These past months have been rough. We’ve been separated from the people and activities we love. Our economy has tanked, our businesses damaged, or social fabric torn. We live in fear for our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and the wellbeing of our healthcare professionals and essential workers. It’s not over—the future feels weird and uncertain and scary. A lot of us have different ideas about the best ways to move forward, and no one has the answers. I certainly don’t have them, but I have been extremely heartened by quite a few things in these dark days, especially the feeling of the community within Inyo County pulling together, despite our differences. A little cliché, but in our little towns, we really are in it together, as sidewalk chalk and signs all over Bishop will remind us—even sun visors in cars declare that together, Bishop is strong! In the wake of natural disasters, communities with the strongest internal ties often recover the fastest—it’s the folks who know their neighbors and have figured out how to get along, who are the most likely to survive adversity. We survive, or we perish, together. I offer here a simple and anonymous list submitted to me by members of this small town community: just a few of the ways in which people have come together.
The staff and volunteers at Inyo-Mono Association for the Handicapped (IMAH) has gone to great lengths to help adults with disabilities deal with quarantine. One community member reported that IMAH called several times a week to check on a family member in need of help. They made weekly packets of stimulating projects and distributed them to homes of clients to help keep everyone engaged. They even live-streamed cooking sessions. One client had a birthday and IMAH staff drove to that person’s home, got out of their cars, and sang to her from the street.
Several women spent hours making thousands of fabric masks, donating those masks to hospitals and care centers and anyone in need. One of these kind volunteers made the Facebook group Eastern Sierra Mask Makers to coordinate mask-making and donations.
A community member organized the “Adopt a Senior” program to keep our seniors connected during these lonely times.
A successful Bishop Eastern Egg Hunt was held despite the pandemic, organized by kind community parent volunteers.
The staff at the school district painted messages of love and solidarity on the streets, made deliveries to seniors, and drove all over the valley to collect homework and deliver lunches to kids. Many volunteers helped pack up these lunches.
Folks, you flooded volunteer opportunities to capacity! Several community members report signing up to help out with projects and being told there was a waiting list of volunteers!
One dedicated community member has been picking up trash all over our trails. This person lives in a vehicle and was thrilled when a stranger dropped off a pizza dinner, firewood, toilet paper (!), paper towels, and extra surprises. This act of kindness resulted in a new friendship. Another stranger loaned a battery bank. Another gave kindling. Another showed up (twice!) with a ladder to help clean up the vehicle’s solar panels. Yet another stranger brought a delicious meal (including chocolate covered cranberries, French bread, a bottle of wine, and homemade lasagna—“the most beautiful meal I had had in a million years,” says the recipient). Multiple people offered places for this community member to park while waiting for Forest Service campgrounds to open back up. This list goes on and on, representing an overwhelming wave of support and love this person has witnessed in our community.
A fellow in Mammoth has been delivering challah to local Jewish folks, reminding them that there is a Jewish community that loves and cares for them.
Others in town have been shopping for high risk friends and neighbors, as well as making weekly trips to the post office and the grocery store.
A new Little Free Library was set up in the parking lot of the Lower Rock Creek hiker/biker trail and in only a few days became very popular, with lots of people taking books and donating. (As for the little libraries in Bishop: canned goods and supplies appeared inside of them during the early days of food panic and empty grocery shelves.)
A local soap company donated hand sanitizers and soap to neighbors and folks at the Wanaaha Casino gas station.
One community member, who works at the hospital, tells a story of working long hours while also moving out of her apartment. When she locked her keys in her apartment, a local locksmith unlocked her door for free while she was at work so she didn’t have to leave the hospital—much appreciated by an exhausted healthcare worker.
A community member in Big Pine made a post on Facebook rallying volunteers and received dozens and promptly received dozens and dozens of responses offering help.
Volunteers with Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action (IMACA) are making food deliveries all over the Eastern Sierra so no one goes hungry during a hard time and vulnerable folks can stay home.
Another community member assisted the Bishop Paiute Tribe Food Sovereignty Program by fundraising through the organization Indigenous Women Hike. This helped the program acquire seeds, which were distributed via mail and home delivery, helping folks start their gardens as far as Coleville and Pyramid Lake. (Anyone who tried to buy seeds this year knows how difficult it was and how great a service this must have been!)
A local restaurant employee shared a story of help from a regular customer, who learned that the restaurant shut down due to the pandemic. The customer reached out to the restaurant staff and made generous financial gifts to employees.
Here’s a touching story from a local couple, both of whom are RNs at the hospital. These folks have four young children and have a carefully built schedule so both parents can work and still spend time with the kids. Covid shattered all of that, and these parents were struggling. But the community stepped up. Hot dinners arrived every night, as well as activities and treats for kids in the mailbox—even gift cards, flowers, a gift of 40 beautiful handmade cloth masks, and hand lotion for the dry cracked hands nurses are experiencing now. This nurse shared that the months of the Covid shutdown were the hardest in her life—it was help from friends and strangers that kept her on her feet through the darkest times.
Thanks, folks. It’s not over yet but examples like these (there are so many more) make it all seem a little bit better.
Thanks to generous donations made by local foundations, organizations and individuals, several Inyo County businesses received COVID-19 relief grants. The Bishop Chamber of Commerce assisted by collecting online applications and organizing a five-member volunteer panel to independently review and score the applications. The program was open to any small business in Inyo
County, regardless of chamber membership. 43 applications were received, requesting over $200,000 in assistance. “We knew it wouldn’t be possible to meet all the needs of the businesses that have been
affected by the Coronavirus crisis, but we are hopeful the $45,000 contributed by the generous local sponsors is helpful,” states Tawni Thomson of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce.
27 businesses received grants ranging from $500 to $4,000. Recipients include: Astorga’s Restaurant, Bishop Art Supply, Bishop Creek Lodge, Bishop VFW Post 8988, Body & Soul, Bronco’s Deli, Bishop Twin Theatre, C5 Studio Community Arts Center, Cielo Hotel, CrossFit Bishop, CrossFit Radiate, Days Inn, Discovery Point Preschool, Eastside Sports, Salsa’s Taqueria, In the Zone Massage Therapy, Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site, Luxe Salon, Mammoth Gear Exchange, McMurry's Bar, Pioneer Home Health Care, Rusty’s Saloon & Grill, Sierra Shanti Studio, Spellbinder Books, Tanya Zaleschuk, LLC, The Rolling Chef 395, and The Village Motel.
The Bishop Chamber of Commerce continues to seek additional resources to assist local businesses. “If additional donors would like to contribute to this program, we would be happy to facilitate a second
round of granting,” adds Thomson. “These are tough times for everyone, and we will do anything we can to assist the local businesses that are so important to our community.”
Let’s do our part to help keep our community safe by wearing masks upon entering any and all businesses. #keepInyoSafe #keepBishopSafe