Community in the Time of Covid-19

What is a community? Lexico.com offers several definitions of community; one of the first being: “A particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.” Perhaps the more important one, however, the one that pertains most closely to today’s world, is found a little farther down the list: “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Northern Tillamook County is made up by several small communities in the first sense. The towns along this stretch of the coast are small both physically and in terms of physical location and full-time inhabitants. Nehalem is one of these small towns; at the time of the 2010 census the population was 271, made up of 72 families. It is home to a number of small businesses, most located on one street, owned by some of those 72 families.

These are small businesses that serve both the residents of the area, as well as the tourists that normally flock to the area’s beaches. There is Wolfmoon Bakery owned by Jordan and Phil. Phil bakes the most delicious wild-fermented loaves, and Jordan greets everyone that walks through their door like an old friend. There is also Wanda’s Café and Bakery owned by Frank and Patrick, a couple who recently moved to the area from Portland with their two adopted daughters, Ellie (age 11) and Colbie (age 7).

Since Governor Brown announced that restaurants would be limited to to-go orders only, Frank has been keeping a near-daily blog on Wanda’s Facebook page. The blog is both heartbreaking and an inspiring testament to the true meaning of “community.”

In day five of his blog, Frank recounts a conversation that he had with his daughter Ellie the day before about whether their family was “local” or not. Someone had told her that she and her family could not be considered locals until they had lived there for at least three years—they took over Wanda’s just over a year ago. Frank’s response? “I told her that was ridiculous and explained to her that living somewhere full time technically makes you a local resident but more importantly, being part of the community makes you local.”

Frank continued, telling Ellie that the way the local community has responded during the Covid-19 crisis, and especially since the mandatory “To-Go Only” order was issued, is proof that their family are part—a valued part—of that local community. Frank’s blog is full of stories that back up this belief. Each day of his blog is filled with stories, both of the heartbreak of having to let employees go as well as stories of the generosity of strangers that are strangers no more.

These former strangers are locals, members of the community who have enjoyed eating at Wanda’s, but perhaps didn’t realize how much dining there meant to them or what it would mean if Wanda’s wasn’t there when the Covid-19 crisis is over. Members of the community realized that they do have some power, some control, in the face of Covid-19; the power to help keep their community together through kindness and generosity.

There is the older woman from the nearby church who bought a $4 scone and left a $50 tip. There is the customer who showed up with $50 gift cards to the local grocery store; one for each of Wanda’s 15 employees. There is the couple who recently moved to the area after losing everything in the California wildfires who also left a generous tip on top of the $100 dinner to-go they purchased. There are all of the people that have purchased gift cards to use some time in the future—some as large as $500.

Frank’s blog is filled with these stories and if you find yourself losing hope during these dark days, I encourage you to read it. It is light to drive out the darkness. You can find it at: https://www.facebook.com/WandasCafeBakery/.

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