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Grandparents as teachers; community clean up: Tucsonans share coronavirus experiences
Tucson Together

Grandparents as teachers; community clean up: Tucsonans share coronavirus experiences

Shirley Dunn Perry’s grandchildren discussing American history with grandfather Jim.

We are all in this together. When times get tough, Tucsonans come together and help each other. That is what makes this big city with a small-town feel such a great place to live.

This weekly series shares what life is like for your fellow community members while sheltering in place.


“I’d be scared to go to jail,” said Hannah. She, and her two sisters, Arabella and Elizabeth, and cousins Ellie and Caitlin in a different state, were talking American history and politics with their grandfather, Jim. The children, ranging in age from 8 to 14, were discussing the Rosa Parks story.

Jim and I are blessed with nine grandchildren. Our children and their spouses are now home-schooling.

Needless to say, this is putting a huge burden on their families.

We wanted to help, and after a learning curve with Skype, we’re sharing our passions and our expertise.

I’m doing art with each of the nine kids. Suggesting that they give me art/craft lessons, I follow directions and point out elements of color, design and perspective. I’ve made a sock buddy, drew a space shuttle (my first) and we clap in delight with our time together.

A sock buddy created as part of Shirley Dunn Perry's daily virtual art lessons with her grandchildren. 

We feel closer than ever to our grandchildren.

— Shirley Dunn Perry


Being somewhat bored during this COVID-19 spring, I proposed to my husband Albrecht that early on Sunday mornings we walk around the neighborhood and pick up trash.

He was hesitant at first, but then helped me do it for three Sundays in a row.

We started off wearing gloves and carrying plastic, disposable trash bags.

I also was fortunate to have a hand picker metal tool, given to us by Encompass Health.

The first Sunday we targeted the neighborhood elementary school and walked around the locked, fenced perimeter. If we found recyclables, we saved them for the blue bins.

It feels terrific exercising — walking, stooping, picking up trash to clean up the environment and our neighborhood. We picked up about two bags each and dumped them off in nearby trash bins.

Carolyn Classen and her husband Albrecht have connected with their community during the pandemic through neighborhood clean ups.

The second Sunday we walked over to our neighborhood post office and cleaned up a large amount of neglected area with some shrubbery and boulders.

It was like a scavenger hunt, to locate a piece of plastic or paper debris and feel success. I even found a glass wine cup that had been thrown away.

And then the following Sunday we walked along a busier, arterial street and also found a lot of debris, more recyclable cans and plastic bottles.

My husband was “lucky” and found a metal wrench in good condition, probably left behind by a worker at the nearby water tower. We encountered a neighbor who was walking and picking up trash, also using a plastic bag.

While we are sheltering in place in Tucson, we would like to encourage other neighbors anywhere to practice what we did: to exercise in the fresh air and to clean up the ubiquitous plastic trash around our homes and streets.

— Carolyn Classen

Contact Johanna Eubank at

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Online producer

Johanna Eubank is a digital producer for the Arizona Daily Star and She has been with the Star in various capacities since 1991.

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