Downtown Arthur during COVID 19 Pandemic.
A look back at the pandemic – one year later
By ARIANA R. CHERRY
A year ago, our world didn’t feel as large as we thought it was. It actually felt smaller and more connected. For the first time in over a hundred years, we were experiencing something on a world-wide level – The COVID19 pandemic.
Our lives were literally shutting down around us. We were told to stay home. Businesses closed unless they were deemed “essential.” Schools closed abruptly. Events were canceled. We were told to hold virtual meetings over technology such as “ZOOM,” and “GOOGLE HANGOUTS.” In other countries, nature took over city streets and wild-life roamed neighborhoods. China had the cleanest air it had ever experienced in ages. Underwater creatures were free to roam the waters without boats interrupting their travel. We as humans were put on pause as nature’s wild-life continued out their days, but experiencing more freedom than they ever had remembered.
Even here in our quaint hometown of Arthur, we didn’t go untouched. We also shut down. Vine Street looked like a ghost-town during the first “shelter in place.” Route 133 was quiet and still-without a single car in sight. As an amateur photographer, I walked around town, snapping photos to capture the unusual historic moment. I remember standing in the middle of highway 133, just in awe of the silence. Even the playground equipment at our local park was off limits. We placed hearts in our windows to send messages that we were still “here” and connected. Last year, our lives went through major changes – and so did our own businesses right here in Arthur.
“The pandemic caused my business to be shut down for over three months. Many people who were “essential workers” had to go months without haircuts and colors which caused them to look very unprofessional, since my business was considered “nonessential.” I begged to differ. Being shut down made a lot of extra work for us and it was difficult trying to get caught up when we were finally allowed to open again. It was a nightmare, but we have some really great supportive and patient clients,” said Kristen Rocke of Kristen and Co. While the pandemic certainly had some negative impacts on Kristen’s business, there were a few positive outcomes at least. “Covid has taught us what is important and what is not important in life as well as in business. It helped weed out the unnecessary and prioritize the important things,” she stated. Kristen also said that the pandemic brought out the “fight or flight” instinct in her. Her business had to go through a few changes such as eliminating a few services and changing the business’s hours as well as the hours of those who work there. Most of all though, Kristen is really grateful for the community and her customers. “Thank you to all the amazing people in our community who made 2020 a successful year and supported us despite all the crazy!” she said.
Our town’s favorite long-running flower shop was also halted by the pandemic. “We were closed at the beginning of the pandemic for six weeks,” informed Anita Krutsinger of Arthur Flower Shop. But even though the shop was closed, members of our community still reached out to her. “We were fortunate that we had our calls forwarded to my cell phone and people called me for orders. We went to town about noon each day, made our orders and delivered them in the afternoon. The kids even went with us to deliver. We all had a good time driving around and making people happy. Our customers were good to us. We had a steady business,” she said gratefully. Even during the stressful times of COVID, Anita felt that it had a way of bringing out the best in people. “I feel that people have more compassion for each other than we had before. We have a lot of orders where people send flowers just to let someone know they are thinking about them,” she said. While Anita stated that she never dreamed she’d be wearing a mask while she waited on her customers, her faith still hasn’t let her down.
“We’ve learned to rely on God to guide and direct us and he will provide for us. We are fortunate to live in a small town. We have so many great customers. We are so blessed,” she beamed.
Even restaurants experienced changes of their own this past year. One community favorite, “Itsa Pizza,” also spoke about their personal experience with the COVID19 Pandemic. “We’ve made a lot of adjustments. The biggest one has been continuing to limit our services to curbside pickup and delivery. We definitely miss our dine-in service, but feel like keeping our services limited to carryout and delivery only allows us to provide the most efficient service we can while keeping up with sanitation practices that keep everyone safe,” stated Tyler and Katey Custer. The couple also noted that they had to figure out how to become more efficient in the way that they run things and maintain safe distances when possible while still providing the service to their customers the best way that they can. “The pandemic has caused us to take a closer look and see where we can make improvements,” they said. And even when things got tough, there still were some places that the pandemic shed a light for Itsa Pizza. “We’ve adapted and come together as a crew in a way that we are proud of. We have also thought about solutions to work around issues that have come up. For example, we are currently working on finding an online ordering system that will work for us to help curb some of the wait time for our customers trying to get through on the phone. Mostly though, I think the pandemic has helped us to see our resilience. We have had the opportunity to really look at what is important to us. For us, it’s our family, both at home and our employees, as well as this awesome community that has kept us going this last year. We are so very fortunate in so many ways,” they said.
