COVID presented all of us with many challenges. Living in isolation was just one of many threats perhaps most deeply felt by our senior neighbors. The Martinez Senior Center reached out to their membership with a novel idea to keep their members connected and CERT was asked to help facilitate and ensure COVID protocols. 13 months later we are at the end of this popular event and want to share, with the following comments, what this community outreach activity meant to the dedicated volunteers.

Martinez Senior Center
The Martinez Senior Center staff would like to thank the Martinez CERT volunteers for all their help throughout the pandemic. Their hard work and dedication helped our book exchange succeed and would not have ran as smooth without them. Over the past year their willingness to support us has strengthened our partnership and their commitment did not go unnoticed.

Cathy O wears Book Girl teeshirt

Cathy O’s special book girl tee-shirt.

I enjoyed doing it, being with great colleagues and helping people get through the year with their (and my) sanity intact.

The Book Exchange was met with anticipation and enthusiasm because the event filled a large void for the Senior members who felt lost created by the closure of the center. For our purpose, visits were made regularly by Senior Center members, families, and by others who were grateful to find an open resource to find books, videos, and puzzles. Quite a few came very early to get a better selection of items and to beat the “crowd”. All our patrons benefitted from community awareness handouts that we offered; which were not limited to earthquake preparation/safety but training classes offered by CERT. At the beginning, we had to remind patrons/visitors of Infection control practices such as hand sanitizing, masking, distancing, and preventing contamination from books/puzzles being returned. Some had to be instructed on how to wear disposable mask correctly, but eventually everything they learned, they practiced, and became the norm for them.


As a CERT member, this volunteer opportunity gave me a sense of fulfillment. It highlighted the impacts of the pandemic specifically among the older population and their needs and how our presence made a significant support to them. As I said my goodbyes, they continued to express their thanks and appreciation. A few

CERT team at Book Exchange

A sunny day at the Book Exchange

commented: “why does the Book Exchange have to end ? Couldn’t it continue outdoors even if the Center opens ? Outdoors, we can sit, enjoy coffee, visit, skim books….”


I can truly say that I looked forward to every week. I am an avid reader so giving the gift of books during the pandemic was just perfect. What I didn’t expect was to make such close bonds with my coworkers. Cathy, Josie, Greg and then Steve. The first word in CERT is truly Community!

truckload of books for donation

Ivan delivered three truckloads of books.

When we started we had trouble filling 4 tables with books and puzzles, at the end I donated 3 truckloads of books to goodwill Industries. I call that a success!

I have 2 stories from my experience that stand out for me: The first is from a lady that told me that if it wasn’t for us she would not have had any contact with the outside world during Covid.  Her message was just one of many unsaid stories from people that were without libraries, bookstores, thrift shops, senior centers.

The second was from a new friend. She is a Second World War survivor and a 94 year old woman with a smile as big as a 2 car garage. I was getting ready to pack up for the day when she looked at me and said in broken English “ you fix sink?” What could I do?

I went to her house and replaced her bathroom faucet, repaired her kitchen faucet and replaced her toilet innards. She had been the victim of a predatory contractor and was very upset when I handed her the bill.

She has a Meyer lemon tree, I need Meyer lemons. I worked out a deal that I get to see her every week after the book drive and I get a bag of lemons. I know I got the better part of that deal!