Chula Vista

7 Ways That San Diegans Brought Good to 2020

The coronavirus pandemic made 2020 extremely challenging but these San Diego residents still managed to do their part to put some good back into the world -- and we're all better for it

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OK, so 2020 wasn't exactly a good year. But we have to remember, there are still good people out there. Let's look for the silver linings here and take a look back at 7 ways that San Diegans brought good to 2020.

Neighbors helping neighbors. A teacher getting creative in a distance learning classroom. A ride from a stranger that blossomed into a beautiful friendship. Here's a look back at some local, feel-good stories from 2020.

Normal Heights Neighbors Come Together to Feed Community

About a month after the coronavirus pandemic reached San Diego County, a family in Normal Heights found a beautiful way to help their neighbors in need.

Knowing times were hard and many locals were facing job loss and food insecurity, Elisa Muchmore decided to, well, do much more. She transformed her driveway into a free farmers market offering fruit, vegetables and other supplies to anyone who needed a little bit of help.

Communities are banding together to make sure their neighbors have their healthy meals. NBC 7's Melissa Adan has more.

“You don’t know who in your neighborhood is elderly; you don’t know who is sick,” Muchmore said. “You don’t know who actually need help and I think people assume somebody else is helping them until you realize that nobody is.”

Similar neighborhood food pantries popped up in other San Diego communities, too, throughout the pandemic, including this one in Chula Vista led by elementary school student Emma Payan and her family.

Stop, in the Name of Love: 93-Year-Old Lake San Marcos Man Hitchhikes for Love of His Life

Who doesn’t love a good love story? Well, back in May 2020, Lake San Marcos resident Mike Cain, 93, had one for the ages.

You see, every night for the past 20 years, Cain and the love of his life, Do Jerman, have taken part in a sweet tradition: eating a couple of pieces of a chocolate bar, together.

When the pandemic shutdown impacted San Diego County in the spring, Cain was having a hard time getting to the store to buy the candy bars for his love.

But, he’s a resourceful fella.

Cain decided to hitchhike for a ride to the store. One day, a stranger picked him up and Cain’s story of love grew into a story of friendship.

The man who picked him up was real estate agent Richard Farmer, who told NBC 7 he just had to make a U-Turn that day to find out what this man was doing on the side of the road. And he’s glad he did.

Cain shared his sweet mission with Farmer and the pair hit it off. Farmer became a friend and later took Cain grocery shopping.

Cain couldn’t believe there was someone that nice out there.

“There aren’t many people like Rich in the world,” Cain said.

Farmer felt the same about Cain.

NBC 7's Priya Sridhar caught up, again, with a man who was hitchhiking to get chocolate for the love of his life. Now, his story is getting a bit sweeter.

Escondido Girl Shares ‘Buckets Full of Kindness’ With Neighbors

Sometimes – especially in these tough times of COVID-19 – a small act of kindness can mean a lot.

This past spring an elementary school student in Escondido started a project she called “Buckets Full of Kindness” to bring happiness to her neighborhood. She and her mom bought some plastic buckets, filled them with snacks and fun items – and, of course, one essential 2020 item: toilet paper.

The duo delivered the buckets to friends and neighbors, most of the time just ringing the doorbell, leaving the bucket on the porch and zipping out of there.

The gesture boosted spirits all around and became an outlet for isolation during the pandemic and a way for a neighborhood to feel connected while apart.

Lasagna Mamas & Papas Spread Lasagna Love to Hungry Families

For some, cooking a nice, warm meal for someone is a true sign of love.

Cue the Lasagna Love moment, a project that started in a San Diego kitchen and quickly reached tables of hungry families in every corner of the country thanks to big-hearted volunteers who call themselves the “Lasagna Mamas and Papas.”

Rhiannon Menn – the founding Lasagna Mama – wanted to help her community during the difficult days of the pandemic, so she cooked. She and her daughter made lasagnas to give to locals in need of a meal and in need of a break during the difficult days of the pandemic.

Soon, the lasagna love grew into a nationwide phenomenon.

Lasagna Love volunteers can help as many families with as many meals as they choose. Read all about the movement and what it means to the mamas here.

Elementary School Teacher in Chula Vista Draws Caricatures to Increase Face-to-Face Time With Students During Distance Learning

Distance learning is hard. It’s hard on students, it’s hard on teachers, it’s hard on parents.

The lack of in-person interaction can often make virtual classrooms feel disconnected. But when Chula Vista teacher Scot De Pedro launched his 5th grade distance learning classroom, he came up with a clever idea.

De Pedro – tapping into his skills from a past job as a SeaWorld caricature artist – decided to draw caricatures of the 52 students in his class at Discovery Charter Elementary School. He put them each in a seat in the classroom and, from there, he turned on his computer and taught his class.

It helped the teacher feel some comfort in an uncomfortable situation.

“They’re all smiling. They’re all looking right at me. They’re all paying attention,” De Pedro told NBC 7.

And surely, the kids got a kick out of being “present” in the classroom, too.

A Chula Vista teacher took a skill he learned at SeaWorld and used it to bring life to his classroom while he teaches online. NBC 7's Joe Little has the story.

‘I’ll Keep Building’: Chula Vista Man Crafts Distance Learning Desks for Kids in Need

Also in Chula Vista and also in the very 2020 world of distance learning, we found Jerson Ramirez, 32, tucked away in his happy place: His garage.

Ramirez had set up a little workshop in his garage where he was busy making dozens of desks for school children forced to learn at home due to the pandemic but many without a desk to call their own.

So, he built them a spot where they could learn.

“Having your own stuff to do your own things will help you grow as a person, too,” Ramirez told NBC 7.

The Chula Vista resident said he would sell the desks to parents who can afford it but, for those who could not, he would find a way to make them for free.

He set up a modest GoFundMe page dubbed “Helping Children in Need: Student Desk Drive,” and people donated to pay for supplies so that Ramirez could continue to make the desks.

“If they keep on donating, I will keep on building,” he said.

NBC 7's Joe Little shares a story about a small construction project in the garage of a Chula Vista man with a huge heart.

Locals Pull Over to Help ‘San Diego Highwayman’

For more than 50 years, Thomas Weller – a Good Samaritan better known as the “San Diego Highwayman” – would cruise the streets, helping people on the side of the road who ran out of gas, got a flat tire, or broke down. Weller said he never asked for anything in return.

Weller had to stop his roadside helping a few years ago due to medical issues.

This year, one of those issues sent the Highwayman down an unknown path: Asking others, for once, for help for himself.

NBC 7's Joe Little meets with the Highwayman as he thanks all those who stepped up to helped him.

Weller is having trouble with his teeth so severe, that he needs dental implants. He said it had gotten so bad, he had to shift to a soft-food based diet that led to him losing 20 pounds.

The Highwayman launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for dental implants.

Soon, San Diego pulled over to help.

As of Dec. 8, the online fundraising page had collected nearly $54,000 in donations for Weller because now, it’s his turn to smile.

NBC 7's Joe Little shares the story of San Diego's selfless Highwayman and his plea for help.

By the way, this is just a small sampling of San Diegans who brought good during the unprecedented, difficult year. There were, of course, many more stories that made the days better in San Diego but we wanted to take a moment to highlight a few.

So, you see, the good is still around, we just have to look for it sometimes.

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