Gresham area families are cleaning, walking, reading and binge watching television shows as they cope with the coronavirus confinement imposed to curtail the spread of the disease.
"We're thankful it's sunny outside," said Gresham resident Lindsay Buck on a recent bright day.
The preschool teacher has been furloughed from her job and has 9 and 12 year old kids home from school until at least April 28.
Schools, offices and most everything else are closed in an effort to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, with movie theaters, museums, pools, restaurants and other entertainment destinations shuttered for the foreseeable future, East County families are riding out their confinement as best they can with games, cooking, yard work and other distractions.
To be sure, many people will suffer financially and some may even be touched by the COVID-19 illness. Those interviewed expressed deep concern for the people affected by this crisis. But all are making the best of the situation.
Tina Tebbens and her husband, both retired, are taking advantage of the down time to get some chores done.
"Deep cleaning your house is not a thrill, but it feels good when you get it done," she said.
Her husband, Carl, is refinishing a canoe the two built in 2003.
The Troutdale couple are pillars of the Gresham Elks Lodge and Tina is working on the scholarship program she runs for the Elks.
Cabin fever hasn't set in for the Tebbens.
"As long as I can take a walk, I'm OK. We're puttering in the garden a bit. I'm enjoying the peace and quiet and the beauty of our state, while we have a blue sky, and it's clear and sunny," she said.
Preschool teacher Buck made one last trip to work to make activity packets for the kids in her charge. Now, she's coping and helping her kids cope by taking long walks and other activities.
"We've been averaging 2-and-a-half mile walks," Buck said.
She's not letting her kids have play dates as a precaution, but the family has been playing games. She and her husband, Michael, are planning on building a greenhouse as a family project.
For Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Snodgrass it's important to mix up her routine — not a difficult task as she helps come up with activities to keep her seven grandchildren entertained as they remain home from school.
One day she picked three of her grandkids up for drive-through food they ate in the park on a sunny afternoon. Another day she had six of them over for an evening painting project.
The hardest part for her is the potential things she could miss.
"I don't know if I will get to watch my eldest grandchild walk across the stage for graduation," she said.
In fact, the restrictions prevented Buck and her husband from attending their son's graduation from basic training in Texas. The graduation was virtual and families watched online.
"It has really fouled up a ton of stuff," Buck said, sighing.
Kudos to the teachers
But, Gresham families have been impressed with how their children's schools are working through the hiatus.
"The schools are really on top of things," Buck said.
Buck's kids attend Kelly Creek Elementary School and Gordon Russell Middle School. Their teachers have sent emails with learning activities and reminders to read every day and do some math assignments the teachers have provided.
Jessica Gallagher's 6-year-old attends West Gresham Elementary School and Gallagher praised teacher, Meagan Mower, for sending out encouraging emails with suggestions for keeping up with school work.
Gallagher teaches health sciences at the charter high school Center for Advanced Learning and she too, is sending out suggested assignments and exercises her students can do to keep learning during the time away from school.
Like other families, Gallagher is exploiting the time off to get things done around the house.
"We're doing cleaning, so much cleaning," she said.
Gallagher is trying to maintain some structure for her kids, ages 3 and 6.
Since the weather is nice, they're also going for walks to start the day.
"I explain that we're not going to touch the equipment in the park and if people get close, we'll just wave," Gallagher said.
She and her husband are both educators, so the kids are doing some fun learning too.
"My 3-year-old son is learning the alphabet, so we go around the house looking for everything that starts with B, ball, book, boat," she said.
"We've watched "Frozen 2" a few times already and that's just the beginning of how many times I'll watch it," she said with a chuckle.
When the kids are tucked in for the night, the Gallaghers are binge watching "The West Wing," since they missed it when it was on television from 1999 to 2006.
Shoshonna Roberts, owner of Maggie Mae's Kids Bookshop in downtown Gresham, said not much has changed for her.
"Personally I'm an introvert," she said, so the greater isolation is not wearing on her yet.
Roberts is spending more time working on bookstore chores from home after hours. The store is doing curbside pick up and local deliveries.
Other than that, "I'm doing a lot of spring cleaning and more cooking," she added.
The Buck family is also cleaning and purging.
"We've cleaned out closets and made a Goodwill donation. We're doing yard work and cleaning the garage. We're doing a lot more cleaning. We might as well use the time we have," Buck said.
So far, the pandemic prohibitions don't seem to have doused spirits too badly, but things could change if restrictions drag on.
"I think this is going to be a long process," said Lindsay Buck.
As the spread of COVID-19 has many in the community feeling isolated and worried about the future, a group has been formed around a simple idea of uplifting those around you.
Gresham Helping Gresham is a public Facebook group created by Sue Piazza that allows residents to seek out and share resources. Anyone with an account can join — bit.ly/3dcGMIF.
Posts have shared tips on making your own T-shirt mask or hand sanitizer, asked for rides to job opportunities, and warnings about scams.
But the most important thing happening on the page right now is the uplifting of spirits. The Facebook group has become a way for community members to connect and maintain a sense of normalcy during strange times.
One post made by Piazza was for everyone working from home. The commenters shared what their kids were doing, but referred to them as their co-workers. The example shared by Piazza was that her "co-worker" was grabbing her face to get her attention.
"He's not practicing social distancing and I'm pretty sure his hands are marginally clean," Piazza wrote. "HR department in unreachable."
Other commenters shared stories of their "co-workers" — one was sitting on a table pretending to be a cat; another was just eating all day while sharing updates on the latest episode of Blues Clues; and a particularly difficult one kept "peeing in her pants."
Gresham residents working from home are having to contend with endless games of Connect Four, living room forts, scribbled drawings on important notes and guitar serenades.
And while Gresham Helping Gresham is a great place to laugh, it is also taking on important tasks like supporting the struggling business community.
There are posts that give updates on which local restaurants are doing delivery, take-out or both. Residents are also sharing updates on special deals, as well as which local grocery stores have scarce items in stock like toilet paper or rice.
The group can already tout successful cases. One post was able to connect a surplus of lettuce grown by Latitude 45 Farms in Boring that was in danger of rotting with Birch Community Services, a nonprofit organization that supplies 580 families in the region. Now that lettuce can feed vulnerable families rather than go to waste — all thanks to a Facebook group.
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