Silver linings, and our commitment to you.

Libby Utter June 22, 2020

What will you remember about the first half of 2020?  “That’s easy,” you think to yourself, “COVID-19, quarantine, racism and civil unrest.”  Perhaps you will wish to simply forget 2020, to write it off as a year in which so many things went wrong, so many precious moments were lost.  Or perhaps this year will be a catalyst for you to see the world a little differently, or to commit to making it a little better.  It is undeniable that this has been an unprecedented time, however, I have found so many silver linings.  I would like to share them with you in the hope that you can reframe 2020 as a year where we really learned about the power of human connection and why it matters.

“During this unpredictable and painful time, let’s invent creative, meaningful ways of being together apart.” 

Priya Parker

As an extrovert, I get my energy being around people.  Governor Walz’s stay at home order threw me into a new reality where I physically interacted with only one other person, my husband John.  Thankfully, Gilda’s Club Twin Cities is all about community and connection and we were not going to let social distancing change that.  My work colleagues and I quickly pivoted to Zoom meetings to keep the wheels of Gilda’s Club turning and to stay connected with each other.  We were efficient, purpose-driven, and committed to serving the needs of our members.  There was an energy about making sure that our transition to virtual programming worked.  Gilda’s Club members responded gratefully to every new class or support group we provided.  We were fulfilling our mission every day without interruption…sure, some technical glitches here and there, but no interruption!

After only two weeks at home, I began to crave even more human connection.  My book club, which has been together for 18 years, convened via Zoom.  We forgot to discuss the book, instead devoting time for each member to share how and where they were, with whom they were quarantining, and how they were finding joy during this time.  Our virtual book club lasted two hours, but the warmth of connection stayed with me until we met (virtually) again in April. 

My high school class hosted a virtual reunion in April.  I connected with people I hadn’t seen since I walked across the stage in June 1983.  It was amazing to hear how a classmate living in Alaska was getting along and also comparing notes with a classmate in England (he joined the call at 1 am his time).  Since the reunion, I have reestablished friendships that had before been lost to time.  I marvel at what technology enables us to do and how important it has been in keeping us all connected this year.

Zoom is great, but – for me – oftentimes it was not enough.  John and I established “Sunday pizza night,” meeting our grown children in the parking lot of a different local pizza restaurant each week.  We would meet 15 minutes before the pizza was ready, roll down our car windows and talk to each other “face-to-face.”  Seeing our boys, their spouses, dogs, and our grandson – even from a social distance – fed my soul and filled me with energy for the week ahead.

As the weather continued to improve, I looked forward to my daily walks and bike rides not just for the physical benefit of it, but the nourishment of seeing others.  I have always been one to say hi to those I pass on the trail and inquire after them and their families – it was a habit, a common courtesy – but now it is more than that.  I ask because I want to connect, help, and spread joy if I can.  It is hard not to offer a hug or a pat on the back, but just being in proximity with others helps me refill my tank.  I don’t put as many miles in, but I sure feel good when I get home.

Now, as Minnesota begins to open up, the world has become a more difficult place to navigate.  Conflicting information, points of view, regulations – I hunger to get back into the community, to connect any way other than Zoom – but I don’t really understand the rule book.  How do we begin the process of reconnecting with our community?  When should we reopen the clubhouse?

Earlier this year, the Gilda’s Club Twin Cities staff gathered to discuss the values of the organization – what do we stand for?  How do we interact with each other and our members and volunteers?  How do we ensure that everyone who comes to Gilda’s Club has a clear understanding of how they will be welcomed into the Gilda’s Club community?  It was powerful collaboration resulting in the following statements:

  • We believe in serving our community with integrity, acceptance, and trust.
  • We collectively and intentionally nurture meaningful relationships.
  • We embrace laughter, tears, joy, and fear.
  • We value self-care, curiosity, and the opportunity for growth.

When we established these values, we had no idea that within the span of a few months, our world would be changed by the global pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, the subsequent riots and looting, and the push for real social change.  Articulating these values and holding ourselves accountable to them has never been more important. 

We will serve our community with integrity, acceptance, and trust.  We will do all in our power to reopen the clubhouse when the time is right to do so.  We have convened a task force comprised of healthcare and commercial real estate/building professionals to advise us on the safest path to reopening.  Right now, it is safest for the Gilda’s Club community to be served via our virtual platform.  When the clubhouse reopens, you can trust that we will have an established plan, appropriate social distancing signage, and personal protective equipment.  We will limit numbers to ensure safety and we will find additional innovative ways to serve and stay connected with you, our members. 

We are learning as we go…this is an opportunity for growth.  Thank you for being a part of the Gilda’s Club community.

Kind regards,


Executive Director | Gilda’s Club Twin Cities
Contact Libby at

Published as part of the June 2020 GildaGram Newsletter. Read more here: