Even when life is ‘normal’ — it’s not always easy to find the time, energy or resources to help others who are struggling to get by, or whose spirits need a lift.
During a pandemic when people are feeling pressures on all sides and many of life’s big moments must be delayed or canceled — the challenge is even greater.
But, ingenuity and generosity prevailed in The Laker/Lutz News region, providing a counterpoint to the sadness and loss, and injecting a bit of joy.
Here’s a condensed look at some of those not-so-random acts of kindness that occurred during 2020.
Let them eat cake
When the Sunlake High band program decided it had to cancel its annual banquet, Miriam’s Cakes, in Land O’ Lakes, sprang into action. The bakery provided an individual cake — featuring the school’s mascot — for each of the 29 seniors in the band program.
Ed DelValle and his wife, Miriam Ruiz, who own the bakery have been a band family for years.
They wanted to do something special for members of the Class of 2020, including their daughter, Erika.
“I know the banquet is the biggest event for the band program every year. All of the kids look forward to it because it’s kind of like a mini-red carpet,” DelValle said.
Marie Joles couldn’t stand the thought of high school seniors missing out on all of the special moments that make up part of senior year.
So, the dental hygienist, who wasn’t able to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, came up with a social media way to create Senior Spotlights, showcasing individual graduates.
She solicited submissions, then tweaked them before created postings that provided a glimpse of their accomplishments, their ambitions, their interests and personalities.
It took work, but it was worthwhile, Joles said.
“I wanted to let them know we appreciate them,” she said.
A double dose of help
When Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey saw a news report about the Frontline Appreciation Group, she knew she wanted Pasco to get in on the idea.
The initiative purchases meals from restaurants — struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and provides the food to frontline health care workers engaged in the battle to help people who have been infected by the deadly virus.
The initiative was launched in New Jersey, but Starkey spearheaded a local chapter, called FLAG2020Pasco.
The effort has resulted in meals prepared by area restaurants, delivered to local hospitals.
Other local political leaders and government agencies also have stepped up to the plate, so to speak — in a number of other efforts to collect and distribute food. The county itself has created and managed new programs using federal funding to feed the hungry, and support local restaurants.
Spreading joy through bubbles
Blaise Ryndes, of Land O’ Lakes, a nationally known bubble magician, decided to take to the streets in his neighborhood to spread some joy amidst the pandemic. He put on a one-car bubble parade – making the way through the subdivision spreading what he calls, “little orbs of happiness and cleanliness.”
Grad bash funds go to feed the hungry
When Pasco 2020 Grad Bash was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunlake High seniors decided to make a big donation from the money they’d raised to pay for event buses. They decided to help Keystone Community Church’s Second Serving program, which provides food for the homeless, operates a food pantry and helps people who are struggling, with other essentials.
Giving back to a giving community
The executive chef and founder of Nabruzzi Trattoria credits his restaurant’s success to the support it has received from the Lutz community.
So, when the pandemic hit, it stepped up to deliver free hot meals to firefighters and medical workers, and others, who serve the community.
“Every Wednesday we’re going to pick somebody in the area that has put themselves at risk, that are out there every day,” said Massimo Sabetti, the chef/owner of Nabruzzi Trattoria at 6062 Van Dyke Road in Lutz.
And, they delivered — to emergency department workers, firefighters and others.
Now, that’s what you call a chef’s special.
Keeping art alive
Lots of opportunities to do art and see art have been curtailed by COVID-19, but the Dade City Center for the Arts found a way to give artists a chance to express their talents, and art lovers a chance to view it through an outdoor public art exhibit.
The artists painted hay bales that were stationed in various places around Dade City.
Lifting spirits, at Halloween
Sid Simandl has been decking out his “Halloween House” every year for 18 years, and this year was no exception. But, because of COVID-19, he changed things up.
Instead of an enclosed Haunted House inside his garage, he created a haunted trail, instead.
Simandl, who lives in the Stagecoach subdivision in Land O’ Lakes, gets a big kick out of treating visitors to a haunted spectacle. Indeed, it’s his favorite holiday. He nicknames himself Mr. Halloween for the occasion, and dons a pumpkin sports.
Easing isolation blues
The Boomer Band was towed around on a trailer through the community of Keystone Place at Terra Bella, in Land O’ Lakes, so its senior residents could be entertained — from a safe distance, on their apartment balconies.
It was the senior living community’s way of easing the isolation blues.
The ‘green shirt’ ladies forge on
The GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club has been maintaining its commitment to helping a broad range of community groups and organizations. The club’s tradition of community service goes back for decades, and it has not allowed COVID-19 to stop it. There are many other clubs throughout The Laker/Lutz News region that also have been doing their part to help others who are struggling, especially during this difficult time.
Published December 23, 2020