In the small and tightly knit community of Kagel Canyon, neighbors look out for each other. So in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, amidst so much fear and uncertainty, Michele deLorimier knew she had to help. Stepping up was very much in character for deLorimier. A digital imaging technician (DIT) and Local 600 member for more than 20 years, deLorimier runs an emergency notification system for the neighborhood and is also on the board of the Kagel Canyon Civic Association.
“Our canyon is almost like a little village and we’re reliant on each other a lot because there are natural disasters and we’ve been through a lot together,” said deLorimier. “In the beginning of the pandemic, I know a lot of people were super frightened to even go to the grocery store.”
So deLorimier plugged into her neighborhood network, readied her van and started taking orders. Every Wednesday, she made trips to grocery stores, pet food stores and pharmacies, picking up supplies for the elderly and at-risk in her community. Neighbors pitched in to help when and where they could.
While doing these deliveries and connecting with her neighbors, deLorimier checked in on a neighbor, Tom, who was in his mid 80s. After a few days of Tom not answering his door or phone calls, a concerned deLorimier leaned a ladder up against his house, saw him in bed and banged on his bedroom window. When he did not stir, she and another neighbor found another way to get inside. After suffering a minor fender-bender in the grocery parking lot, Tom had stopped taking his medication and took to his bed.
“He had kind of shut down,” deLorimier said.
deLorimier rallied the community again. Some helped clean Tom’s apartment and eventually helped to get Tom cleaned up and eating again. Neighbors assembled to fix his car and repair his staircase, landing and handrail. A tree had fallen on his second car. The Kagel squad helped cut up the tree and get the car taken care of.
“We helped someone who had given up to get his life back,” said deLorimier.
“Once he started feeling better, he said that he hoped he would win the Mega Million so that he could pay off the mortgages of all the people who had helped him.”
Before settling in Kagel Canyon, deLorimier spent a good portion of her early career traveling the world as a video concert controller. Her work has taken her to Brazil, South Africa, Nepal, Mexico, Peru, India and all over Europe.
Joining the union in 1996 allowed her to stay closer to home, but “home” was something of a moving target. Working out of New York and Los Angeles, she also spent five years at the rental house Adolph Gasser, Inc. in San Francisco.
She has worked extensively in commercials, several of which ramped up quickly, giving her work opportunities during the pandemic. Even though she has seen the devastation wreaked by COVID-19, deLorimier has also seen some bright spots.
“I’ve seen so many people be spectacular, be super heroes,” she said. “If the pandemic hadn’t happened or if it had only been two weeks, the chain of events for us to help Tom might not have happened. He might have just stayed there in bed and not made it. I love that something as bad as the pandemic has brought some of these quiet super heroes into the light.”