Porch Music Spreads Joy in Time of Confinement

OUTLOOK photo
Beong Kim and his wife, Bonnie Wongtrakool, have been putting on weekly porch concerts for their Pasadena neighbors to help spread some cheer during social distancing.

For those strolling the tree-lined knolls surrounding Pasadena during this time of social distancing, you might just happen upon a bit of live classical music, wafting delicately through the air.
It’s not an illusion brought on by cabin fever or a child practicing his instrument, as city Councilmember Andy Wilson initially thought when he first heard neighbor Beong Kim playing his cello out on his front porch.
“I thought I heard live music playing, and assumed some kid was practicing, but then I realized, ‘Hey, that’s not a hack job, that’s really pretty good,’” Wilson laughed.
Toward the end of “confinement, week no. 1,” a certain silence prompted Beong Kim to take up his cello, an instrument he’s played on and off over the years ever since studying music at the Colburn School, years before he decided to pursue law as an academic track.
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City Urges Face Masks, Social Distancing as COVID-19 Cases Grow

With a dramatic rise among Pasadena residents testing positive for COVID-19 this week — totaling 179 cases and 12 deaths associated with the disease as of Tuesday — city officials said they are monitoring social distancing and the use of face masks to try and slow the spread of the virus, as well as continuing to plan for alternate care sites if necessary.
About 47.5% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases were among Pasadena residents 60 years and younger. All the fatalities were of people between 49 and 93 years old, and were associated with long-term care facilities as residents or employees, and had underlying health conditions, the city said in a statement.
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AbilityFirst Supports Clients Working on Front Lines

Rafael Vera just began his new job at Smart & Final when measures to curb the spread of coronavirus hit. Since then, with support from AbilityFirst, he’s been working hard to keep the store stocked.

In recent weeks, grocery store employees have been working harder than ever to accommodate the increased demand triggered by “Safer at Home” policies to slow the spread of coronavirus.
One such employee, Rafael Vera, is a client with AbilityFirst who began his new job at Smart & Final the week the pandemic broke in California and local officials announced measures to encourage residents to stay at home.
Vera, 30, said he is proud to be working on the front lines as a sales clerk and happy to be helping the public during this trying time.
“We’re super busy, it’s hard to determine when exactly it will get very, very busy, but it’s always hectic on the weekends,” said Vera, who’s grown accustomed to wearing a mask and a double layer of gloves to work at the front-end of the store, restocking items and cleaning carts and door handles.
“I try to give people a good experience and brighten up their day; I really enjoy helping people out in general,” he said.
Vera, a Pasadena High School graduate, first came to his job at Smart & Final through the AbilityFirst supported employment program, which gives guidance in building a resume and filling out applications, as well as job training and valuable life skills like time management.
From the beginning, program officials were able to determine that Vera had the ability to work and a natural interest in connecting with others. However, he didn’t quite know how to start the process of getting a job, and he would feel anxious anytime he needed to ask questions. Before he could begin applying to jobs, he needed to get comfortable with the application process.
Since Vera enjoys being around people, his job developer at AbilityFirst helped him look for job openings that involve interacting with the public. He also worked on tools to increase his prospects, like studying math so that he would be able to use a cash register.
AbilityFirst CEO Lori Gangemi said part of the secret success of its job placement is that the nonprofit takes a very individualized approach to all its programs, including supported employment.
AbilityFirst, an organization that advocates for and alongside people with developmental disabilities and their families, has helped more than 500 people with disabilities find employment over the years and has supported even more in successfully maintaining their jobs.
“Our staff work closely with clients to determine their strengths as well as their desires and matches those with positions available with prospective employers,” she said, adding that they identify jobs through traditional methods as well as with the help of board members and other supporters. “Our clients are good, reliable workers because their skills and desires have been matched well with the job and because of the strong support they receive on the job from AbilityFirst job coaches.”
For Vera, even though he knew what kind of job he would like, he needed to train for the interview process by doing mock interviews to gain confidence in answering and asking questions. That also helped him create a daily check list, including dressing properly and making eye contact.
Taking a rest from his busy schedule in the break room recently, Vera said how much he appreciates AbilityFirst helping him find this job.
“I came to AbilityFirst through the regional center — it’s a great organization and was key in helping me apply to this job,” he said.
Vera also has an AbilityFirst job coach, Alisa Marin, who stops by during the week to see how he is progressing and make sure there is clear communication with his managers on expectations and performance.
“Rafael has been handling his new job and these unusual circumstances very well; he was supposed to only work part time but due to the situation they asked him to come on full time, so it’s a lot,” she said. “There’s a lot to be done, so he’s working hard. He tries to make each customer feel good.”
Meanwhile, Vera said even though working at a grocer is a lot of work during a pandemic, he enjoys using the money to help provide his family with some extra “hazard pay.”
He’s also learned about interacting well with others, even though for a while he had to help enact some rationing measures so people wouldn’t hoard at the store.
“I’ve seen my fair share of panic buying … the first two weeks it became really chaotic and we had to implement rations and tell people ‘Only one pasta, one carton of eggs, one milk’; people didn’t like it but you had to roll with the punches like that,” he said, adding that he also likes the fast pace he’s grown accustomed to at the store lately. “I enjoy my coworkers and my manager, it’s a really good store and a good company. I’m excited to continue to work here once this is all over too.”

