Pandemic Projects Enhance Boulder Communities

10 Dec 2020

By Amanda McCracken

When the pandemic first shut down schools, workplaces and recreation areas, many Boulder County residents reached out of isolation and beyond their fears to help neighbors and strangers alike. Their projects yielded positive change, improved community trust and had an impressive ripple effect.

Many people had excess food after the initial panic-buying phase of the pandemic, so Janet Leap and her three children walked door to door with their little green wagon, collecting donations for Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA). What started as a way to keep her boys busy one weekend while Dad was out of town evolved into a weekly project involving several families collecting in different neighborhoods. Since their first outing on July 24, the Green Wagon Project has collected more than 5,000 pounds of food. The children leave flyers on doorsteps midweek, announcing when they’ll be by on the weekend. Each flyer comes with a green ribbon to be placed on bags of donations. “Each family that walks into EFAA for food leaves with forty pounds of food for the week,” says Janet. “To date, our homegrown project has fed roughly 125 families for one week. We want green wagons to be on the streets in full force for the foreseeable future, helping with food insecurity.”

Jan Clason of Boulder has sewn more than 2,000 masks for her Martin Acres neighbors. When a neighborhood email came asking if anyone could make masks, Jan (who considers herself a hobby seamstress) offered her skills and service. “After making the masks, I sprayed them with alcohol, sealed them in plastic bags and hung them on our wrought-iron trellis. To my surprise, there was an outpouring of gratitude and a request for more. I vowed to them I would continue to make masks as long as I had the needed materials.” Jan’s neighbors quickly replenished her supply when she asked for more materials—including the wine she jokingly requested. “I’ve received more than seventy bottles of wine and Champagne,” she says. In June, the Martin Acres Neighborhood Association steering committee voted to recognize Jan for her service with a “Neighbor of the Century” award.

Olivia Barros

When much of Boulder shut down in March, Carlos Barros, his wife Ingrid and their five-year-old daughter Olivia began walking their neighborhood a lot more to shake off the claustrophobia. The walks brought up concerns. “Nobody knows us here. What if Olivia gets lost?” Carlos and Ingrid wondered. Even though they had moved to the neighborhood two years ago from Sao Paulo, Brazil, they had not yet connected with the people in their community. The family decided to take advantage of the shutdown to start relationships in their immediate neighborhood. So, every Friday morning for four weeks, they had Bona Coffee delivered to 32 houses in their neighborhood with a note introducing themselves. In return, they received letters of gratitude, garden vegetables, homemade cake and wine. Best of all, they now have connections with their neighbors and an irreplaceable sense of community, which they look forward to strengthening with in-person visits when it’s safe to do so.

Last spring, Kate Lacroix announced on Nextdoor and a couple of local Facebook groups that she would pin a milagro for anyone in need of a miracle. (Milagros are religious charms that are used as a votive offerings. “Milagro” means “miracle” in Spanish.) Since the pandemic started, Kate and her daughter Mila have pinned more than 100 milagros to their wall. Kate says she was astonished by how many people openly reached out on community forums. Instead of direct messages, people put their requests on the public forums asking for miracles, such as one for a sick grandparent and another for a boyfriend who had recently died. “This highlights how much people want to be seen right now,” Kate says. While the project has given others hope and perhaps healed a few, Kate says it also helped her teach her six-year-old daughter empathy

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