Pitching in During the Pandemic: Stories of San Diegans Doing Good During Coronavirus Outbreak

How San Diegans are helping each other out during these unprecedented times

Faced with a daunting crisis, San Diegans are finding creative ways to lend support. Have you heard about a story we should share? Let us know -- Ed.


Need a Free Face Mask? Mad Engine Has You Covered

Hey, San Diego, you might want to start lining up now: Mad Engine, the locally based apparel/accessory company with global reach plans on handing out 250,000 free masks to locals.

The giveaway is taking place Saturday for four hours, kicking off at 10 a.m. on June 27 at Mad Engine's corporate headquarters at 6740 Cobra Way in Mira Mesa, as well as at a second location, in Irvine, California. Just to be clear -- these are not surgical masks; they're just the nonmedical fabric face-coverings us norms are sporting these days.


Chula Vista Girl Scout Junior, 9, Sets Up Donation Table for Neighbors in Need

A 9-year-old Chula Vista Girl Scout Junior has found a sweet way to help her community: she simply shares what she has.

For the past few weekends, Halecrest Elementary School student Emma Payan and her family have been setting up a small table in their driveway filled with canned goods, fruit, vegetables, paper towels and other household essentials.

The table – located on East J Street – is a place where neighbors can grab whatever they need. They can also leave donations for others.

Emma’s mom, Michelle Payan, told NBC 7 the donation table is just a small way for her family to help others during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Honestly, it’s amazing how many of our neighbors are in need,” Payan said.

The Payan family decided to set up the table after seeing another one just like it in a Bonita neighborhood. Emma spotted that good deed and wanted to recreate it. She wanted to make a difference.

“Emma has such a big heart,” Payan told NBC 7. “I told her, ‘We can’t help the world, but we can just help as many (people) as we can.’”

Payan said they looked through their pantry and saw they had some extra food.

They set a table up in front of their home filled with food and hung three handwritten signs on the set-up: “Free.” “Please Take Only What You Need.” “Please Donate What You Can.”

Within 15 minutes, Payan said people were stopping by to grab items.

The Payan family stood in the yard, watching.

Then, neighbors began to drop off donations.

Something was happening here.

“It was such a great feeling to be able to know we’re giving back to our community, but people are also giving as well,” Payan explained.

On that first day, Payan said the table was cleared out. As people drove by, they honked and yelled, “Thank you!”

The Payans repeated the gesture the following Saturday to similar results.

And they plan to set up the giving table again this weekend.

Payan said they’ve been using the week between Saturdays to replenish the items and accept donations from neighbors.

The table will be open until the food runs out and Payan said her family will, once again, keep watch from a safe social distance.

Payan said they’ve been able to give raisins, trail mix and toilet paper to an elderly couple walking down the street, and rice to a neighbor who lives a few doors down. Each time, neighbors have been incredibly grateful.

“It really warms my heart that we can give it, but it makes me sad to think something that doesn’t cost a lot of money – rice – can make somebody so happy,” she explained.

The lesson in sharing is really striking a chord with Emma and her 3-year-old sister, Payan said.

“It’s really setting in for Emma – what to be thankful for,” Payan said. “She sees it. I know this is a really sad time in all of our lives, but I feel like it’s such a time to teach our children to stay humble and look at what we can give.”

“It’s a great time to reflect on what we have,” she added.

In addition to the donation table, Payan said Emma spends her days making wooden American flags with her dad for their small family business. For every five flags they sell, they donate one to a military veteran, school, library or local organization. --Monica Garske; April 16, 2020


Gulls Provide Meals for Hospital Workers

The San Diego Gulls have long been active in the San Diego community. That’s not stopping because they can’t be on the ice during the coronavirus outbreak.


Gulls Provide Meals for Hospital Workers

The San Diego Gulls have long been active in the San Diego community. That’s not stopping because they can’t be on the ice during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We see who’s on the front lines. These nurses, these doctors, these hospital workers. They’re literally putting their lives on the line so how can we help out a little bit?” said Matt Savant, Gulls President of Business Operations. “Also, we have a lot of partners we’ve worked with the last five years here in San Diego. Local food vendors, local restaurants, and we thought let’s bring the two together.”