City Preps For Possible COVID-19 Surge Amid Somber Meeting

The city of Pasadena, in partnership with Huntington Hospital and the Pasadena Convention Center, launched an alternate medical care facility recently to be used only if the hospital surpasses capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Pasadena officials convened the special City Council meeting this week in somber recognition of the growing personal toll on the community as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue rising at an alarming rate.
Mayor Terry Tornek initiated a moment of silence after officials recited the customary Pledge of Allegiance.
“I ask that we all take a moment to reflect on the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that we are facing as a community today,” he said. “Also, that we share the grief and the pain that we have suffered due to death and illness in Pasadena and our nation and around the world. Please call upon whatever spiritual strength you can summon to comfort and support others and to hope for an early end to this terrible time.” Continue reading “City Preps For Possible COVID-19 Surge Amid Somber Meeting”

Idealab Hatches Plan to Feed Families in Need, Bolster Restaurants

The Idealab team, including Managing Directors Tom McGovern and Alex Maleki, has launched a donation drive to feed families in need by ordering through local restaurants.

When Idealab Managing Directors Alex Maleki and Tom McGovern recently heard that Friends In Deed was going to close its food pantry for up to two weeks, putting the local families who depend on its kitchen staples at risk of hunger, they put their heads together.
As if the coronavirus pandemic and its wake of economic ruin wasn’t already bad enough for those left unemployed — many from the restaurant or services sector — but now a local food pantry providing basic dietary needs had to close after an employee exhibited signs of falling ill with COVID-19.
In a serendipitous moment, the Idealab partners lamented about the fate of their favorite Old Town Pasadena eateries, also standing idle due to the “Safer at Home” order that bans public gatherings. What if they helped out one of their longtime favorites, the Kitchen Italian Café and Pizzeria, by ordering a bunch of pizzas and delivering them to the hungry clientele families at Friends In Deed? Wait, what if everybody who could, did the same? Continue reading “Idealab Hatches Plan to Feed Families in Need, Bolster Restaurants”

AbilityFirst Supports Clients Working on Front Lines

Photo courtesy AbilityFirst
Rafael Vera just began his new job at Smart & Final when measures to curb the spread of coronavirus hit. Since then, with support from AbilityFirst, he’s been working hard to keep the store stocked.

In recent weeks, grocery store employees have been working harder than ever to accommodate the increased demand triggered by “Safer at Home” policies to slow the spread of coronavirus.
One such employee, Rafael Vera, is a client with AbilityFirst who began his new job at Smart & Final the week the pandemic broke in California and local officials announced measures to encourage residents to stay at home.
Vera, 30, said he is proud to be working on the front lines as a sales clerk and happy to be helping the public during this trying time.
“We’re super busy, it’s hard to determine when exactly it will get very, very busy, but it’s always hectic on the weekends,” said Vera, who’s grown accustomed to wearing a mask and a double layer of gloves to work at the front-end of the store, restocking items and cleaning carts and door handles.
“I try to give people a good experience and brighten up their day; I really enjoy helping people out in general,” he said.
Vera, a Pasadena High School graduate, first came to his job at Smart & Final through the AbilityFirst supported employment program, which gives guidance in building a resume and filling out applications, as well as job training and valuable life skills like time management.
Continue reading “AbilityFirst Supports Clients Working on Front Lines”

PCF Jumps to Relieve Nonprofits Serving Most Vulnerable Amid Coronavirus

In times of crisis, the Pasadena Community Foundation is ready to move.
PCF, which is dedicated to managing charitable assets and earmarking money to nonprofit organizations of all kinds, didn’t expect a deadly pandemic like coronavirus to become the crisis in question, but the Foundation was at the ready recently to distribute emergency grant funds. It has focused on relieving organizations serving seniors and distributing food and supplies to low-income individuals and families which will help fight the growing food insecurity amid economic and social distancing fallout from COVID-19.
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After Closing Doors, Noor Offers Free Soup to Seniors

Photo courtesy Noor
Noor staff prepares the distribution of its free, community soup recently. The premier events site is giving away vegetarian, hearty soups every Friday from 3-5 p.m. until it can reopen.

There’s nothing quite like soup for the soul, and during time of quarantine and social isolation, that rings true more than ever, Noor owner Robert Shahnazarian and his wife, Maggie, discovered recently.
The owners of the Pasadena-based premier event and wedding venue were recently faced with the painful task of cancelling all planned celebrations at its site and shutting down operations amid the “Safer at Home” order put in place throughout L.A. County and city of Pasadena. Like many small businesses, Noor had to furlough or lay off some employees until further notice, and that act cut deep.
They still had a large order of food perishables for an upcoming, event-filled weekend — before having to shutter its doors — and Shahnazarian eyed the remainder of his dejected staff, standing idly by. He had heard that seniors in the community, already challenged by isolation, were suffering further from food insecurity and social distancing measures, and not able to find what they needed at the grocers due to the massive hoarding seen the first few weeks of COVID-19 fears.
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Pasadena Humane Society Aids Pets During Crisis

Photo courtesy Pasadena Humane Society
A Pasadena Humane Society volunteer recently distributes food as part of its Helping Paws program, a pet food bank offering free food and supplies to animal owners in need. The nonprofit expects more people to struggle with feeding and keeping their pets amid the coronavirus fallout.

With the effects of the coronavirus trickling into every crevice of modern-day sustainability, the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA is gearing up to help those it knows are most impacted in times of crisis: unemployed people and their pets.
Even those people who had been doing relatively well economically are expected to struggle financially because of the closures that were enacted to stem the spread of COVID-19, especially if they are part of the retail, restaurant, hotel or service industries. In times of hardship, people often need to abandon their rented homes and apartments with their beloved animals.
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