Neighborhood heroes raised spirits with Coronasaurus, secret gifts and more during pandemic


In neighborhoods around Southern California, random acts of kindness and solidarity have been the silver lining these last few months.

For example, a pair of self-described “bored moms” dressed up in Tyrannosaurus rex costumes to bring smiles to local kids. A group paints inspirational messages on rocks and leaves them to be found in yards and around neighborhoods. Congratulatory cards are sent to young graduates unable to attend commencements due to COVID-19 from local people they didn’t even know.

Apparently, it only took a global pandemic and social distancing to bring neighbors closer together. 

  • Coronasaurus and Friends, the brainchild of Michelle Bryant and Carie Citizen of Trabuco Canyon, help celebrate an 8th birthday. (Courtesy of Coronasaurus and Friends Facebook page)

  • Coronasaurus and Friends is the brainchild of Michelle Bryant and Carie Citizen of Trabuco Canyon, who seek to bring smiles to neighbors by dressing up and acting silly. (Courtesy of Coronasaurus and Friends Facebook page)

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  • A friendly face from Riverside Painted Rocks is found on a dog walk. (Courtesy of Riverside Painted Rocks Facebook page)

  • Bright-colored and intricately designed painted rocks, including those with coronavirus-related inspirational messages, are ready to be scattered by the Riverside Painted Rocks group. (Courtesy of Riverside Painted Rocks Facebook page)

  • A Riverside Painted Rocks group member hid these in Beaumont. (Courtesy of Riverside Painted Rocks Facebook page)

  • The streets of the island of Coronado, on the other side of the Bay of San Diego, decorated in this case with US flags for the 4th July National Holiday.

  • Coronasaurus and Friends is the brainchild of Michelle Bryant and Carie Citizen of Trabuco Canyon, who seek to bring smiles to neighbors by dressing up and acting silly. (Courtesy of Coronasaurus and Friends Facebook page)

  • A Riverside Painted Rock finder shows the message at the bottom. (Courtesy of Riverside Painted Rocks Facebook page)

  • The streets of the island of Coronado, on the other side of the Bay of San Diego, decorated in this case with US flags for the 4th July National Holiday.

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This closeness is especially challenging here in Southern California, where so many people commute to work and often have close friends and family miles away from their own homes.

Conversely, neighbors living in close proximity can go months without saying a word to each other or even knowing the name of the person living across the street.

As more of us began working from home and kids adapted to distance learning and canceled activities, something changed. Those looking for a break from being cooped up or who were starved for social connections have taken to residential streets.

From early on in the COVID-19 crisis, we saw people around the country engage with neighbors while maintaining social distance. New Yorkers (and others across the country) joined in nightly noise-making salutes to healthcare workers, and families worldwide — inspired by the 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” — put teddy bears in front windows for bored kids to spot. Locally, car parades to celebrate birthdays, graduations and other life events brought whole neighborhoods to the curb.   

It remains to be seen whether this re-emergence of a friendly front porch or stoop culture, in which tight bonds are formed among those who live closest, will be lasting. However, as we celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s also a time to salute the heightened involvement and almost patriotic pride in neighborhoods many are experiencing.

Here’s a look at what some locals are doing to spread kindness and how you can take part and help sustain a sense of community even as shutdowns ease.

Neighbors being neighborly

Michelle Bryant of Trabuco Canyon had to close her massage therapy business in San Juan Capistrano when the coronavirus crisis struck. She and her best friend and colleague Carie Citizen, both moms of teenagers, saw online videos of people lightening the mood by wearing inflatable dinosaur costumes. They ordered some costumes for themselves and Coronasaurus and Friends was born.

“It’s perfect for COVID-19, (the costume) is like a hazmat suit,” Bryant said. 

“We couldn’t work, we just had more time, we literally had nothing to do. So we’d just put on our costumes to walk the dog, do silly dances and wave and make people honk and laugh at the T. rex sightings.”

They responded to a neighbor’s request to help a 7-year-old celebrate his birthday under lockdown, and are now fielding requests for all kinds of occasions. A few more friends have joined in, sporting hippo, unicorn, shark and parrot costumes.

“We love to spread joy and have the kids, basically everyone, laugh and think we’re so silly,” Bryant said.