The Gulls went to five local restaurants … Surf Side Deli, Dino’s Gyros Greek Café and Taverna, Cali Comfort BBQ, Rockin’ Baja Lobster, and Chipotle … and bought nearly 800 meals then had them taken to five San Diego County hospitals, following all the CDC guidelines for food preparation and delivery.

It’s a gesture that helps local restaurants that have seen a dip in revenue and lets health care professionals know how much the franchise appreciates what they do.

“A few dollars to help these true heroes on the front lines at the hospital and to make their day or their job a little bit easier,” said Savant. “They don’t have to worry about a meal and they know it’s been prepared safely. We worked with our local partners to make sure the gloves and masks were worn. Everything is done to the proper specifications so that we’re keeping as many people healthy and safe as possible.”

The organization purchased meals for four of the hospitals. The Gulls players jumped in to take care of the fifth. All it took was the club to send a message to Captain Sam Carrick describing what the plan was.

“Within 24 hours we had thousands of dollars raised from our players,” said Savant. “All of our players opened up their personal checkbooks and wrote a check to the San Diego Gulls Foundation. We used that money to purchase the meals so this is not just coming from the Gulls and the Foundation this is really coming from our players.”

Carrick helped organize the players’ donations from his home in Canada.

“We’re so lucky to play in a place like San Diego where we’re supported so well,” said Carrick. “There’s such a high passion for hockey there. We’ve been supported through thick and thin as long as I’ve been here so any time we can give back to the community and help them out any way we can we’re always happy to do that.”

It’s not just the Gulls Foundation or players who are doing good things in the community. The tone is set from the top down. Henry and Susan Samueli, owners of the Gulls and Anaheim Ducks, are going to pay for all 2,100 part-time employees of their sports and event management companies will be paid for any rescheduled, postponed or canceled events through June 30.

“It’s a relief because they’re all facing the same thing we all are, which is, how is my family? Are we going to be safe? Are we going to be financially available to continue on in this manner?” said Savant. “So, when an owner steps up and says instead of going the other direction we’re going to pay you, that’s an amazing gesture. It’s not something you see very day and it makes me very proud to work for this company and be associated with the Samuelis, the Ducks and the Gulls." -- Derek Togerson; April 3, 2020


Kids Spread Cheer on Sidewalks During Coronavirus Pandemic

Kids around the country are using chalk to spread positive messages on the sidewalk.


Artists, Venues #BandTogether for Local-Music Livestream Series

“San Diego live music is not canceled,” begins the announcement for #BandTogether, referencing the closures prompted by coronavirus pandemic. “It is living in the virtual world! Luckily, we can still spread live music and the love from the safety of our homes!”

Over the past few weeks, we've been sharing local efforts to move live music online. Several artists have shared live shows via Facebook, Instagram Live, and other channels, but we're starting to see the movement toward Twitch.

Long the preferred streaming site for live-gamers, interest in Twitch seems to have recently spiked among circles of local musicians in light of stay-at-home orders. Twitch offers clear monetization and interactivity that can otherwise be more complicated on other platforms. Some of us (me!) were slow on the uptake, but TwitchCon happens biannually right here in San Diego in the fall and in Amsterdam in the spring. Last year's event at the San Diego Convention Center drew more than 28, 000 attendees and featured massive concert events, with artists including Lil Nas X, Blink-182, Steve Aoki, and T-Pain performing, and also showcased artists at venues like The Holding Company and Kava Lounge.

Vokab Kompany-6180
Marissa Carter
Vokab Kompany will be livestreamed on Friday night.

#BandTogether has drawn together a bevy of local sponsors and partners, including Garage Majal, Amplified Aleworks, the Same Same but Different festival, the Belly Up and Music Box, and is “a livestream virtual fundraiser that will run during the month of April.” Fans can directly support the musicians performing and chat with other viewers as it's happening.

The streams kicked off Wednesday night with Shane Hall's full band performing on a real stage with amazing lighting, with about 100 viewers tuning in to the live performance for the duration of the show.

For anyone concerned about the live setup, rest easy: “Given the situation, safety is a No. 1 concern for all involved," states a message on BandTogether's splash page. "The crew working on the show is very small and wearing protective gear/masks. All mic stands and instruments are wiped down and sanitized before and after shows. Performers maintain safe distances during load-in and performances. No outside guests are allowed at the studio. We hope we can provide entertainment and a good reason for you to stay home.”

