In the latest Around Town column, stories about the Palo Alto University Rotary Club moving forward with its annual Memorial Day ritual and a surprise birthday celebration for a longtime resident who's turning 90 years old on Sunday.
SEEING STARS ... Anyone passing through University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto this Monday will notice American flags — 65 to be exact — along the main thoroughfare. Setting up the banners with the iconic red and white stripes and 50 stars has been a longtime tradition of the Palo Alto University Rotary Club on Memorial Day, but the manpower has dramatically dropped due to the coronavirus crisis. Usually, about 30 people — a group made up of veterans, club members (many of whom are older) and children — set up the flags in about 30 minutes. Afterward, they gather at a local bakery, where they socialize over breakfast. This Monday, only three club members will take that job: Larry Christenson, a 40-year resident and retired naval aviator; Richard Schoelerman, an 18-year resident; and Katie Cooney, the club's president. The club was initially hesitant to move forward because of social-distancing rules and stay-at-home orders. "We really don't want to have a lot of people there bumping into each other," Christenson said. On top of honoring veterans, the club also intends to recognize small businesses downtown. "(They)make significant sacrifices to not only survive, but to keep Palo Alto as Palo Alto," Christenson said. "I think there'll be a greater appreciation of seeing the flags out on the street." The club also sets up the flags on three other federal holidays each year: Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.
BIRTHDAY BASH FOR BONNIE ... Many people have taken to Zoom to celebrate their birthdays with virtual calls as they shelter in place, but Susie Borton plans to take it up a notch for her mother, Bonnie Borton, who's turning 90 years old this Sunday. To mark the milestone, Susie is organizing a surprise social distance parade to mark the milestone in the tight-knit Los Arboles neighborhood in south Palo Alto, where the birthday celebrant has lived since 1960. Susie described her mother, who lives independently in her own home, as "quite energetic for her age. She's still ambulatory. She walks with a cane, but she's really quite physically capable," Susie said. On May 24, Bonnie will be dressed in her best attire and seated on a "throne" during the afternoon outside of her home where people can greet her — from a safe distance, of course. She'll wear a flower crown made by Susie's friend and will most likely have Layla, her 10-pound black-and-tan dachshund, by her side. Guests will be treated to Bonnie's favorite dessert from her childhood — a chocolate cupcake with green mint icing and stuffed with a dollop of whipped cream. "She's not a person who likes huge parties where she's the center of attention, but I think she'll like this because she really does love her neighbors."
TEAM EFFORT ... There are few face shields to go around during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a group of more than 260 Bay Area residents, businesses and nonprofits has teamed up to provide the equipment to front-line workers amid the public health crisis. They were able to design and purchase parts for the shields, which they then assembled and distributed to hospitals, nursing homes and emergency service providers. More than 30,000 shields were distributed to facilities in need over a 45-day period. The final stop was at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where former Marine Officer Michael McNally and other volunteers donated the final 100 face shields that were accepted to Bill Ball, chief of voluntary and hospitality services at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. McNally is a volunteer manager at the Riekes Center, a Menlo Park-based nonprofit that works with middle- and high school-aged student-athletes.
SPREAD POSITIVE VIBES ... As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold at home and around the world, we want to share positive stories from our readers for upcoming Around Town columns. Have you witnessed a random act of kindness or watched the community form bonds while maintaining a safe social distance? Or have you seen a creative project come about as many stay at home? Send us your story in 250 words or fewer by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos are also welcome. We look forward to hearing your stories!
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.