Rock stars

Members of Riverside Painted Rocks , part of The Kindness Rock Project, paint and leave rocks around neighborhoods for people to discover. The painted designs range from simple messages of hope and inspiration to flowers, animals, characters and more. The rocks carry a message on the bottom for the finder to either hide them again or keep them and share a photo on the group’s Facebook page.  

“One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life,” said Colleen Radulski, founder of Riverside Painted Rocks. She said the group has adjusted to the closure of its community rock garden at Riverside’s Ryan Bonaminio Park during quarantine by establishing rock gardens in front of her home and a few others.

“People take walks daily to come see our gardens,” she said. “Currently, we are working on painting rocks for a scavenger hunt, something ‘rockers’ can do with social distancing and with their family.”

Sometimes, anonymity is part of the allure of neighborly action. For example, in Huntington Beach’s Pacific Sands neighborhood as well as in Anaheim Hills, couples sent personal graduation cards to those displaying “Class of 2020” sign in their front yards even though they didn’t know the kids. As one Pacific Sands mother said on Nextdoor about her daughter, who graduated high school: “She was so blown away that people she did not know personally would do some something so kind and generous.” 

Out in front

For those looking to join in this kind of fun, one of the easiest ways to take part in your neighborhood is to make the front of your home more accessible and welcoming. This isn’t always an easy task, as a look at Southern California’s architectural past shows how trends in homes’ front spaces have shifted when it comes to encouraging socialization.

California bungalow-style homes, which were common in Southern California through the early 1900s, were known for their large, elevated front porches. However, many of the post-World War II, ranch-style homes that dominate the landscape here do not have front porches. As described in a state agency’s “ Tract Housing in California, 1945-73 ” evaluation for the National Register, “Instead of a large, welcoming front porch, the postwar Ranch is oriented toward the private rear yard. … Street facades can even appear quite closed and unwelcoming in some cases.”

In the late 1980s to early 1990s, the New Urbanism design movement took root, and front porches were viewed favorably in the walkable neighborhoods it promotes. Many current new-home builders and remodelers see them as key marketing tools, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 crisis that the front of homes took on added import. 

Even if you don’t have an actual front porch, there are ways to encourage community and friendliness by adding seating to your front space and plants, trees and décor of interest. 

Other ways to join in

Looking to get in on the action? Here are some other ideas to inspire you to build community in your neighborhood, from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and other sources: 

  • Write or have your kids write encouraging chalk messages or games like hopscotch on sidewalks and driveways. 
  • Set up a curbside lending library cupboard or “giveaway” table to encourage sharing.
  • Harvest or plant a front yard vegetable garden or fruit tree and share the bounty with others with a “free – take one” box. 
  • Encourage beautification projects like colorfully painted utility boxes or trash cans in your neighborhood by contacting your local government.
  • Establish a “bartering” network with neighbors for services like painting, babysitting, routine car maintenance and other services that tap into people’s experience and interests.
  • Showcase your musical, dancing, DJing and other talents by performing for your neighbors at a safe distance. 
  • Beyond legal fireworks displays on the holiday, plan old-fashioned cookouts, ice cream socials and popsicle parties, food trucks, movie nights in a cul-de-sac, inflatable water slides set up in the street with your neighbors, taking care to observe social distancing rules.

Tags: Facebook, California, US, Sport, Things To Do, Soccer, Southern California, Huntington Beach, Bryant, Coronado, Anaheim Hills, San Juan Capistrano, Trabuco Canyon, Top Stories LADN, Top Stories OCR, Top Stories PE, Top Stories IVDB, Top Stories RDF, Top Stories Sun, Home + Garden, Top Stories Breeze, Top Stories LBPT, Top Stories WDN, Top Stories SGVT, Top Stories PSN, Pacific Sands, Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, Michelle Bryant, Carie Citizen, Carie Citizen of Trabuco Canyon, Courtesy of Coronasaurus, Riverside Painted Rocks, Courtesy of Riverside Painted Rocks Facebook, Bay of San Diego, Colleen Radulski, Riverside Painted Rocks She, Riverside 's Ryan Bonaminio Park

Source:  https://www.dailynews.com/2020/06/29/these-neighborhood-heroes-have-raised-spirits-through-the-pandemic-with-coronasaurus-secret-gifts-and-more/



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