Tri-Valley Pulled Together in 2020

The Tri-Valley cities of Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Danville, and San Ramon have been nationally lauded, year after year, for the quality of life they offer residents. People are drawn to this family-friendly region for its top-rated schools, excellent weather, highly educated workforce, and business culture of innovation. Newcomers often comment on the warm and friendly sense of community found in the Tri-Valley.

NOTE from Hacienda: Before we go further, we wanted to mention that, in speaking with people about their stories and the stories of others, we were overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of what we heard. We are attempting to capture the essence of this in the following but, quite simply, did not have the capacity to relate everything; a further testament to the resilience and responsiveness of the Tri-Valley community to our current times. Please know that if you do not see something here that you are aware of that is worthy of mention, we would enjoy hearing from you and hope that you will continue to share what is being done in the area.

At any other time, it would be easy to appreciate all that the Tri-Valley has to offer but 2020 has been far from typical. A global pandemic has ravaged the world, the nation, and the state and left the national and local economies in tatters. The challenges brought by the pandemic are far from over. Even so, there are reasons to be hopeful about the future. As the year draws to a close, safe and effective vaccines are expected to be available soon. Public officials and community leaders continue their work to lessen the effects of the pandemic on residents and businesses. In the face of this new disease, Tri-Valley residents and organizations have pulled together to offer and share support during the most difficult time many have ever seen.

A Caring Community

The past year has witnessed countless examples of generosity, support, and resourcefulness within the Tri-Valley. The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line healthcare providers was a huge issue early in the spread of the pandemic. Many in the community worked tirelessly to bridge that gap, including the Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore school districts, which donated masks and gloves to local hospitals. Many other organizations, companies, and individuals also donated PPE, funds for PPE, or made and donated masks to local nurses and others who needed these supplies.

The Tri-Valley Asian Association (TVAA) raised thousands of dollars and donated tens of thousands of PPE items to first responders and frontline health care professionals, including those at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare. TVAA also partnered with local students from the Pleasanton Unified School District who made masks this year alongside their parents. Moreover, Amador students Brent Werder and Jason Wei worked with Helena Jin, an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, to make 3D printed masks more durable and easy-to-use. "I was totally amazed by the community response," TVAA President Grace Li said in a statement. "It's a testament to our country and also to our community."

Throughout the Tri-Valley, foundations, companies, public officials, and individuals stepped up to fight the pandemic or help their neighbors. Kaiser Permanente donated $1 million to prevent and treat Covid-19 in the homeless population. The John Muir Health Foundation coordinated more than 300 donations for frontline workers, and Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare was a leader in the regional Covid-19 testing system established at Alameda County Fairgrounds.

“We are very fortunate that we live and work in the Tri-Valley,” says Steve Van Dorn, President and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. “Our larger companies here are helping smaller businesses and nonprofits survive. Compared to some other areas of the country, we are doing fairly well.”

Many businesses and organizations responded quickly to the challenges of the pandemic. Roche Molecular Solutions, a Hacienda tenant owned by Swiss giant Roche, contributed significantly to what has been described as the “lightning-speed production” of a new Covid-19 test, which received emergency approval for use in March 2020. Since then, the company has continued to help develop additional Covid tests. Meanwhile, the East Bay Bio Network worked to find certified local laboratory tech volunteers to help scale up Covid-19 testing, while the Livermore Lab Foundation coordinated volunteer efforts by lab retirees.

Many business groups also contributed in their areas of expertise. The East Bay Economic Development Alliance, for example, developed, maintained, and shared a regional business resources list as a lifeline to East Bay Businesses, and local Chambers of Commerce helped disseminate information as well. Visit Tri-Valley created the online Tri-Valley To Go Campaign to support struggling restaurants, breweries, and wineries. The owners of several of those struggling businesses did their best to help feed healthcare workers, first responders, and hungry neighbors. The owner of Eddie Papa's American Hangout, for example, contributed 50 turkey meals to needy local families at Thanksgiving.

In the face of the pandemic-related job layoffs and growing hunger, the Assistance League of Amador Valley expanded its Food for Families Program, which is now supporting 1,200 families. Other nonprofits have responded to the crisis as well, with help from the community. Hacienda’s 1st United Credit Union, for example, ran a virtual food drive to benefit the Alameda County Community Food Bank. The Credit Union matched donations made by staff, members, and the community up to $10,000. The combined total was  $25,000. “We knew we could make an even greater difference by uniting with our members and community for this year’s food drive,” says Steve Stone, President and CEO. “We are so happy we were able to help our neighbors with this donation.”

Education and Innovation Continue

Tri-Valley families and businesses value higher education. The Tri-Valley region has more residents with advanced degrees than the Bay Area overall and California as a state. So when the nature of education shifted, benefactors worked to help students caught by the change. Hacienda tenant Ellie Mae, for example, donated laptops for use by Chabot/Las Positas students. Many local teachers and teaching staff also put enormous effort into aiding their students as schools navigated abrupt changes to teaching.

The pandemic did not stop the Tri-Valley’s famously innovative culture either. Early on in the pandemic, several companies pivoted to manufacturing PPE or hand sanitizer in response to the urgent need. Others switched to online-only service delivery after primarily operating on an in-person basis, while some restaurants focused on take out since dining in was no longer allowed.

Despite the urgency of the moment, some companies still made time to consider the future. Omron, a sophisticated robotics company that is also at Hacienda, encouraged students to explore robotics as a career and become part of the area’s skilled workforce of the future. As it happens, the 180-student strong Dublin High School robotics team is already dedicated to the topic and busy creating a sanitation drone to help disinfect football stadium bleachers after students go back to school in person.

“We decided to challenge ourselves to build the drone to not only keep our students safe, but try to find a cost-effective way to do it,” according to team President and Project Manager Niharika Suravarjjala. After the team learned that it took five to six hours to disinfect the bleachers after football practice and games, one of the team members suggested building a sanitation drone.

A 10-person project team designed the drone, raised more than their goal of $4,000 to build it, and plan to develop ways to use the drone beyond the football stadium eventually. “We wanted to help out, even in a small aspect,” according to Nirupama Suravarjjala, a junior on the team in charge of research and design management and technical documentation. As she told a Mercury News reporter, “That’s the most important, to help out and provide for our community.”

The spirit of pursuing innovation in service to the community runs deep in the Tri-Valley. It can be seen in business leaders, elected officials, nonprofit leaders, volunteers, teachers, parents, and their children. Many things have been lost over the course of 2020, and no one can predict what the new year will hold. But if the Tri-Valley’s response to the pandemic is any guide, the region’s culture of innovation is still strong and vibrant.

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