Unfortunately, Thursday night's show with Band of Gringos was canceled due to “unforeseen technical difficulties.” Judging by that first stream, however, BandTogether has the potential to gain momentum -- especially with San Diego standouts Vokab Kompany performing on Friday night -- and help us get us through these times of quarantine.

Shows stream live nightly at 8 p.m. The current lineup:

  • April 3: Vokab Kompany
  • April 4: Kimmi Bitter
  • April 5: The Strawberry Moons
  • April 6: Low Volts
  • April 7: Mrs. Henry

-- Rosemary Bystrak; April 3, 2020


Scripps Mercy Nurses Send Sweet Message to Colleagues

It’s a difficult time for heroic medical staff who are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, but one group of local nurses sent a sweet message of support to their colleagues at other hospitals.

Crystal Garibaldi, a charge nurse at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, told NBC 7 she and a colleague named Jenn “wanted to throw our love out there for all our fellow San Diego Hospitals right now.”

Several Scripps Mercy Hospital nurses sent a sweet message of support to their colleagues at other local hospitals.

In the video, the Scripps medical staff can be seen showing some love to Rady Children’s Hospital, Palomar Medical Center, Naval Medical Center San Diego and other area hospitals. -- Karla Rendon-Alvarez; April 3, 2020


Lunch on Lizzo: Grammy Winner Treats Local Hospital Workers to Meal

Two San Diego County hospitals were treated to a generous surprise when Grammy award-winning singer, Lizzo, donated meals to medical workers who are on the front lines in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

“Thank you so much for everything you guys have been doing during this pandemic,” the singer said in a video addressed to the La Mesa-based medical facility. “It’s been a very scary time and you guys have been a peace of mind during this time, and a hero, so thank you so much for all that you do.”

Lizzo attending the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Jan. 26 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

“I love you guys so much and I hope that you feel the love and appreciation pouring in from everybody all around the world because we really do love and appreciate y’all,” Lizzo said.

The “Truth Hurts” singer said she wanted to show hospital workers a token of her appreciation and said she hopes they enjoy the meals. She also made a separate video for Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

"I thought, you know, it would be nice to send y’all some food just to give you a token of appreciation for how much you really mean to us," she said in the video for the La Jolla hospital. "You guys are truly heroes.".--Karla Rendon-Alvarez; April 1, 2020


A Neighbor Assistance Program Hopes to Help Those at High-Risk for COVID-19

The San Marcos COVID-19 Neighbor Assistance Program wants to help their neighbors who are at high-risk of COVID-19.

“We came together on NextDoor, we kept on seeing people on the app saying that they wanted to help out elders in their community,” said Sandi Lord, a member of the program. “We said 'all of those who want to help out let’s all get together on a group phone call and get this started.'”

In a week, the group consisting of four built a website and started posting flyers on all public places throughout San Marcos including laundromats, apartment complexes, gas stations, and local health facilities.

The neighbor assistance program hopes to match volunteers who are under 60 are low-risk and healthy, with elders or others who run a high-risk in contracting COVID-19. They also hope to help those who are Spanish speaking.

They hope to help out individuals in getting groceries, picking up prescriptions, or other things they may need help with.

“One of the things we have offered to do as well was to call people periodically to make sure that they are OK,” Lord said.

This neighbor assistance program is only offered in San Marcos, but they hope other neighborhoods can start their own on this as well.

So far, they’ve had more volunteers calling to lend a hand than those needing help, but they hope to get more calls after they are done posting their flyers.

“If anyone needs help out there, we are more than happy to do whatever they need help with,” Lord said.

For more information, click here. -- Brenda Gregorio-Nieto; March 25, 2020


Tiny Cupcake Store Finds Big Strength in Sweet Support From Santee Community

A tiny cupcake shop in Santee is in the business of spreading sweetness but, today, during the darker days of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the shop’s devoted customers who are offering sweet strength and support.

“They’re calling in a lot, saying and showing us, ‘We’re here to support your business; we want to help,’” said Yvette Nolta, co-owner of The Cupcake Store.

Nolta runs The Cupcake Store on Carlton Hills Boulevard with her mom, Anne Montgomery. They’ve been in business for eight years and Nolta said they’ve always felt the love and support from Santee but now, in these difficult times, it somehow feels even greater.

