Greetings, fellow Avilones. Welcome to February, the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. By the time you read this, our country will have a new administration up and running. Political preferences aside, I am sure you all share my desire that rhetoric and polarization will calm down so greater focus can be directed at defeating the destructive pandemic that continues to disrupt and take lives, and we can find our way back to normal.

For those of you most alert observers, you may have noticed, perhaps with concern for my well-being, the new photo of me that appears at the top of this column. If it seems that I have greatly aged overnight, possibly due to the stress of 2020, rest assured that’s not the case. About two months ago, I met a newer resident of our community who had only my newsletter photo as a point of reference. When we came face to face for the first time, he said something to the effect that I look different than he expected. While not a direct blow to my self-esteem, it was a reminder that I had meant to update my published photo for quite some time but never got around to it since I am one of those camera-shy people. So, rather than posing for a new portrait, I instead searched the Foundation files for any group check passing photos that included me. Finding a current one, I decided to see if I could figure out how to “PhotoShop” crop myself. Much to my surprise, I, who lacks anything beyond the most basic computer skills, was able to pull it off. Yay!

Just in case you are wondering, the photo that used to appear with my column was taken in 2006. So, fifteen years have passed, and I hope I have aged gracefully enough. After all, 70 is the new 55, isn’t it?

Moving on, I want to welcome the Avila Valley Advisory Council’s new board of officers for 2021. Taking the reins as Chairperson is Steve Benedict. Joining him are Vice-Chair Kirt Collins, Secretary Margaret Greenough, and Treasurer Denise Allen. These four have served for several years on the Council and are to be commended for stepping up when called upon to accept officer positions. This is also the moment to thank three retiring AVAC officers who, following years of service, can finally step aside after grooming their replacements. 

Kudos to Past Chair Jim Hartig, Past Secretary Mary Matakovich, and Past Treasurer Julia Hartzell. You “veterans” have performed admirably while setting a high bar for others to follow. And last but not least, retiring AVAC board member Anne Brown was publicly acknowledged for her 20+ years of service on the Council by our new SLO County District 3 Supervisor Dawn Oritz-Legg.

You will be missed, Anne! As I have often done in the past, let me again encourage all you Avilones to learn about and/or participate in the Avila Valley Advisory Council’s meetings. Known as “AVAC,” this body is the closest thing we have to an Avila Beach governing body, one in an important advisory capacity, and remains the best way to learn about issues in our local community. Visit: avac-avila.org for information.

Sunrise on Avila Beach, CA

By the way, at the January AVAC meeting, I learned of some helpful resources you can contact regarding COVID-19 issues and updates. SLO County Public Health Department has a “live” Hotline manned Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The number is (805)543-2444. Dignity Health offers a recorded COVID-19 Hotline message at (805)332-8276 and a website with lots of Covid-19 related information you can access by logging onto dignityhealth.org/central-coast/locations/frenchhospital/coronavirus.

Even though it took a while to impact us, SLO County has been experiencing an alarming influx of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that should cause great concern. The stories I read daily in the L.A. Times convey heart-breaking tales of lives being turned upside down, of people dying, and of businesses shutting their doors permanently. 

Since SLO County seems to be seen as a somewhat safer haven, many people from other parts of the state experiencing greater outbreaks and restrictions are making their way to our towns. Especially Avila Beach, which seems as busy as ever, resulting in even more likely exposure to the virus. This past year has been the most difficult ever for most of us, as we suffer more restrictions and isolation than thought possible.

In closing, let me say how much I look forward to the day when I am no longer compelled to write about the distressing times we now face. It’s been challenging to find a balance between reporting on the bad news and pointing out the good that also deserves mention. In fact, I could use some help with the “good.” If you have any feel-good stories to share about neighbors who have stepped up to help neighbors, I welcome the opportunity to provide some acknowledgment via this publication. Send your “shout-outs” to avilafoundation@gmail.com. 

That’s it for now, fellow Avilones. See you at the beach!