Residents Fight COVID-19 With Community Activities

A painted “rock snake,” located on West 2nd Street in Old Town San Dimas, has
become a highlight for many locals, thanks to the San Dimas Painted Rocks group. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

By Amanda Lee

Dora Rodriguez, San Dimas resident, was hesitant to reach out online to see if anyone needed help during these hard times. 

Nearly 300 comments later, she was left blown away by the overwhelming number of people in need that responded to her post in a local San Dimas Facebook group.

“Something was telling me, ‘No Dora, you need to do this,’” Rodriguez said. “I’m sitting there reading these comments, and I’m crying. So many people in need.”

But there were also people responding to all the people reaching out for help, something that she said blew her away.

Beginning in March of 2020, residents in California, and particularly those in Los Angeles County, faced a pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders that shut down businesses and required residents to shelter-in-place.

But San Dimas residents found increasingly creative and inspirational ways to celebrate community resolve and face the rise in anxiety, depression and lack of socialization with people outside their household over the past year. 

As businesses were limited by health regulations, many found themselves working from home, working fewer hours or, in many cases, unemployed entirely.

Despite these setbacks, the community came together to find innovative ways to help one another.

“People are being so humble. They were not asking for a lot, just the simple little things,” Rodriguez said. “People are responding with kindness and love and giving. It’s beautiful.”

Random acts of kindness continue to be increasingly frequent throughout the community, ranging from people offering to shop for seniors, to sharing scarce resources and even helping to clean yards and homes.  

Vanessa Villagran, who began the San Dimas Hunkered Down Hunt in 2020, was inspired by her own need to get out and use her time wisely. 

She felt that a scavenger hunt for neighbors would “pique people’s interest” and create a sense of community. Villagran would take photos of unique buildings or landmarks from around San Dimas and share them on social media to see if locals could identify the location.

“It’s been great to see the creativity come out,” Villgran said of the community’s efforts to make COVID-19 realities more bearable. “It’s made San Dimas really special. I’m seeing unity, and that’s what I want to focus on. I would like to see more of that.”

Ana Benitez, organizer of the San Dimas Runners, said these groups allow a sense of family, with members regularly checking in on one another. 

“Everyone started doing COVID in different ways. Different runners’ lives were affected differently,” Benitez said. 

“We also keep each other accountable … That was kind of my therapy. Running on the pavement and taking it all out.”

The San Dimas Painted Rocks group’s “rock snake” on West 2nd Street has grown greatly as a sign invites visitors to “Help me grow, leave one, take one.” Photo: Rommel Alcantara

There were many groups that were born from this pandemic that cover a variety of interests. For example, one group, the San Dimas Painted Rocks group, spearheaded by Dorene Holm, encourages participants to paint rocks and hide them for people to find throughout the city.

Holm had previously been a part of the Monrovia Rocks group and began hiding painted stones throughout town before even creating the San Dimas group. 

Erin Houseman, an administrator for the San Dimas Painted Rocks Facebook group, said the group was a “new therapy that we will keep with us. It’s an easy therapy to do.” 

“[The rock group] helps me get outside, gives me an excuse to paint something … It’s good for me and just a nice way to treat people,” said Lori Ebiner, San Dimas resident and wife to San Dimas City Councilmember John Ebiner.

Correction: The print version of this article misspelled Dorene Holm’s last name as “Holmes.”

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