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Life Here

November 19, 2020 By Jane Walker

A President for the Times

Sally Gripman turned over her notebook, hats and even the curtain rod to her successor at the end of October. The notebook isn’t surprising, but the hats and curtain rod are unusual accessories handed down to the incoming Resident Council president at Paradise Valley Estates. Her year-long tenure has been anything but typical. By February the pandemic started to dominate the news and by mid-March the 76-acre Life Plan Community campus was in full quarantine.

CEO Kevin Burke asked Sally to participate in the community’s response to the COVID-19 virus from the beginning. While she was the only non-staff member included in team conference calls, there were so many problems that required quick solutions that Sally pitched right in with the staff.

Kevin made an additional request from Sally, asking her to join the COVID-19 livestream broadcasts, which updated on the latest virus and response details from the Northern California community. She agreed and helped make livestreams memorable. Her wardrobe — especially the hats worn because she couldn’t get to the hairdresser — became a point of interest. She was surprised to hear that residents were paying attention to what she was wearing. And her curtain rod? An easy way to demonstrate what six feet of social distancing really looked like.

Sally and fellow resident and writer Liz Wildberger collaborated to form the Covid Quintet. Liz penned satirical lyrics about COVID-19 and mixed them with upbeat show tunes — creating 17 renditions in all. The live musical performances have been a highlight of the broadcasts.

When I asked Sally if a life experience helped her prepare for the challenges of her 2020 Resident Council presidency, she thought back to her time as a high school parent in Mission Viejo. She was instrumental in putting on one of their early grad night parties. She had an army of 400 volunteers and a tractor trailer full of decorations (that caught fire halfway through their preparations). The crisis put her organizational skills to the test and taught her important lessons. She became an efficient fundraiser (they raffled off a brand-new, highly-sought-after red Miata) and communicated closely with her committee to avoid being blindsided in meetings. Despite the challenge, the event was a huge success, with 92 percent of the grads participating and a fundraising surplus that provided event seed money for the next ten years!

Sally’s plain talk about the virus and guidelines were urgent yet reassuring. She spoke directly about the need to be careful and cooperative to keep PVE virus-free. In one memorable broadcast, she told viewers about her daughter getting COVID-19, even though they were doing everything they could to be safe. It was a plea for all to be vigilant. Thankfully, her daughter is recovered and well.

Sally’s presidency closed with an interesting chapter. Her granddaughter is now working on research related to the pandemic at the Chan-Zuckerburg Bio-Hub in San Francisco. Sounds like Sally’s granddaughter is a chip off the block — working to solve problems and finding ways to help keep her community healthy and strong.

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