The shop is small, with no seating inside – just a lobby area with a display case showcasing the fluffy, colorful, gourmet treats. Because of the shop’s size, it can get easily crowded when there’s a line of customers waiting to pick out their cupcakes. There are usually a couple of tables outside, on the sidewalk, where patrons can eat.

Last week, when California Gov. Gavin Newsom and local leaders ordered restaurants to temporarily close their dining rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Nolta said The Cupcake Shop made some changes.

They removed the outdoor seating and decided they would try offering curbside pickup to customers.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Nolta said customers would often call in their orders and pick up their cupcakes at the counter. Now, to better follow social distancing guidelines and keep people from going inside the store, the cupcakes are delivered right to a customer’s car.

Nolta said, so far, curbside cupcakes are going well. She thinks she and her mom will continue to offer this service post-pandemic, too.

And, while one might not necessarily consider cupcakes an “essential” need right now, Nolta said business is solid and the customers keep coming.

“We knew we’d take a hit, but this is a tight-knit community, so it hasn’t been the hit we were expecting,” she explained. “I don’t see us closing down because of the way we’re set up.”

The support from Santee and neighboring communities has been, at times, emotionally overwhelming.

So much so that Nolta’s mom has taken to social media platforms like NextDoor and Facebook to simply say, “Thank You.”

“A simple thank you seems so inadequate,” Montgomery wrote on a NextDoor post on Tuesday. “Yesterday, at The Cupcake Store, happy tears came to my eyes several times. The encouraging words and support from Santeeites and surrounding communities was, at times, overwhelming.”

Montgomery said customers are proving there’s plenty of kindness to go around, even in times of uncertainty.

“We had customers from Decanso, Jamul, Julian, Rancho Bernardo, & Chula Vista, also. The heartfelt humanity of a generous heart was evident as 5 customers ‘paid it forward’ for the next 5 guests, and 2 of those paid it forward,” Montgomery’s post continued. “The curbside service was appreciated by several of our guests. Social distance was practiced by everyone, even the children. Yvette and I, and our entire staff say THANK YOU.”

CORONAVIRUS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY: What You Need to Know: Latest Developments | Resources | How to Help | What Has Reopened? | Photos: Coronavirus Impact in SD

Many customers replied to Montgomery’s NextDoor note, saying they’re here to support the shop for all the times the store has been there for them.

“Your store is an important back of the community,” one customer wrote. “How many birthdays have been celebrated with your cupcakes? How many times have you donated to help charities? Thank you, Anne. The community cares.”

“It’s just been so heartwarming,” Nolta added.

As she decorated a cake and took phone orders, Nolta told NBC 7 she feels like her store is even getting some new customers – people who’ve heard about the shop in recent days through social media.

She thinks she knows why they’re gravitating to The Cupcake Store, too.

“Everyone needs to eat something happy right now,” she said.

Nolta, Montgomery and their family have lived in Santee since 1975. For them, it really is home. It’s where the heart is – and where the hope is.

“This community is so helpful to one another – even before all of this,” said Nolta. “We’re a tight-knit community and we will get through this.”

The Cupcake Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The shop is normally closed on Sunday and, for now, they are also closed on Wednesday.

Nolta said they have six employees – including her and Montgomery – and they all work different shifts to give one another the proper social distance.

The shop rotates its cupcake flavors each week and posts the menu on Facebook. In addition to traditional flavors, the shop also offers unique selections like S’mores, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip & Peach and a customer favorite called the Taco Shop.

“It’s a cream cake with jalapeños and cilantro baked into the cake,” Nolta explained. “And it’s filled with sweet jalapeño jelly topped with an avocado-lime buttercream.”

Nolta said she and her mom got into the cupcake business by “fluke” after they both had careers in different fields. Montgomery was an accountant for 17 years and then a nurse. Nolta worked in the real estate appraisal industry before the big hit of 2008.

On the side, though, Montgomery ran a cake decorating business and Nolta remembers the sweet scent of delicious baked treats wafting through her family’s home when she was a kid.

“We had a lot of cake at my house,” she said, with a laugh.

The family plans to keep sharing those sweets with their community for as long they can. -- Monica Garske; March 25, 2020


Order Up! San Diegans Join ‘Great American Takeout Day’

There is a nationwide effort to save the restaurant industry which is struggling with coronavirus closures. A coalition of U.S. restaurants declared today, the Great American Takeout Day.

