In the latest Around Town column, news about a Paly student's project that aims to bridge generations, a local community "Wishing Tree" project and new and returning members of city commissions.
MAKE A WISH ... At a time when the world seems to be facing insurmountable challenges, community groups in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto are coming together to help locals find a glimmer of hope. Officials from both cities and several organizations have partnered to create wishing trees. The project is based on a concept first introduced in 1996 by artist Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow, who was inspired by wishing trees in Japan's temples. Ono created an exhibit where she set up a tree along with pens, tags and a note for viewers to write a wish for peace and tie it to the tree. Since then, the project has expanded throughout the world. (In 2009, Ono visited Stanford University where two "Wish Trees" were installed on campus, according to a Stanford Report article.) The current local project, which runs through Oct. 31 follows the same concept. After October, the wishes will be sent to the Imagine Peace Tower Wishing Well in Videy, Iceland, to join other wishes shared elsewhere in the world. Eight wishing trees are set up locally, including at Cubberley Community Center and the Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto and the Ravenswood Family Health Center and Bell Street Park in East Palo Alto. A map of the locations and more information on the project can be found at canopy.org/wishing-trees. Wishes can also be shared online on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/wishingtrees or through social media posts that include the hashtag #CommunityWishingTrees.
TREATING THE COVID BLUES ... As shelter-at-home orders have dramatically increased social interactions in person, one local teenager is looking to help people feel more connected — while also building bridges across generations. Palo Alto High School student Jun Hyuk Kwak's project, Talk The Gap, brings together young people and senior citizens to exchange stories virtually through an online talk show that launched Aug. 12 and posts new episodes once or twice a week. Some of the episodes feature interviews by Kwak, with an older person who shares advice for younger people. In the first episode to introduce the series, Kwak, 17, opened up about his own experience with COVID-19. "The thing about being in self-isolation is it's boring. You don't get to interact with anyone in your family," he said, adding his experience with the virus wasn't as bad as others. One episode featured Michael "Mike" Crow, a cowboy from Texas who has practiced team roping for about 35-40 years, where he learned the importance of a positive attitude and building a strong work ethic. "Young people are very smart, but still you do have to stay close to your family and remember where you came from." In an episode posted Tuesday, Bobbie Coleman, 92, describes what it was like being a teenager during World War II. She also offered this piece of advice: "Practice the love that you have in your heart. Together, we can accomplish anything." To learn more about the project, visit talkthegap.com.
SWEET GIG ... The Palo Alto City Council fell into familiar political camps on Monday as it was choosing a new member for the Human Relations Commission, which is charged with overseeing issues relating to diversity, inclusiveness, social services and police policies. Council members were selecting between six applicants for a single vacancy on the commission. After none of the candidates secured the needed four votes to get an appointment in the first round of voting, council members found themselves split between Nilofer Chollampat, a clinical research specialist, and Sunita de Tourreil, an entrepreneur whose business, The Chocolate Garage, operated in downtown between 2010 and 2018 and who had been organizing educational trips to countries where the chocolate is sourced before COVID-19 became a pandemic. As is often the case on commission appointments, council members voted in blocs. Vice Mayor Tom DuBois and council members Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou all supported Chollampat, while Mayor Adrian Fine and council members Alison Cormack, Liz Kniss and Greg Tanaka all voted for Tourreil in the second round of voting, giving her the edge. There was less suspense when it came to appointments to the Public Art Commission, where incumbent Commissioners Nia Taylor and Hsinya Shen garnered six and four votes, respectively, and will stay on until May 31, 2023.