Teachers and support staff at Alice Brown Elementary school formed a convoy to reconnect with students and parents while the school remains closed during the COVID-19 outbreak in APril. Special ed assistant Esther Moreman dusted off her banana costume for the event. More than two dozen vehicles drove around the catchment area served by the school. (Langley Advance Times files)

Teachers and support staff at Alice Brown Elementary school formed a convoy to reconnect with students and parents while the school remains closed during the COVID-19 outbreak in APril. Special ed assistant Esther Moreman dusted off her banana costume for the event. More than two dozen vehicles drove around the catchment area served by the school. (Langley Advance Times files)

2020 Reflections: Langley met COVID with kindness, resilience

Charities, schools, and businesses pulled together in a difficult year

It’s been a long, difficult, and often strange year in Langley, but the community found ways to get through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the year began, the new virus was largely a news story from abroad – the Wuhan province of China saw cases spike, and there were the first quarantines and lockdowns, but those were far away.

As the severity of the issue became clear, the first rumblings in Langley started in February, as a local woman was urged to quarantine her family after returning from China, even though she hadn’t been in Wuhan. Authorities at that time weren’t asking for people to quarantine unless they had symptoms. Provincial health authorities emphasized that the risk was low.

But by the end of February, there were cases in the Lower Mainland, and warning letters were going out from health authorities about exposures – but without specific identifying information on where exposures were happening.

Then in March, everything happened all at once.

Community centres and pools, shops and restaurants and casinos all shut their doors, at least temporarily. Church services went virtual. Langley Memorial Hospital suspended visiting. Kids went off to spring break and parents were told they would not be going back to school, at least not right away.

Roads were largely empty, and thousands of office workers had to learn how Zoom worked. Retired doctors, nurses, and paramedics were readied to return to the job in case there was an overwhelming flood of cases.

Layoffs struck multiple industries, and many people worried how they were going to pay rent, mortgages, and other bills.

Langley residents responded with kindness and creativity.

From the 7 p.m. pots-and-pans serenades to frontline health care workers, to donations of food by local restaurants to nurses, people tried to show they appreciated those who were dealing directly with COVID.

In early April, a series of events began at multiple elementary schools, including Alice Brown and Belmont, in which teachers and support staff drove convoys of decorated cars around the school and catchment areas.

Kids and parents, cooped up at home for weeks by then, waved from front yards and driveways, safely distanced, but still in touch with their teachers.

“We care about them and we miss them,” Alice Brown Elementary principal Michael Carlyle said of the reason for the convoys.

The same approach saw daycare providers wave to their young charges during a distanced drive-past on Easter weekend, or the birthday visit to Brynn Chappell by local first responders in emergency vehicles and classic cars.

The Downtown Langley Business Association launched “Community Strong,” a program to lift spirits. Artist Judy Pohl painted multi-coloured hearts on windows in the downtown, and was pleased at the response.

“I’ve never had an experience like this, where everyone is grateful,” she said.

Where charity programs were disrupted, people stepped in, as Langley City and Township firefighters with taking over routes for Meals on Wheels.

Even as some businesses were allowed to cautiously re-opened in May, as hair salons and barbershops started up, Langley residents also flooded the few things that were allowed. Municipal and regional parks became extremely popular, as did the Greater Vancouver Zoo and U-pick berry farms.

Even tragedies were marked publicly as much as possible. Staff from Zion Park Manor came to Langley Lodge in April to commemorate the residents who had died, and to support their colleagues.

Langley’s younger residents also reached out to seniors, who were extremely isolated by the pandemic, with the Langley Fundamental Jazz Band performing music outside of care homes in Langley every Thursday in June.

“I really like showing our love to seniors, because they are key members of society and it really sucks that they are more at risk than the rest of us in this situation,” said Lida Magnus, a 2020 grad and upright bass player.

Tourism radically changed due to warnings not to travel extensively, not to mention the closed Canada-U.S. border, but local tourism authorities tried to encourage people to be hometown tourists.

“Some people take their hometown for granted, and have not heard that there are great parks in Aldergrove, or don’t know how many breweries we have in Langley,” said Erin Kredba, executive director of Tourism Langley.

As the year wound down, the community organizations collecting donations for the less fortunate found that even distanced events could fill their coffers. The Langley Christmas Bureau, the Realtors Care Blanket Drive, and the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign all managed to receive a significant amount of donations – in some cases beating their expectations – despite a lack of in-person fundraisers, galas, or

CoronavirusLangleyYear in Review

 

Artist Judy Pohl was painting hearts on storefront windows in Langley City on Wednesday. April 8, for the ‘Community Strong’ initiative launched by the Downtown Langley Business Association. (Langley Advance Times files)

Artist Judy Pohl was painting hearts on storefront windows in Langley City on Wednesday. April 8, for the ‘Community Strong’ initiative launched by the Downtown Langley Business Association. (Langley Advance Times files)

Uli Beutel played his saxophone in honour of first responders each night for weeks in his Langley City neighbourhood. (Langley Advance Times files)

Uli Beutel played his saxophone in honour of first responders each night for weeks in his Langley City neighbourhood. (Langley Advance Times files)