Buon Appetito is one of a handful of Little Italy Restaurants trying to stay afloat by offering takeout, curbside service, and even delivery.

Takeout may have fewer frills then the regular dining experience, but customers are happy to do their part.

There is less traffic then normal on a Tuesday night in Little Italy, still those in the neighborhood came with a purpose.

"During the furlough, because I work for the federal government, they supported me, so I want to support them back,” Buon Appetito customer Katy Connon said.

Great American Takeout Day may be the first organized movement, but the practice of supporting local eateries has been in effect since the coronavirus closed many of them.

"Local business need as much support as we can give them at this time. So, it's a great idea," takeout customer Jason Bowie said.

The drive-up at Davanti Enoteca is only a fraction of its normal business but it keeps some staffers employed at least part-time.

"We don't have many choices. This is the only way we can try to survive,” general manager Carlos Anaya said.

Customers may miss some of the more sophisticated service but the food and good cause are what lures them from their homes.

"I can help out because I normally eat out, so why not keep doing that? I just have to eat it at my house. That is not a problem," Connon said.

Great American Takeout Day won't save the restaurant industry. A month of take out days won't save it either, but the support of the devoted clientele is having an affect hard to put a price on.

"We are so lucky to have so many regular customers that are coming in, texting us and sending messages of support in our social media. We are pretty blessed,” Buon Appetito manager Danijela Popovic said.

The Food and Drug Administration said there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging associated with transmission of the coronavirus. Restaurants are increasing safety measures, and customers are encouraged to wash their hands after touching takeout containers and before eating their food.-- Dave Summers; March 24, 2020


Working Overtime to Prep Meals for Disabled Veterans

She’s working 15-hour days. Not because she has to. Because she wants to.

“Business has been a little tricky,” said Brie Thomas, the owner of We Love Meal Prep.

Thomas owns one of several food-related businesses operating out of the Park 734 Kitchen in San Diego’s East Village.

While the advent of the Coronavirus actually increased her meal prepping business because more people can’t find the food they want to make at home, Thomas working overtime to make an additional 100 meals every day. Why?

“We have found that there are a lot of people in need who are going without food,” she said.

Specifically, disabled veterans. Thomas said the military veterans are already battling health issues, and shopping for food in the world of coronavirus only complicates things.

Pitching in During the Pandemic: Stories of San Diegans Doing Good: Read more stories about San Diegans finding creative ways to lend support. Have you heard about a story we should share? Let us know

“That’s just not OK,” she said as she snapped another lid over a meal.

Thomas started the process of working overtime to make the extra meals last week. She’s made 100 meals every day since then with volunteer chef Anthony Young. Thomas said she used her own money before soliciting donations on her We Love Meal Prep website. Customers could donate meals for the veterans as they bought meals for themselves.

“So far, we’ve raised $3,000,” she said. “It feels really good.”

She also said she feels safe handling and delivering the food. Thomas said the food industry already had high cleanliness standards before the global pandemic.

“Our standards are super high and we’re also taking extra precautions with sanitation,” she said.

Tuesday, Thomas and Young made another 100 meals and hand delivered each one to veterans living in the East Village.

“We’re going to keep it up for as long as the need is there.” --Joe Little; March 24, 2020


Local Nightclubs Get Creative to Help Struggling Staffers

The statewide closure of music venues has hit really, really hard. Even writing the words feels impossible -- the toll of the coronavirus on the overall economy is beyond comprehension, and people in the music industry are often the most vulnerable to shifts in the economy. Some venues, however, are doing what they can to keep spirits high by continuing to book shows out into the year so we all have something to look forward to when this is all over, and some have stepped up for their employees whose very livelihoods have been suddenly taken away, with no predictions on when we can hope things get back to normal.

On Monday, Tim Mays, owner of the Casbah (full disclosure: I'm the publicist of the venue), Brad Lee, who runs the merchandise business for the club, and I went into action to get the word out about a venue merch sale, with proceeds going to staff to try to offset the sudden loss of tips and wages.

The response was beyond anything the club could have expected. There have been 600-plus separate orders, more than three times what is sold during the annual holiday sale.

“I think we can safely call this a gigantic win,” Lee said by email.

