In the past year, a lot has been made about what is “essential.”
The term was attached to the COVID-19 pandemic when government agencies identified essential workers and industries in exempting certain people and entities from shutdown orders.
With people spending more time at home and with immediate family members, they have had time for reflection and NEWS On the Green put it to community members to identify what has become essential to them.
For Tracey Mills, owner of Belly Buster Sub Shoppe, Brookfield, her answer boils down to one word, community, but she noted she is part of several communities: the community of those who work at her business; the community of small business; the community of eateries in the area; and the community of Brookfield/Masury.
When the pandemic hit and the government ordered the initial shutdown, Mills put it to her employees to help identify what they thought was essential, and what role she could play in supporting them.
Mills said she told her three employees that she was willing to keep the eatery open on a carryout-only basis, but did not want to hire new employees to limit the close contact that she and her employees would have with outsiders.
Her employees chose to keep working as they had mouths to feed and bills to pay, she said.
“We made the decision as a group of women,” Mills said. “My girls are awesome.”
With that decision made, they developed a strict cleaning regimen for their hands and touched surfaces, molded by state guidelines, and developed a protocol in which money would not be handled with the same pair of gloves as food was handled.
“We were on point with everything,” she said.
With Belly Buster’s doors remaining open, the community responded and there really has been no drop-off in business, even with the dining room closed, Mills said.
“I am very, very pleased with the community,” she said. “I’m thankful that they patronize us.”
And she’s thankful that the community has patronized her competitors, the other eateries in town, all of whom have managed to stay open.
“We’re still here,” she said. “People have been wonderful.”
Here are the other responses we received to our question:
“My family, the grocery stores, and finally getting our first vaccine shot. Just having family close to us and helping to take care of us. Sunday dinners with our kids and grandsons – That is the best. We can still get hugs and that is special.”
– Judie Swogger, Masury
“I had retired from my seamstress business (Lady-K Alterations) in the autumn of 2018. When the pandemic hit early in 2019, and essential face masks were nearly nonexistent, I found myself coming out of retirement to answer the call of much-needed seamstress duties.
“I acquired fabrics and elastic to make masks for those who requested, from nursing homes, hospitals, businesses and the general public. I produced over 3,100 masks over the past year to give to those that wanted them in our community, and also to friends and associates across the United States. Although I did not charge for my masks, people often ‘paid it forward’ so I could keep my quest ongoing. It is very important to me to try to help my fellow man stay safe during these scary and unusual times.”
– Peggy “Lady-K” Katona, formerly of Brookfield
“It has become essential for Tim and I to give back to the community through donations to food banks and food pantries. We see a need to help out and make sure no one goes hungry in our community. With the great help of the Brookfield United Methodist Church, food is always available. A phone call to the church is all it takes. We have been blessed with our health and business through this very difficult time for so many that are less fortunate.”
– Karen Mohney of Masury, co-owner of Mohney Heating and Cooling
“It has become essential to me to stay healthy during this pandemic. It has been a daunting task to learn all of the mandates across different states to ensure that I stay educated and follow health guidelines. It’s amazing to think as one individual I can have such an enormous impact on so many people (friends, family, customers) even through minimal contact. I’ve committed to building and strengthening my immune system through consistent exercise and daily gym time!”
– Danelle Just, postmaster, Masury Post Office