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In need of generosity: Giving Tuesday adds a second day of generosity to the calendar for organizations struggling to meet the community's needs

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For the first time in 30 years, the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is conducting its annual spring plant sale online.

Organized by Cal Poly student Emma Pirtle as her senior project, the virtual plant sale runs from May 6 through 17 and will feature a variety of Mediterranean plants, from succulents to drought-tolerant species and area natives, according to Development Director Heather Billing.

Although the garden isn't open to the public right now due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, people are still there to ensure the plants in the greenhouse don't die and the plants in the ground stay healthy. That way, when it's time to open back up again, the Botanical Garden is ready to continue serving its purpose.

"Our mission is to connect people with nature, and plants are just one of the ways. Even if you live in an apartment, you can have houseplants," Billing said. "They just bring life."

Billing said plant sales in the spring and fall are one of the Botanical Garden's main sources of revenue. The upcoming Giving Tuesday Now happens to coincide with the Botanical Garden's biannual plant sale.

The nonprofit is one of several organizations in SLO County participating in Giving Tuesday Now on May 5. Since 2012, Giving Tuesday has taken place after Thanksgiving as a day encouraging people to do good, according to Caryn Stein, the head of communications for Giving Tuesday. Adding a second day to the calendar this year is an "emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19," she said in response to emailed questions.

"It's designed to be a day when we an all come together and give back in all ways, no matter who or where we are," Stein said. "#GivingTuesdayNow is about giving of all types—some may choose to give a financial contribution to their favorite cause or a fundraising drive, others will opt to reach out to neighbors, start an advocacy campaign, donate goods or extra supplies, share gratitude to front-line workers and those keeping us safe. If you can show generosity and share kindness, you have something to give!"

On the last Giving Tuesday—Dec. 3, 2019—$2 billion in donations were generated in the United States, Stein said, and millions of volunteers offered their time, voices, money, and goods. She said some organizations use the day to focus on fundraising, while others organize community events, advocacy campaigns, or just use it as a day to say thanks.

For the Botanical Garden, Giving Tuesday is a way to generate a little bit of extra revenue that can be put toward the plans and permits they need to complete a trails and gardens project on 150 acres of land in El Chorro Regional Park, Billing said.

In addition to getting ready for the plant sale, Billing said the Botanical Garden is using this time to work on those plans. They are weed-whacking for a future trail network as well as continuing to work on the seven gardens featuring plants from each of the seven different Mediterranean climates.

SHOP VIRTUAL You won't be able to peruse the pots of plants at the SLO Botanical Garden this spring, but you can still support the nonprofit by purchasing your favorites virtually for the upcoming plant sale. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO BOTANICAL GARDEN
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO Botanical Garden
  • SHOP VIRTUAL You won't be able to peruse the pots of plants at the SLO Botanical Garden this spring, but you can still support the nonprofit by purchasing your favorites virtually for the upcoming plant sale.

"We're in a week-to-week situation out here," Billing said, adding that when the time comes to open to the public, they want to be ready. "If anything, pandemics are a good time to plan."

While an organization like SLO Botanical Garden is looking to generate funding on May 5, other organziations, such as Santa Barbara County's Community Partners in Caring is searching for volunteers.

Community Partners in Caring lost 90 percent of its volunteers at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the nonprofit's volunteers are older than 65, so when the stay-at-home orders went into place, those volunteers had to stay home.

But the people who Community Partners serves still need the services the organization provides. Homebound seniors still need help getting groceries and prescriptions, doing yard work, and just to know that someone is looking out for them. So Community Partners put out the call and was able to replenish about half of its volunteer force, according to Marketing Director/Outreach Coordinator Kaley Wise.

"We were able to gather about 40-something new volunteers," Wise said. "We had to get pretty much all new volunteers, and it was pretty amazing to see the community come together and be so willing to help us out during this time."

The current crisis has really shed a light on a serious issue that already needed a solution, Wise said. Community Partners calls the population it serves "orphaned seniors," or "people who are aging in place without anyone."

In the last five years, the nonprofit has helped 819 seniors with their needs. Most of their clients are older folks who are aging at home but might not necessarily have family close by to help them out.

"We're kind of breaking that barrier and helping them really reintegrate within society," Wise said. "We really just do anything so that they know there's someone out there looking out for them."

Although the goal in the past was to get seniors out of their homes and into the world, obviously Community Partners doesn't want its clients to leave their homes right now because they are members of a vulnerable population. So operations have changed to maintain social distancing, but Wise said they can still organize rides for medically necessary appointments and pick up and drop off groceries and prescriptions.

"Our main goal right now is getting them food and making sure they're stocked up. ... We do reassurance calls," Wise said. "We're just making sure they're OK, and I think it's really nice that they know even in this time that there's still somebody looking after them." Δ

Reach Editor Camillia Lanham at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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