Customers have been flocking to classics items like the Casbah hoodie and also lured by a new exclusive shirt, named after bar manager and part-owner Ben Johnson, which is electric blue and features the classic skull & guitar logo in hot pink. Beyond sales, patrons have reached out via Facebook to make donations, including a sizable donation from a longtime patron.

Other venues have stepped up to do the same. Soda Bar, of which Tim Mays is also part-owner, launched their merch sale on Tuesday. Blonde has posted that they're putting together an online store. Brick By Brick has designed an exclusive Brick By Brick Posse shirt that will never be printed again.

Some venues like the Belly Up are also selling gift cards, and in these unprecedented times, every little bit helps.

Check out these links to buy merch:
Soda Bar
Brick By Brick
Music Box
Belly Up
Blonde Bar

-- Rosemary Bystrak; March 20, 2020

How to Help in San Diego County During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Find out what you can do to lend a hand during these difficult times.


San Diego Distilleries Take on Hand Sanitizer Shortage

If you've looked for hand sanitizer, you know stores around San Diego are sold out because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, two local distillers are coming together to make hand sanitizer and give it to workers who interact with people on a daily basis.

"We've been talking about this since the pandemic started," said the owner of Seven Caves Distillery Geoff Longenecker. "We all had the ability to make it, but we were waiting on guidance."

There are a lot of hand sanitizer videos and recipes which explain how people can make their own, but Longenecker said this recipe comes directly from the World Health Organization (WHO).

"There's a lot out there," said Longenecker. "But they are a radically different formula than the one the WHO gave us. This is very strong, very potent, and very effective."

Because hand sanitizer is so hard to find, many people began inflating the price on websites like Amazon. That's why Longenecker and his friend Bill Rogers of Liberty Call Distilling are making sure it ends up in the hands of people who need it.

"If you're staying at home just wash your hands," said Rogers. "If you have to go out and interact with people, you need hand sanitizer."

Rogers says it's not just friends and family who want the hand sanitizer either.

"I've actually had a hospital reach out to me because they want more," said Rogers. "Our big issue is finding the bottles. The hydrogen peroxide was also an issue and glycerol isn't easy to find either."

As San Diego's restaurant industry turns to delivery and take-out, Longenecker says those workers are at higher risk.

"People are out there trying to keep their restaurant afloat by delivering to people in cars and we want to make sure they have a bottle of hand sanitizer," said Longenecker. "If this is a small piece we can do to help, then that's why I'm doing it."

Rogers' distillery Liberty Call was supposed to hold a grand opening for its new Barrio Logan Tasting Room next week. Now those plans have been put on hold.

"We're trying to find ways to keep our employees working," said Rogers. "We're going to see where this goes."

Both Longenecker and Rogers say they understand why the industry is shut down, and agree that self-quarantining is the way to go.

"We're not going to charge for this hand sanitizer," said Longenecker. "But I'll ask for donations to the United States Bartenders Guild because they have a fund set up to help bartenders who are going to be in a lot of financial trouble. -- Nicholas Kjeldgaard; March 19, 2020


North County Bar & Restaurant Owner Donates To-Go Order Sales to Employees

Bars have been ordered to close. Restaurant owners can only offer to-go and delivery orders. The new mandates come as an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

At a time when many in the hospitality industry are losing their jobs, a North County bar owner is making it her mission to provide employees with paychecks.

“I’ve been at Rookies for 15 years,” said Kristin Cates, the owner of Rookies Restaurant and Sports Bar in Oceanside.

A North County owner, whose bar is shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, is working to get her employees paychecks. NBC 7's Lauren Coronado has details.

Cates started working at Rookies as a bartender before gaining ownership. She calls Rookies, "home."

“I met my husband here. Some of the bartenders were at my wedding,” said Cates.

When San Diego County’s Health Officer ordered bars to close and restaurants to stop dine-in serving, Cates said it hit her personally.  

“[There was] a lot of nervousness, a lot of tears, a lot of what-ifs. But when you can’t control anything, you sit back and do the best that you can do,” Cates said.

Cates chose to donate 100% of to-go sales to her employees.

 “[I’ll] either write a check, [give] some cash, whatever it happens to be,” Cates said. She said she plans to divide the proceeds between all 40 Rookies’ employees.  

