until it is lifted.
Through Brentwood Strong and the amazing generosity of Shirasoni in Brentwood, I’ve also been able to drop off delicious hot meals to the families and staff of Shepherd’s Gate once a week! What we do to help is by no means a huge life-changer, but to some people it is. Some people don’t get to have many of the luxuries that we may take for granted. Resilience and hard work are engraved in my heart. To be able to provide the necessary building blocks for my children to witness and hopefully exemplify these acts of generosity, is my biggest victory. My heart is touched just knowing that we can provide any example of good works to our community. To know that we are a very small part of the greater good, makes all the challenges we face worth the fight to overcome them.
BY SEANA FIPPIN
Movements rise out of need. Needs arise when there is a weakness that must be resolved or a challenge that must be met. This spring of 2020, sheltering in place proved just the occasion for our small town to come together and be part of a movement that would support our community through a time unlike any other. Brentwood Strong became a reality soon after I was in quarantine myself with COVID-19 symptoms after returning home from a work trip. The formation of Brentwood Strong was based on the principles of service set forth by the Rotary Club of Brentwood, service I realized must go specifically to assist seniors and immunocompromised citizens. With the mounting fear that began even before March 16, seniors had been expressing fear of shopping with the masses. My idea was to alleviate a little of their anxiety, helping them obtain their food and supplies by pairing them up with trusted volunteers in the community who would already be out at the grocery stores and pharmacies. My company, Red Box Solutions, developed and launched a secure website on March 16, the first day of the shelter-in-place order, where seniors could request assistance and volunteers could register. It was met with overwhelming demand.
The model was based on simplicity and substantiality, with one-on-one compassion and support for our seniors throughout the crisis. There have been some wonderful connections that have been made because of the program, connections I am sure will endure. We found Brentwood Strong was not only helping the seniors, but also protecting public health because we were decreasing the number of people in the stores. The volunteers also felt fulfilled by helping the community. When we saw a need, we filled it. The need became greater as the quarantine progressed, and the economic toll began to surface. Through this effort, we not only have made a great impact on the lives of our local seniors but have helped underserved families as well.
The further our arms had to stretch around those less served, the further the dollar needed to go as well and funding became a priority. We started gathering resources and began holding food distributions weekly to provide groceries and supplies here in Brentwood. In partnership with the City of Brentwood, Bill Brandt Ford, and Harry’s Wine Depot, during one week alone we fed 325 families and also distributed 150 hibachi meals, thanks to the awesome generosity of Shirasoni. About 50 of the Shirasoni meals went to citizens that did not have shelter. By the grace of those involved and strategic spending, we were able to keep up that pace of giving, meeting those numbers on a weekly basis. The real and lasting impact the hundreds of volunteers, businesses, and non-profit organizations made through this Brentwood Strong movement, will never be forgotten. We were all a little scared and unsure of what was going to happen. During a time of crisis, strength is a commodity. Seeing how willing our community was to share that commodity and spread it around has been truly remarkable.
“We choose to focus on the victories over COVID-19. The many blessings that have sprung from this challenging time have been astonishing.”
One of our volunteers, Rebecca Allen-Baddeley adopted a grandmother in Oakley. They have become “no-contact” best friends and are regularly staying in touch via phone, text, and supply drop off. Rebecca said she is like family. We know that their friendship will sustain after the crisis has ended and that is the most special part of this movement-turning adversity into opportunity. This crisis has led to long-lasting and meaningful connections. Another volunteer, Kerri Fritsch, is helping a local WWII veteran whose wife is ill. He was so touched by her assistance and appreciated it so much that several of his neighbors have also requested support.
The stories are too numerous to list. Day after day there are tears of sadness for those that are alone with nobody to turn to, but also tears of joy from special bonds, support, and relationships developing. We choose to focus on the victories over COVID-19. The many blessings that have sprung from this challenging time have been astonishing. In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” I am forever changed as a result of this pandemic-we are all forever changed, but some of that change is for the better. It is comforting to know that my community is made up of the kind of strength that unites strangers. Focused on the greater good and keeping our neighbors safe, we are all coming out of this stronger-Brentwood strong.
110° MAGAZINE & MARY KAY DIRECTOR
My 17-year-old son Devon has played the Easter Bunny for the last couple years at Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar in Jack London Square, Oakland. My husband, Dennis, is part of the management team there. With the shelter-in-place order, there would be no Easter brunch or Easter Bunny, leaving Devon quite disappointed. The Friday before Easter, we had the idea to still have him play the Easter Bunny while visiting our community and bringing some smiles! The wheels started turning and with the help of Kaleidoscope Cancer Connection we found an Easter Bunny costume. We then partnered with Kaleidoscope and Renae Callaway with Homebridge Financial Services who works in the special needs community to find families specifically with young kids with special needs, kids who lost a parent, and young kids battling cancer in our area.
