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Coastal Roots Farms in Encinitas plans to continue to distribute food to those who need it most after sweeping health restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic have left many North County residents out of work. Courtesy photos
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Coronavirus pandemic sparks compassion across North County

REGION — San Marcos resident Lauri Trunnell said she was devastated on March 13 when she found out her employer, the San Diego Safari Park, had to close its doors as a result of the growing coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 160,000 people and claimed the lives of thousands of others worldwide.

“I felt extremely melancholy on my last day because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see them for quite a while as we are not allowed to visit,” said Trunnell, who has worked at Safari Park for more than a decade. “I intently listened to the roar of Izu, our lion, one last time, and watched the baby elephants playing in the mud. My hope is to get back to normal again and see these beautiful creatures as part of my regular day again.”

Although March 13 was a somber day for Trunnell, she was surprised to find out she would still get her paycheck despite the weeks-long closure. From there Trunnell said she had to share her “blessing” with others by helping those who needed it. The 25-year resident of San Marcos went to Facebook to offer any help in running errands or picking up groceries to those in need.

“I feel that we have been so blessed and even though my husband lost 100% of his business overnight in the past month — that in crisis times, we have to try to help others despite what we are going through,” Trunnell said. “We should all be here for each other.”

Trunnell kept her word and even offered a neighbor the chance to pick fruit from her own yard.

Trunnell isn’t the only one offering a helping hand. Tim Hoh in Oceanside took to NextDoor to offer any seniors help in picking up groceries.

Hoh, who has lived in North County for about 10 years, said he knows firsthand what it’s like to need support from others.

“I grew up in Crestline, California, where wildfires were present,” Hoh said. “I was evacuated in 2004 and 2007, and received a lot of help from the local community. I feel that during these hard times it is important to come together as a community. God has blessed my wife and I in these times so we feel if we are healthy and able, we should help.”

In Vista, helping one another through the crisis has become a group effort. Danielle Pickerill — who helps manage the Buy Nothing Group in Vista, a group of people who share and trade items at no charge — said she has seen many members share in unprecedented ways during the pandemic. For example, neighbors have been offering items such as cleaning products, diapers and cleaning wipes — all products that have been hard-sought at grocers.

Members have also offered babysitting services for parents who must work while their children’s schools are closed. While others are offering toys and activities to keep little ones busy during the next few weeks, Pickerill said.

“The coronavirus is definitely stirring up the fear but we band together as neighbors,” said Pickerill, who herself has given out food. “We are brothers and sisters of this Earth on this journey together. We’re here to help one another.”

Meanwhile, Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas plans to continue to offer high-quality produce at its pay-what-you-can Farm Stand, which is open Thursday and Sunday.

Kesha Dorsey Spoor, philanthropy manager for Coastal Roots Farm, said the nonprofit has had to make adjustments to its operation as a result of the pandemic but is still working to provide food to the community.

“We will continue to get food into the hands of vulnerable members of our community,” Spoor said. “We have modified our protocols in order to participate in social distancing and in order to minimize contact, prioritizing safety for all involved.”

More importantly, the members behind Coastal Roots Farm are determined to stay committed to its mission, Spoor said.

“Our tradition offers guidance during the most trying times,” Spoor said. “While our programs may need to be modified for the foreseeable future, our commitment to a nourishing community is unwavering. We are proud to offer dignified, equitable access to organic, nutrient-dense food to community members who need it most, and are grateful to play a part in filling this critical need.”

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