“Oh, I started crying, a lot of us did,” said Monika Richards, a server at Rookies. She tells NBC 7, at a time that can feel uncertain, this act of kindness brings her hope.

“It’s really heartwarming and really touching. [I give] many, many thanks to her (Kristen), [for] just being that thoughtful kind person that we knew she was,” said Richards.

“They’re the ones who keep my doors open, so I owe it to them. It’s really not a question to me,” said Cates.

Rookies will be open Friday, March 20 through Sunday, March 22 from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. for to-go and delivery orders. If you spend $100 or more, you get a free six-pack of Corona beer. -- Lauren Coronado; March 19, 2020


La Mesa Police Bring Coffee to Weary Costco Shoppers

San Diegans have been flocking to grocery stores to pick up supplies during the coronavirus crisis, and long lines have become the norm. This week, a group of police officers brought a little pick-me-up to weary shoppers at a Costco store in La Mesa: curbside coffee.

Officers with the La Mesa Police Department were seen stopping by the Costco on Fletcher Parkway this week with boxes of fresh Starbucks coffee.

Local resident Evy Hernandez Reyes snapped a few photos and shared them with NBC 7. The pictures show officers pouring coffee for shoppers as they stand in a long line outside the store.

Many of the customers have smiles on their faces, surprised by the simple but nice deed. Hernandez Reyes said she appreciated the kind gesture.

As the coronavirus pandemic changes life in San Diego County and the world, locals have been lining up daily at stores like Costco, waiting to buy food and supplies for their homes.

Hernandez Reyes told NBC 7 people had started lining up at the La Mesa Costco as early as 6 a.m. on the day the officers stopped by with coffee.

Costco locations have been asking customers to line up, carts in hand, and patiently wait to get into the store. Once inside, customers are sometimes directed to other lines where they can wait for a chance to grab hot commodities like toilet paper, paper towels and bottled water – if there’s any left in stock.

Hernandez Reyes said employees at the La Mesa Costco were handing out tickets so customers could get toilet paper in an orderly fashion.

“They had an amazing staff working to keep everything calm and organized,” she added.

Check out more photos of life in San Diego County amid the coronavirus pandemic here. -- Monica Garske; March 18, 2020


Local Distiller Concocts Skrewball Coronavirus Fundraising Campaign

The makers of Skrewball Whiskey, that love-it or leave-it peanut-butter flavored whiskey, are taking a shot at helping out bartenders affected by closures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The locally-based owners of the whiskey – who are also the folks behind Ocean Beach’s OB Noodle House and The Holding Company -- have pledged to donate $1 to the USBG National Charity Foundation’s Bartenders’ Emergency Assistance Program every time a Facebook user shares the distiller’s #SkrewCOVID19 Facebook post.

The service industry, of course, has been extremely hard hit by the pandemic, as government mandates have caused the temporary shuttering of virtually all bars and in-service dining at restaurants in California and elsewhere.

Skrewball, which posted the share challenge on Monday, said Tuesday that they had reached a total of $60,000 in the campaign so far and had donated another $100,000 on top of that.

"To all of our loyal Skrewballs, we have seen an overwhelming amount of support for members of the service industry around the nation that have been affected by the spread of COVID-19," Skrewball posted on FB Tuesday. "Every share is spreading much-needed awareness, and for that, we thank you."

Facebook users can go to Skrewball’s page to find the post and share it through Friday, March 20. -- Eric S. Page, March 17, 2020


Aztec Brews Livestream Shows for Housebound Fans

With the aggressive transmission of the novel coronavirus worldwide, so too, have been the responses by various levels of leadership. Just last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom set guidelines to discourage gatherings of more than 250 people and encouraging 6 feet of social distancing for events under that threshold. As other cities and states set their own mandates, on Sunday he modified his own directive to include the closure of all bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries. On Monday, Pres. Donald Trump issued federal guidelines (for a minimum of 15 days) that no more than 10 people should gather. The moves are necessary for the health of our community, of course, but they are having a huge impact on the local nightlife and live music communities.

Enter Tristan Faulk-Webster, local musician, artist, and partner at Aztec Brewing Company in Vista, California. Aztec is currently staying open for to-go beer sales and brewery operations, so he sent a message via Facebook soliciting bands who would want to play Aztec for live-streaming shows. The responses have swelled since the Sunday post.

