Tracie Jacob had always known the neighbors in her Clear Creek Village subdivision, but things have been a little different since the coronavirus broke out.
Now, she sees people walking and riding their bikes around the League City neighborhood all the time, something she didn’t see before, Jacob said.
“It’s fun to see neighbors that never knew each other now know each other,” Jacob said.
Concerns about the coronavirus and pandemic-related lockdowns have meant people are staying at home more often, which has led to a shift in Galveston County in the way people interact with their communities.
With the virus-related restrictions having shut down many typical gathering spots or opportunities, many people are forming new bonds with their immediate neighborhoods. But for some, the shutdown of typical community structures has meant the absence of support systems.
Jacob’s neighbors have begun looking out for each other more. Some neighbors have become “booze fairies” others “snack fairies” leaving baskets of alcoholic beverages or snacks on a neighbor’s doorstep in the hope they’ll do the same for someone else, she said.
GETTING OUTAnd Jacob enjoys seeing more people outside, she said.
“When I was a kid, you were always outside playing with the other kids,” Jacob said.
Today’s youth have gotten away from that tradition and tend to socialize indoors or online, but that changed when the coronavirus confined many people to their homes, she said.
Across the county, people stuck at home have been getting outdoors.
In Galveston, this means people are spending more time walking to parks, said Phil Newton, who lives in the Kempner Park area.
Newton has noticed more people using the park, 2704 Ave. O.
“I think people are learning their neighborhood,” Newton said. “They walk from their house to Kempner Park or to the beach. You get to wave at people.”
Some small groups have been gathering in the park to practice yoga or martial arts — at a safe distance, he said.
The new reliance, and perhaps appreciation, might create more desire to make parks and other public spaces better, said Sabrina Dean, president of Better Parks for Galveston.
“It really has brought out that green space,” Dean said. “Our parks are not just a luxury but are essential to our health and wellbeing of the community.”
Dean said she hopes that means people will become more inclined to spend public money on parks and on building more parks closer to more people.
Shifts in priorities caused by COVID-19 also could lead to other changes, said Keath Jacoby, executive director of Vision Galveston.
As more people gain the ability to work from home or see the value of outdoor space, more people might move to it, Jacoby said.
“I think you’ll start to see an influx of people wanting to move here,” Jacoby said. “They don’t want the urban density. They want a simpler life.”
ISOLATIONBut for some, the pandemic has meant isolation and loneliness.
The lockdown has been a real struggle for many members of the First Christian Church in Texas City, 2400 21st St. N., church moderator Sue Willis said.
The church has been adapting, such as hosting virtual vacation Bible school, but it has been very hard for older members who rely on the church for their community, Willis said.
“It’s really hard to be by yourself and not have the comfort of your church community or church family,” Willis said. “The isolation. The loneliness.”
During the lockdown, Willis and other church elders had a small flock of members they checked in on, and that helped, she said.
The church recently began holding in-person, socially distanced services, she said. Willis also has been spending a lot of time alone, so she was grateful to see people again, even if it’s from across the room.
“They feel like they’re part of the community again,” Willis said. “I was so excited to get back to the church, I couldn’t see straight.”
This time has been difficult for young people, too, said Brandon Williams, youth and media director at nonprofit Galveston Urban Ministries.
Even though school is back in session, Williams still sees young people out and about when they should be in class or learning at home. Some students are only scheduled for in-person class a few days a week or are taking virtual classes and aren’t supervised, he said.
Williams worries these young people will get into trouble if they’re not occupied.
“Sometimes there can be a negative influence,” Williams said. “You see kids just doing dumb things.”
Jacob hopes gathering places come back and that her community can go back to having large gatherings eventually, she said.
But she hopes that people continue to look out for each other the way they have during the pandemic.
“Times like this, times of crisis, a good community, a good neighborhood pulls together,” Jacob said.