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Keeping Communities Together at a Distance

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Communities across the country are finding unique ways to be together during these uncertain times.

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Communities across the country are finding unique ways to be together during these uncertain times.

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People across the U.S. are finding ways to raise spirits in difficult times

With stay-at-home and social distancing orders in place around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people miss physically coming together. But many are still finding community — often in touching ways — at a distance.

OnStar is pitching in to help keep those same communities safe, wherever possible. OnStar Advisors are still available and ready to help 24/7 for those times when you need to leave home. If you do have to head out for groceries, for an emergency or because you’re an essential worker, Advisors are there to give you added peace of mind while on the road. In addition, we have made Crisis Assist*16a available to current eligible owners, which means specially trained Advisors can help assist with medical emergencies, screen for COVID‑19 symptoms and communicate that information to First Responders, as well as provide routing assistance to COVID-19 testing facilities.

Our Advisors are always ready to help, and in light of some of the examples we’ve seen, it’s just one more way of hanging together while we’re far apart.

Portraits from Afar

Photographers around the country are finding creative ways to bring people together and even raise spirits. In Los Angeles, California, professional filmmaker Andrew Putschoegl photographs people in nearby neighborhoods from the sidewalk and even from his car. The project, called “Together, Apart,” sometimes allows him to have short conversations with subjects while maintaining a safe distance. So far, Putschoegl has taken pictures of hundreds of people and dozens of pets, including a cat on a leash.

“I was really feeling creatively challenged in the past few weeks and wanted to make sure that I was continuing to do things in my life that make a difference and keep moving me forward as an artist,” says Putschoegl.

But the point of his project is also to maintain the communities that already exist and build new ones. “I want to help people see that there are others going through the same thing in their own neighborhoods. Even if it’s short, even if it’s from a distance, there’s still something that is fulfilled from having those personal human connections,” says Putschoegl.

House Party on the Block

Sometimes the best cure for stress can be moving to the beat. While neighborhoods all across the country are finding unique ways to be together under stay-at-home orders, few gatherings are so obviously joyful as the ones held by residents in Buffalo, New York.

Every night at the same time, neighbors of all ages assemble on their front lawns, driveways, porches and even balconies to show off their moves as they dance to four different songs. Couples, families and singles keep a safe distance from each other while grooving to the beats with huge smiles on their faces before heading back inside their homes.

Music matters outside of Buffalo, too. In Oakland, California, residents filter outside of their homes to dance to music resonating throughout their neighborhood. And in Lexington, Kentucky, DJ NytroMan, whose real name is Leo Pineda, spins beats from his driveway for his neighbors, who venture onto their front yards to dance and have some fun. He also live streams the whole event on social media so people from around the world can get involved. “My goal is to keep doing this movement every Friday evening until the quarantine is lifted. I want to help as many people as I can by giving them a little hope and bringing a smile to their day,” says Pineda.

Chalk Affirmations

Another way people are spreading joy is through sidewalk chalk art. If you’ve taken a walk in your neighborhood, you may have noticed drawings on the sidewalks or walls. Children, families and art teachers are trying to brighten up their communities by displaying amazing works of art.

In Fort Worth, Texas, artist Jan Riggins and her 13-year-old daughter, Olivia, are using chalk pastels to draw vibrant animals and other creations. This includes massive jellyfish, butterflies, frogs and tarantulas — even koi fish that look like they’re swimming through the sidewalk.

“In my neighborhood, there are so many people who walk or drive past the house. People comment all the time and send us little messages about how much they and their kids enjoy having something to look forward to when they leave the house,” says Riggins. “Some neighbors even drop little snack bags on our porch.”

Riggins and her daughter want to inspire others to create art as well. She says all you need is a pack of chalk, a sidewalk or driveway, and your imagination!

Drive-In Life

Even movie theaters, which have closed, are getting creative during these tough times. In Pleasant Grove, Utah, Water Gardens Cinema 6 converted itself into a drive-in theater. Temporary screens were set up in a dirt lot next to the theater so moviegoers can enjoy their favorite films from the comfort and safety of their cars.

“The community came together to help make this possible. Businesses and others donated equipment and their time to help convert our lot into a drive-in,” says general manager Kyle Larsen. One night someone even bought popcorn from the concession stand for all the moviegoers.

“It’s not even about making money,” says Larsen. “We want to make sure our employees are getting paid and that we’re giving the community something to do. We’re bringing people together safely.”

Local churches are also getting creative when it comes to holding services. For instance, Bethel Church in Evansville, Indiana, is holding drive-in services. The pastor addresses the sea of cars in the parking lot while standing on a stage in front of an LED screen outside of the church. Churchgoers can listen to the Sunday sermon through the sound system as well as on a local radio station and the church’s mobile app. Lead Pastor Dr. Prince D. Samuel says, “People have been isolating themselves, so we knew it was important for them to have a place to gather safely and at a distance. Even though they can’t touch one another, they can see each other through their car windows and wave. It really creates a sense of community.”

Coming Together as a Community

The health crisis has people stuck inside their homes, unable to meet up with friends and family, visit neighbors or even do basic, fun activities such as going to the theater. But despite this unique situation, communities — and even businesses — are finding creative and new ways to stay closer together than ever before. They brighten people’s days through art, take portraits of neighbors and friends, play music for an entire neighborhood and give residents a chance to safely watch a movie together and feel more “normal.”

Speaking of art, OnStar has created a way for kids and adults to do something together at home while thanking frontline heroes — color! Get those crayons and markers out and download any — or all — of the print-ready pages.

It’s great to know that in a time of need, communities, neighbors and businesses are there for each other. And just remember, if you do have to leave the house in your vehicle, OnStar Advisors are there for you as well, 24/7. We’re ready to help, and together, we can get through these tough times.