Our goal was to find 20 to 25 families and hit them all in five hours! We set out in my convertible Infinity, blaring a cheerful playlist through the JBL speakers. My daughter Olivia did the navigation, texted the families, made signs that read “Got Carrots,” “Happy Easter,” and “What’s Hoppin,” and played DJ. I was the bunny’s chauffeur! We would text the families that we were on our way to their house next so they would be ready. Once we arrived, out popped Easter Bunny Devon and he did not disappoint. He waived and danced his tail off during his special appearances at each of the homes. Some houses were just the chosen family and some houses had the whole cul-de-sac out to join in the festivities! It truly was heartwarming to see my kids so enthused to bring some smiles! We would hear the sweet voices of little girls squealing with delight, “The Easter Bunny is here!”
“The beaming, adoring smiles from all the children visited were their rich rewards.”
The feedback has been amazing and has touched our hearts. Devon said it was the most fun he’s had in a long time. Needless to say, after dancing for five hours, he was sore the next day! I have loved seeing the videos people posted and the comments about the dancing Easter Bunny bringing smiles to their families. We wish we could have visited everyone! What stands out most as a proud mom moment for me, was when my kids shared that they felt this was their Easter present. Not only did they get to see their thoughtfulness toward others in action, but they witnessed the impact that sacrificing a little of their time and energy made. The beaming, adoring smiles from all the children visited were their rich rewards.
Our favorite quote is from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you do, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The Addison Family Dancing Easter Bunny 2020 will forever remain a memory of joy for us to cherish.
Tammy Zickuhr, Owner
HARRY’S WINE TAVERN
The opening of my new business was postponed due to the shelter-in-place order. News began to come in about local seniors needing help with shopping because of the chaotic, rampant actions of some buyers in stores at the start of the shelter-in-place. We heard of one older woman who was physically abused and others who were frightened to leave their homes. My family and I were disturbed by this and decided that we were not going to let anyone in need suffer. We took money out of our savings and filled multiple carts full of necessities. With the help of some friends who rallied to lend a hand in packing and distributing provisions, we social distanced six feet and took care of many in need throughout Brentwood.
“With the help of some friends who rallied to lend a hand in packing and distributing provisions, we social distanced six feet and took care of many in need throughout Brentwood.”
When I look back on the challenges we were faced with during this time, I will recall how my faith in God pulled us through it all. I will fondly remember the day my daughter was taken aback when she went to the home of an elderly man to deliver his goodies and he was so excited he asked her if she was his daughter. She said, “No, but I can be if you’d like me to be.” As a family, we still shop for those who have trouble getting the things they need for their family, such as eggs, milk, rice, and of course toilet paper. The happiness that comes from giving has been a comfort during this trying period.
Sami Wilson, Junior
HERITAGE HIGH SCHOOL
I created hard baked hearts of hope, which are decorative ornaments that can be hung on people’s trees or around the community. During this global pandemic, I wanted to uplift people’s spirits because of the difficulty of sheltering in place. I was inspired to do this because I was seeing how people were feeling isolated and depressed. When I started hanging them all over the community, I didn’t think about the feedback I would receive. Previous teachers, family, and friends who I shared my idea with really loved the project and loved how it brought people some positivity. I’m glad it made people smile.
“It’s nice to see everybody come together and try to make the world a better place.”
In a few years, I hope people look back and recall how crazy this time was but also how strong they were to overcome such a challenging time. It’s nice to see everybody come together and try to make the world a better place. After this is over, I think everyone will not take so much for granted and will appreciate the little things. We will realize how nice it was to hang out with friends, go to school, hug people, have sleepovers, and especially develop a new appreciation for all healthcare workers and first responders. Overall, I think this was a big learning experience for everyone and we will never forget the pandemic of 2020.
Donny LaFlamme, Owner
BAY AREA DISTILLING COMPANY
When I first realized that our alcohol-based solution could kill pathogens, I knew we were going to be able to help a lot of folks. We had around 130-150 gallons of filtered product that we were running for our vodka the next week because our packaged inventory was running low. Upon hearing President Trump say that there would be no price gouging on hand sanitizer, I knew there was a great need springing up and my purpose was going to be just giving it away for free to the local community. In hosting these giveaways for the last several weekends, it really makes me feel good to give and people are amazing because they have truly given back by wanting to support my business and buying product. That, in turn, supports our local AG and local businesses like Big House Beans.
“When someone asked me what I would remember about this time, I realized it would be how the community came together in times of need and truly supported each other at all costs.”
The people of East County have really showed up for some small business owners who they know genuinely care about their community. During the sanitizer fill ups, people of East County have donated masks to protect us and spray bottles so we can get the sanitizer to local banks and other establishments. When someone asked me what I would remember about this time, I realized it would be how the community came together in times of need and truly supported each other at all costs. We had a woman notify us of some nurses that didn’t have any sanitizer. We donated extra to her to give to them. Because the formula our company makes has colloidal silver in it, it not only disinfects but also leaves a film of silver to add another layer of protection to the masks. I would like to give a special shout out to our frontline workers and to the entire East County community for supporting one another through the COVID-19 outbreak and shelter-in-place.
Brentwood distillery makes hand sanitizer to help with coronavirus pandemic