Locked down with her folks and attending school from home, Arya Chau, 7, began to create colorful pictures with inspirational sayings to send her grandmother, who lives alone.
"Then I thought about all the other seniors," Arya said.
She'd always noticed Stoneridge Creek senior living community, which is near her home in Dublin, so she and her mother, Neha, reached out to ask if Arya could send her cards. They also had heard its residents were sewing masks for staff members so they wanted to do something nice for them in return.
"My mom and I emailed together," Arya said.
Neha eventually made contact with activities director Susan Felice.
"Susan responded, saying, 'Yes, we would love your daughter's cards,'" Neha recalled. "But it was not like she could mail them physically (due to health concerns). That's when Arya and I decided I would take pictures of them to email."
Neha said Arya is always thinking about what pictures and words can uplift people during this time. Out on a walk, the colors of nature inspired a picture and she wrote, "No matter what, nature is still smiling at you with its colors."
Arya enthusiastically listed other sayings:
"No winter lasts forever. Rise, shine and stay positive."
"Never lose hope, even if someday you need to look harder."
"We are in this together, and together we will get through it."
Also, Arya recently watched "Annie" and loves belting out the song, "Tomorrow," which they recorded to share with family and friends, including her new ones at Stoneridge Creek.
Mother and daughter said becoming acquainted with the senior community has enriched Arya's life while she is missing school and being with her friends.
And Susan Felice noted that receiving Arya's drawings has helped in the efforts to keep things upbeat at Stoneridge Creek.
"We have over 810 residents and a lot are single people, so having the extra touch of Arya's cards means so much to them – it brightens their day quite a bit," Felice said.
Another popular activity in the community is the mask-making.
"I started hearing about the need for essential employees to wear masks at work, and I contacted the quilting group, which is very active here," Felice remembered. "They said, 'We're on it,' and it became a cottage industry here at Stoneridge."
Residents are making several masks for each employee as well as for their neighbors.
"I've had to adapt because of lack of materials," said resident mask-maker Nancy Evans. "I used a couple of my husband's old T-shirts for the strips behind the ears. The old T-shirts are very flexible. And I've used him as a model."
Last week, residents had completed 1,200 masks and were still going strong. More than 200 employees work at Stoneridge Creek, where they keep busy with new tasks including delivering the meals that normally are eaten in the onsite restaurant and bringing residents a greatly increased number of packages arriving at the front kiosk.
"We've started an online, virtual market to help keep the residents from going out," Felice said. "People put in their grocery orders, and we work with our food and beverage department."
High school students also work at the front kiosk, sanitizing packages and groceries.
"We are working on keeping our residents safe – and entertained," Felice said. "We are trying to keep them active within the gates."
Fitness classes are held via Zoom, as are discussion groups. Last week, a house party was streamed in by a professional entertainer from his studio after the 225 people who signed up received deliveries of wine and other goodies.
The positive experience with Stoneridge Creek inspired Arya to continue contacting others.
"We've been able to reach out to more than 24 communities across the Bay Area," Neha said.
"It is amazing how this has been for all of us as a family. We get to connect with such amazing people that we would never have been able to. They are so loving, and there is such positivity."