“We're able to sell bottles and kegs and growlers-fills to-go to the general public,' Faulk-Webster said on Monday by phone. "As far as the bands, it will just be them and like two or three extra people, so we'll be well within the [10-person] guideline.”

While the idea is rewarding for Faulk-Webster, it is time-consuming.

“A lot of today has just been a lot of time on the phone, talking to everyone and seeing when they're available," Faulk-Webster said. "I've had a huge outpouring of interest.”

Faulk-Webster said most of this week is booked with performers, starting with Hailey Wild, who will perform at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, with new artist announcements each morning via the Aztec Brewing Facebook page. Aztec has a PayPal account where viewers can donate, which will also display tipping options for the performers while they play.

Is Faulk-Webster worried that Aztec will be deemed non-essential and have to close?

“I've been getting different messages, but for now I'm sticking to the plan we have in place until we get official word that we can't," Faulk-Webster said. "It would be really tight, but once we got going again I think things would go back to normal. We're not a huge operation, so that gives us a certain degree of flexibility.”

As local, state and federal guidelines are rapidly changing, perhaps live music, from the comfort of our homes, is the new normal, at least for now. -- Rosemary Bystrak; March 17, 2020


Man Runs Toilet Paper Exchange on Encinitas Street Corner

Disturbed by empty store shelves and reports of hoarding during the coronavirus crisis, a man stood on a Southern California street corner and held up a homemade cardboard sign with a simple request: “Share your toilet paper.”

Jonny Blue told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday that the response to his impromptu toilet paper exchange in Encinitas was immediate and positive.

Drivers honked horns in support and stopped to drop off rolls of toilet paper. Just as quickly, Blue would hand rolls to those in need.

Blue gave a few rolls to a grateful motorist who said he came up empty at several stores.

“He was like, ‘Do you want me to pay you?’ I said, ‘No, man. Somebody gave it to me. Take it.’ ”

The 33-year-old told the newspaper he made his sign after a friend had a difficult time finding diapers and essential supplies for his kids.

“I think people want a sense of community,” Blue said. “When things are really challenging, people are looking to band together and be unified." -- Associated Press; March 17, 2020


People in North County Rally to Help Seniors Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

“DO YOU NEED HELP DURING PANDEMIC?” That’s the message Kristin Woods of Encinitas posted on her Nextdoor page.

She was stunned by what happened next -- 140 people responded to the message but most of them didn’t need help, they wanted to give help to their neighbors in need during the coronavirus crisis.

“We didn’t expect this big of a production,” said Woods. "When I started I thought it would be, like, five of us on a text chain -- like, 'Mary down the street needs groceries.' 'I’ve got it.' ”

Woods said she began getting private messages from other people on Nextdoor, the social media platform that connects neighborhoods. Within days, she had a committee of team leaders and a volunteer force ready to run errands for those who are self-isolating to avoid contact with the coronavirus.

NBC 7 met Danyella Burciaga outside the Encinitas Walmart store where she’d just picked up prescriptions for an elderly couple now confined to their home.

As senior citizens are told to stay home, local volunteers are stepping up to support them. NBC 7's Allison Ash has more.

“With all this free time it’s the least I can do,” explained Burciaga, a University of San Diego masters student who teaches at a local elementary school. “I know that a lot of elderly aren’t able to go outside right now, and I’m already at the store picking up last-minute things, so it’s really no hassle at all.”

The spirit of volunteerism became overwhelming for Woods, who said the group didn’t have the kind of demand they expected but that is expected to change.

One of the group’s members is the assistant director of the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center, Lizzy Weiss, who told NBC 7 that her agency is sending out letters to seniors from Encinitas, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe to let them know there are people willing to help them get through the coronavirus crisis while senior centers are closed.

“Even if they just need a friendly phone call to just check in, we’re happy to help with volunteers,” said Weiss, who spoke via Facetime because she is self-quarantined at home with a sore throat.

Weiss said her agency is reaching out to local grocery stores to let them know that seniors who need to have their groceries delivered during the crisis can count on volunteers to handle it.

NBC 7 also spoke to a Meals on Wheels representative, who said they are in need of volunteers now more than ever. Many of the people who deliver meals are over 65 years old and are now self-isolating to help contain the spread of coronavirus. To volunteer, visit here. -- By Allison Ash; March 16, 2020

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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