COVID-19 pulled everyone apart. It also managed to bring friends, neighbors and complete strangers together.

Together at home. We’re in this together. We’re with you. Here for you. Here to help. The slogans are everywhere, emphasizing that humans are driven to seek out community. We pray. We empathize. We really are united. Even when we’re most apart.

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On April 25, singer-songwriter Jeremy Gloff had hoped to film a video for his song “Tampa,” named for his hometown. The plan was to film at all his favorite places, but quarantine made that impossible. So he reached out to an array of friends and notable residents, including Mayor Jane Castor, and asked if they would submit videos he could weave together. Said Gloff, a volunteer coordinator at Feeding Tampa Bay: “It was so heartwarming to see people waving hello with their families.”

— Submitted by Jeremy Gloff, Tampa

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At left, 4-year-old Joshua Hooper spots two bears in a neighbor's window in Clearwater. At right, 3-year-old Freyja Smith points out a bear in St. Petersburg. [Jessica Hooper and Allison Smith]

Across the country, community-organized “bear hunts” have become a primary means of occupying bored kids. At left, Joshua Hooper, 4, spots two bears in the window of neighbor Wayne Honigford’s house on Tern Lane in Clearwater’s Feather Sound neighborhood. At right, Freyja Smith, 3, points out a bear in the window of a building in St. Petersburg’s Colonnade neighborhood.

— Submitted by Jessica Hooper (left) and Allison Smith (right)

Related: Bored kids are going on a bear hunt and it's adorable

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The Corona 500 weaves through Hudson’s Heritage Pines community. [Linda Silvernail]

The residents of Hudson’s Heritage Pines community have taken to a new nightly pastime — a golf cart parade they’ve dubbed the Corona 500. Drivers wave flags and ring bells as they course through the neighborhood. “The parade gave new hope for the next day and something positive to look forward to,” said resident Linda Silvernail.

— Submitted by Linda Silvernail, Hudson

Related: Coronavirus canceled their baby shower, so family surprised them with a parade

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Some restaurants have shared messages of gratitude and positivity with their food. [Tampa Bay Times]

As the service industry increasingly relied on takeout and delivery to stay afloat, some restaurants included messages of gratitude and positivity with their food. “We love you,” read a box from Fabrica Pizza in St. Petersburg. “We ramen this together,” read a card from Ichicoro in Seminole Heights. “We just wanted to say thank you for helping support our small business,” read a note from Bake’n Babes in Tampa. “We know that in these uncertain times, one thing is certain, and it’s that we’re stronger together! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your continued love and support! We are so grateful, Tampa Bay!”

Jay Cridlin, Gabrielle Calise and Paul Driscoll, Tampa Bay Times

Related: Is the takeout model working for Tampa Bay restaurants? It depends.

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“Practically anyone who is going to work these days is taking a serious risk,” said Marty Fouts, a Pinellas County school bus driver, who sent us this song he wrote. “I wrote this song to thank those who are serving the rest of us.”

— Submitted by Marty Fouts, St. Petersburg

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Akilah Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at James M. Marlowe Elementary in Pasco County, sent this video of her and other teachers sending well wishes to their students.

— Submitted by Akilah Jones, New Port Richey

Related: Tampa Bay teen singers create video chorus 'You Are Not Alone'

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Kimmy Denny of Palm Harbor sent us this vlog entry, from April 2, about her run to the store to pick up supplies and puzzles for homebound seniors.

— Submitted by Kimmy Denny, Palm Harbor

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In the Kenwood neighborhood of St. Petersburg, one person is looking out for neighbors by offering free masks. [CAROLYN FOX | Tampa Bay Times]

In April, the resident of a home on Sixth Avenue N in St. Petersburg’s Kenwood neighborhood began putting out free masks for whomever needed them — a different pattern every day.

Carolyn Fox, Tampa Bay Times

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At Golden Shores Condominiums in Indian Shores, the communal songs begin at 7 each night. [Jenkyn]

The songs come at 7 every evening: the national anthem, “God Bless America,” “God Bless the U.S.A.” The chorus: the residents of Golden Shores Condominiums in Indian Shores, who sing from their balconies in what resident Joyce Jenkyn called “a roll-call of sorts.” They began the nightly singing in late March; Jenkyn said they plan to continue until the pandemic is over.

— Submitted by Joyce Jenkyn, Indian Shores

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Angie Manteiga and her daughter, Avie, hoped to brighten strangers' days by hiding painted rocks around the community. [Angie Manteiga]

While not playing card games or caring for their Monarch butterflies, Angie Manteiga and her daughter, Avie, painted lots of rocks to hide around the community, to brighten the days of strangers who might find them. They painted messages of hope, like “You matter,” “Be-YOU-tiful” and “Do what you love.” They made sure to sanitize each rock before hiding it.

— Submitted by Angie Manteiga, Clearwater

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Rachel Hunt's Peace Corps assignment was interrupted, so she took up a new hobby. [Letty Miller]

After being evacuated from Gambia, where she was serving in the Peace Corps, Rachel Hunt decamped to her aunt’s home in Lakeland. Her aunt, Letty Miller, said Hunt has made and given away 200 cloth masks, including 40 to emergency room doctors at Lakeland Regional Hospital, where Miller’s husband is a doctor.

— Submitted by Letty Miller, Lakeland

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With the concert industry locked down, musicians have gotten creative with their digital output. One way that’s happened: virtual performances featuring multiple musicians in different locations, syncing up into one seamless song. The Florida Bjorkestra, an alternative chamber-pop ensemble in St. Petersburg, created several to share with fans. Bandleader Jeremy Douglass spent hundreds of hours crafting performances of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)," “Walk Through the Fire” from the musical episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Genesis’Land of Confusion.” “I’m trying to teach myself new skills — or just trying to stay distracted,” Douglass said. “It doesn’t really matter if anybody sees it. Honestly, it’s keeping me sane — and probably a couple of people I’m dragging along with me.”

— Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times

Related: How do those virtual performances come together? The Florida Bjorkestra explains

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King State coffee in Tampa created merchandise to benefit laid-off staff members. [King State]

After losing two-thirds of their 25-plus employees, Tampa coffee shop and roasters King State launched a limited run of benefit merchandise. King State put up 300 T-shirts and 70 tote bags. All of it sold out. “We thought we’d raise $1,000 or $2,000. We ended up raising over $8,000,” said owner Tim McTague. “We knew it would do well. We didn’t think it would do that well.”

— Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times

Related: Want to help a Tampa bar pay its staff? Buy this Tom Brady/Bucco Bruce T-shirt

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The Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College now holds classes and social hours online. [Courtesy of Dr. Ilene Robeck]

There are over 300 members of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College. When life was normal, the retired and semiretired seniors would get together for classes at Lewis House on the Eckerd campus in St. Petersburg. When the coronavirus caused the group to suspend in-person lectures, a team of tech-savvy members started putting classes on Zoom. Then they took it further: Why not use this technology for a weekly social hour? “I found the feedback that we got from people who do live alone was really positive,” said Karin Fidrych, 65. “I think having that interaction and knowing we’re not alone in this was very beneficial to all of us.”

— Gabrielle Calise, Tampa Bay Times

Related: Tampa Bay senior citizens turn to Zoom video chat for coronavirus company

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The Surreal


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