Pandemic brings out the best in our neighborhoods

Happy Humans


During this period of time when most of us are not anywhere near the coronavirus, yet closer than we think, we are watching and waiting and wishing the best for our family, friends and neighbors. Finding ways to get through the gloom and worry of this time, many community members have come up with creative responses. It seems as though sheltering in place and staying home have driven up our desire to be connected to one another.
Pollinator gardens (enough of them) ensure our food supply
While the threat of COVID-19 hangs over our heads, we haven’t forgotten about caring for the Earth. When the threat has subsided, we will continue taking care of our Mother Earth, not out of altruism but rather as a mutually beneficial/respectful relationship. That is, it is in our best interests to nurture the Earth.
In May of 2019, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz signed legislation that set aside $900,000 for pollinator-friendly native plantings. The money, available through the Lawns to Legumes program, was dispersed in small grants to homeowners and in big grants to local governments and nonprofits to create “demonstration neighborhoods.” The Corcoran Pollinator Project (CPP), together with Corcoran Neighborhood Organization (CNO) and Metro Blooms, received a big grant, for $40,000. Many other neighborhoods received them as well, including Longfellow. These projects are crucial because the bees, butterflies and moths that undergird our food supply by pollinating crops need our massive support; they are seriously endangered, susceptible, vulnerable.
According to Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware (from an article in The Smithsonian, April 2020), the endangered pollinators could be revived through a “rewilding” of America. He would like to see native flora blooming in every square foot of the land not paved or farmed. One of his frequently cited statistics: “86% of the land east of the Mississippi is privately owned. A large fraction of that is cultivated for food or planted in lawns. For ecological purposes [those areas] might as well be a parking lot.” A desired outcome of his work would be the linking of pollinator-friendly patches from coast to coast to feed the creatures we count on.
Minnesota will be doing its part. CPP started seeds for 10,000 plants last December, which are now coming up, and the grant will help them start more seeds next year in addition to installing many more gardens, not only in Corcoran but in Phillips as well. It will now be possible to hire people to do workshops, work on garden design, do broader outreach, provide work for youth crews, and create a tool library.
There are obstacles because of the virus, of course, but the response has been flexible. CPP, CNO and Metro Blooms will be offering online workshops and are exploring how to facilitate garden creation using social distancing as long as it’s needed.
The Corcoran + Phillips Pollinator Project is a “grant program that provides funding for native plantings and pollinator-friendly trees and shrubs for your yard to protect our pollinators, other wildlife and our environment. The program includes training on how to care for your landscape.”
For more information, and to sign up for the pollinator project, contact or call 612-293-4027.
The first online workshop is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, May 14. It’s free to residents of Corcoran and Phillips neighborhoods. To register: (check workshops page).
Online compassionate
There’s a Facebook group called COVID19-Delivery, Twin Cities Metro, MN organized by a woman named Laura Nilles. People who need something and for whatever reason aren’t able to get it (usually food) can post their situation, and volunteers in the group respond. They coordinate their times and locations (covering the entire metro area—you can join the metro area that corresponds to you) and somehow or other the needs are met. The only commonality among the participants is their willingness to ask for help and their willingness to provide it. Nobody’s genetically related or brought together by an ideology, philosophy or belief system.
Exercise options at home
Exercising alone does nothing for your social isolation, but it’s still good to keep exercising. Watching exercise videos helps you stay on track and maybe feels a little less lonely.
The YWCA has put out six exercise videos, all of which are on You Tube (YWCA On Demand). One afternoon I did about 23 half-assed minutes of a half-hour routine (somewhat challenging) called Fitness Barre. I already did Chair Yoga, although I get tense trying to relax. I know. Anyway, it’s fun. (I started exercising when I was 65. Before that I was afraid of having a heart attack. When I turned 65, I figured it was too late to die young so it didn’t matter. The last 10 years of exercising have gone very well. No heart attacks or strokes. Just a little fitness.) So, whatever your reasons for not exercising, you probably can overcome them. I think having a video right in your own home makes the whole thing so much easier. Now might be a good time to start if you haven’t already. These are the YWCA classes available: Fitness Barre – 30 minutes; Cardio HIIT – 25 minutes; Chisel – 25 minutes; Core Fit – 15 minutes; Vinyasa Yoga – 40 minutes; Hatha Yoga – 35 minutes; Chair Yoga – 30 minutes; Cool Down & Stretch – 10 minutes.
I just learned of a new video series put out in response to the pandemic by Happy Human, Jesse and Amber Walker’s Minneapolis-based personal training company. The theme is Move, Meditate and Make a Difference. Filmed in their home, the mood is casual and involves Mom (Amber), a professional personal trainer, Dad (Jesse), and their participating charming children. Amber leads 20 minutes of workout (I’m not kidding, but you can create your own pace of course because no one is watching), and then Jesse leads a short meditation. Their videos are on You Tube, or you can join them by Zoom at 8:30 in the morning. Sign up at
Dental care by phone
My dentist, Dr. Terry Bongard, is calling all his patients on the phone to go over their dental history, general health history and potential concerns since he is limiting his face-to-face, in-person care to emergencies. He said that the idea of doing dentistry or healthcare remotely has been around for a long time, but now with COVID-19 it will probably be used a lot more. How much will stick, time will tell. He is now taking online courses in teledentistry. Calling on the phone is of course “old technology,” he said.
Going for walks in the
I don’t know how advisable it is at this point to continue going for walks in the neighborhood. If you do venture out, be sure to wear a mask.
Until now, I’ve noticed the sidewalks covered with messages: “I can’t wait to give you a hug.” “Just breathe. This too will pass.” And lots of hopscotch games—hop, hop, step, step, twirl to the right, twirl to the left. On one block of 41st and 42nd Avenues, neighbors have placed posters with poetry on their doors or windows, sometimes a poem continuing from one house to the next.
I saw stuffed animals in windows everywhere, placed there so that small children out on treks with their parents could look for them and maybe make up stories about them. Somebody started it and now it’s a “thing.” I imagine the parents asking, “What kind of animals do you see? How many? What color? What are their habits? What are their natural habitats? Are they friendly? Scary? Are they extinct?” It felt lovely to participate in this collective fairyland. I put a brown sock monkey and a red imaginary TV animal in my windows. On each one I taped an arm to the window, trying to make them look like they are waving.
At 34th Street and 42nd Avenue, across from Turtle Bread, there’s a fanciful new business—closed for now—called Belle’s Tool Box, a corner lot with a rain garden, a gazebo and curved pathways designed for children and their parents to do projects together. Along its fence on 34th Street, there’s a drop box created especially for COVID-19. Perfect for our current moment, and afterwards too, it invites neighbors to bring cards or pictures for our older friends who might be isolated. Communications should be placed in baggies or ziplock bags. Co-owners Lucy Elliott and Jen Cantine will take the messages to Healthy Seniors, along with stamp money they donate, and the organization will sanitize and mail them.

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