Another important part that connects us as a community in Arthur is our churches. Many of them were closed down by the pandemic and felt the impact as well. One very difficult thing to do in the midst of a pandemic, is to be a new pastor and be a new member of a community.
Pastor Jill Bunker of the Arthur United Methodist Church shared her experience.
“It has sure been a challenge although I am not alone in this regard. Understanding the basic elements of the church service itself and the expectations took on a new perspective. For instance, I do not believe I have still met all the members for a variety of reasons. The combination of the lack of a physical service on Sunday combined with the inability to visit people’s homes was a mountain to climb,” Pastor Jill informed. She also noted how the pandemic affected the churches within our community. “Overall, I would say that the ability to be a close-knit faith community has been the biggest issue for most churches. There are many events, etc. that have been diminished in the last year that are designed to allow those of a common belief to get together and grow in Jesus which have been sidelined. Human-beings are social and the need to be together reaches even beyond the walls of the church.” And while there were negative impacts of the pandemic seen within our faith communities, there at least were a few outcomes that were positive.
“The biggest by far is the ability to reach people who may not find themselves in a church every Sunday. I continually see the names of those who have viewed the service who I either do not know or I am not sure regularly attend anywhere. Some of these people are quite a distance away, and for them to be able to take part where before they could not is a plus. I hope to continue to make this opportunity available after we get back to the new normal-whenever that is,” informed Pastor Jill.
After taking a look back at our businesses, we must also take a look at ourselves and see how the pandemic has affected us as people and the changes that it made in our own lives. As a reporter, I attended meetings in ZOOM to cover the news. But as an individual with multiple health issues, I have had to distance myself from people a lot in the past year, which has been very difficult. I haven’t been in church physically since the end of last June and I haven’t been inside a restaurant in over a year. Groceries are now purchased online and picked up via curbside. What has hurt the most is the inability to see and be physically close to family members and friends. I haven’t hugged any of them in over a year. Humans crave touch and we are social creatures by heart. There were also other members of the community who shared their difficulties of the pandemic with me during conversation.
Norma Krummel had one phrase that summed up her experience. “Very confining,” she described. She went on. “I haven’t been able to attend church in person, so I have watched it on TV. We haven’t seen our kids for a long time. I miss seeing the people,” she said sadly.
Although what has helped both her and her husband Gary were those who have dropped off food and cards. Her pastor has even made in-home visits, which helped aid her in some of the loneliness she felt. She said her husband, Gary especially, enjoyed the visits, even if he didn’t talk a lot sometimes. Although now, Norma is a bit excited since she and her husband have received their vaccines. She will get to see her kids finally and for the first time she got to go back to Yoder’s with a couple members of her hat club. There is starting to be a bit of light at the end of that dark tunnel for Norma.
For Maxi Fitzjarrald, it was about missing out on trips that she had taken in the past-especially one of her favorites, which was to Scotland. It was canceled because of travel restrictions and it is on her “bucket-list” to go at least one more time. “I really look forward to those trips,” she said. And while some limited mobility sometimes has kept Maxi at home, the pandemic really made it even more so. She didn’t get to come to church as much as she had liked. “I’ve had to watch it online,” she stated, but she did add, “I am thankful for the church family that has stepped up with meals and those who have dropped off notes and cards.” This made Maxi realize something. “It is nice being remembered,” she said. “It has made me realize how much of an impact I’ve had on others,” Maxi happily concluded.
While we continue to battle this pandemic during our one year anniversary, we must remember to continue to have compassion for one another. At the beginning, we all said, “We are in this together,” and still, we are all in this together… Pandemic or no pandemic- through every life challenge, we help each other, because that is what we are called to do.