Staying Connected Through Your Virtual Hometown

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From sharing encouragement through chalk art to performing Facebook concerts, communities are finding ways to stay connected while still social distancing. Image: Lisa Tate

As “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping people from taking part in many springtime events in person, some cities have taken their activities online to help families maintain a sense of community from their own homes.

In my corner of West Texas and Southern New Mexico, this has included nonprofit and performing arts organizations, city and state park departments, neighborhood associations, schools, places of worship, and even creative individuals.

Here are a few of the cool programs my area has done with the use of platforms like Facebook and YouTube to make social distancing seem a little less, well, distant.

Ask A Ranger. While people are putting off their visits to the beautiful state and national park areas, sites like Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park are encouraging guests to turn in their questions about the parks and the area’s natural resources via social media, to be answered live on Facebook. They also began posting a series of videos at noon Tuesdays and Thursdays ranging from safe park use during social distancing times to hiking safety.

Online Performances: We’ve seen celebrities and musicians offer streaming “house concerts” for fans, and local musicians are doing the same in their areas. Some of my favorites included regional jazz favorite Billy Townes hosting a live Dueling Pianos Facebook event with other musicians and El Paso Pro-Musica performing classical and chamber music from various sites. Here’s a “virtual collaboration” between Chris Beroes-Haigis, from the UTEP Cello Studio, and violinist Leonardo Pineda of Venezuela performing “together” from two different homes.

Sofa Safaris. With the El Paso Zoo temporarily closed to the public, the zoo offered a few “Sofa Safaris,” giving guests a behind-the-scenes look at the care of its animals. These were only done for a short time, but guests can still look up information on the animals featured in their past safaris on their website.

Our local zoo and state parks have been reaching out to guests with lectures and events via Facebook and their websites.

Indoor Workouts. One area community has partnered with the National Fitness Campaign (NFC) to host seven-minute indoor workouts that can be done by people of all ages and requiring very little space. These are accessed by a free NFC app, with new workouts offered every week.

ChalkYourWalk. This was one the entire community could take part in from their own homes. On March 20 and 21, our local Parks and Recreation Department encouraged people to draw or write encouraging messages and artwork on their sidewalks or driveways. Those who were able to get out and walk around the neighborhood (while practicing all the CDC social distancing and safety guidelines, of course) could see what others had created. People could also post their works online with the hashtag #chalkyourwalkEP2020.

Even our local hockey team posted a couple of encouraging Facebook messages to fans and their community via #ChalkYouWalkEP2020.

I hope everyone who is either practicing social distancing or is in quarantine will be able to be out and about more sooner than later, but until then, and here’s to the people everywhere who are bringing a little bit of the best of their community into the homes of those who need it.

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