'Joy and hope': Easter comes early for some North Bay residents

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Many people across the Bay Area are hoping this Easter holiday looks a lot brighter than last year when the pandemic was beginning to unfold. The North Bay is getting ready to celebrate with safety measures and a lot of hope.

Easter came early to hundreds of families in Sonoma County Wednesday they were the lucky recipients of giant Easter baskets for kids.

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Allison and her mom Guadalupe Soto say this Easter is already looking brighter than the last one, that's for sure.

"I hope a little happier than last year, it was difficult for everybody," said Guadalupe Soto.

The Salvation Army of Santa Rosa organized the Easter basket giveaway for underserved families across the region impacted by COVID. They received so many donations of candy and toys, there was hardly room for more than a thousand baskets inside the warehouse.

"Santa Rosa has been through a rough time with wildfires and COVID, this was a way to bring hope and joy to the community," said Major Rio Ray from The Salvation Army of Santa Rosa.

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Easter Sunday services are planned at Bayside Church.

"Our theme is hope rising, for Easter, that's the difference between this year and last year," said Pastor Dan Ferguson.

Sonoma County is in the red tier, which means Bayside Church could hold smaller services inside with 25% capacity but why when you've got a big outdoor space.

The church ready to welcome 1,000 people for Easter, each family has its own circle in the grass for safe social distancing.

"We'll go back inside when we can go back inside when it's just as safe to be outdoors," Ferguson said.

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The weather is beautiful and lots of people are anxious to get their easter brunch on, reservation bookings filling up for indoor and outdoor seating at Perch and Plow in downtown Santa Rosa, owners just reopened after a three-month closure.

"Weather has been great, it will be nice to see everybody out for sure," said Jim Wagner.

But county officials warn people, the pandemic is still on, and don't let your guard down.

"Although many people have been vaccinated, we have a long way to go, wear your mask and avoid large gatherings," said Sonoma County spokesperson Paul Gullixson.

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