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Staff member Ivy Naude and her children decorated their windows for "Silly Faces Day" in their neighborhood. Karen Zapata's neighborhood (photo below) is hiding bears for children to find on walks. (Courtesy photos)

Staff create community amidst social distancing

Our cities and towns look markedly different than they did just a few short weeks ago, with empty parking lots surrounding schools and businesses. But while governments mandate that their citizens stay home, some Texas Woman’s staff members are reaching out beyond the self-isolation and social distancing to create a sense of community.

Ivy Naude and her family have been participating in their neighborhood’s “Window Walk.”

“Every couple of days, we have had something in our windows to bring smiles to the neighborhood,” said Naude, an administrative assistant in the sociology department. She lives in Union Park, located east of Denton, and says social distancing is difficult in the active and sociable community.

The Window Walk began with Union Park lifestyle manager Dee Davidson encouraging residents to place shamrocks in their windows for St. Patrick’s Day for people to find while walking or riding bicycles in the neighborhood. The shamrock hunt was such a success that Davidson added silly faces, animals, encouraging words, flowers, jokes, and Easter eggs, Naude said.

“Joke Day” fell on April 1 (April Fools’ Day). Naude and her children — Cooper, Parker and Jaxon — found jokes and pictures on Pinterest and chose the ones that made them laugh the most, then drew pictures and posted the jokes to their window.

Naude said the Window Walk “has been a great social distancing community event giving us something to look forward to every couple of days.”

In Karen Zapata’s neighborhood, residents are hiding teddy bears in windows, doors, trees and shrubs — even on rooftops — for children to find while on walks with their parents.

“Neighbors move them around mostly on a daily basis,” said Zapata, administrative assistant to the associate dean of nursing on the Dallas campus. “I have a couple of bears that I place either on the door or hide in windows and on bushes and the gate when weather permits.

“It’s fun and entertaining to find them when you are out walking,” she added. “I think adults are getting into it, too!”

Zapata and Naude are members of ASSET (Association of Service and Support Employees of Texas Woman’s University), which held its Spirit Week March 31-April 3. Members shared messages and photos based on each day’s theme, including Sleeping Beauty (wear your PJs to work — at home), Rock Your Feet (wear crazy socks) and Pioneer Pride (wear Pioneer gear).

University Housing & Dining staff also are providing a sense of community for students remaining in the university’s residence halls.

Resident assistants in all buildings hold “virtual office hours” to be available to students and send out newsletters and tips on staying safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Alyssa Burks serves as area coordinator for Parliament Village, where approximately 98 students remain. The RAs she oversees also put together song lists, coloring sheets and other fun activities for the students to do when they’re not studying.

Derrian Hall, residence director of Guinn Hall, said her RAs get feedback from their residents on things they would like to do.

“I have an RA who found a yoga video on YouTube, so they are planning to host a yoga session in Google Hangout where they all watch it together,” she said. “I have another staff member who is hosting a game night in which they are meeting virtually and play jackbox.tv games.”

Guinn Hall currently has 74 residents.

Am Coffee, resident director of Lowry Woods, has created virtual scavenger hunts, Netflix parties and “Quarantunes” for the approximately 134 residents who remain there.

“I was able to take resources provided to me regarding ideas on online programming,” Coffee said. “There are tons of ideas floating around, as everyone is trying to adapt their curriculums from face-to-face to the digital world. In fact, I had to scale back on some of the amazing ideas that are out there.”

Students still need academic support, though, and that’s where Joshua Mackrill comes in. As residence education coordinator, Mackrill conducts the day-to-day operations of providing academic support through the Academic Support Office for first-year students who live on campus. He has coordinated with his staff of 13 academic support assistants to provide virtual drop-in hours to provide academic support via Google Hangouts if students need it.

Mackrill said the academic support assistants created a program called “Surfing Opportunities,” in which they talked about how to find summer jobs and internship opportunities, and what they will need to be mindful about in their search. He said the assistants will provide another program dealing with what students need to keep in mind as they register for summer classes.

“The students researched the materials to provide to students from other offices on campus,” Mackrill said. “This comes from student, to student.”

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Inside TWU is publishing a series of stories that showcase faculty, staff and student responses to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you know of efforts that should be highlighted, send the information to twunews@twu.edu.

Previous features:

TWU professor leads effort to collect medical equipment to fight pandemic

$1 million grant program to aid women’s businesses hurt by COVID-19

Practice self-care while social distancing

TWU clinics offer teletherapy to assist clients and continue students’ education

Fletcher hopes to ease fears with fun masks

Answering the call to serve: Students help communities during pandemic