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Thank you for participating in the  Prickly Pear Junction report of people’s experiences dealing with COVID-19.

contact us: email  ~  david@pricklypearjunction.com  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026

NAME: David George Hill
BUSINESS: Website Developer, Creator: Prickly Pear Junction Cloud

“Stay at home. Isolate.” That was the conventional wisdom in March when COVID-19 first reared its ugly head. Easy. I live alone in a three-bedroom house, surrounded by a 3/4 acre yard, in a small town (East Helena, pop: 2089) in a sparsely populated state (Montana, 1.069 million). Isn’t that the definition of isolation? I have been doing that for years! But this many months later, I can see that COVID-19 is not going anywhere. We really cannot hide from this mess. So while I feel lucky to be able to avoid crowds of people and other pitfalls associated with COVID-19, if truth be told, we are all in this mess together and must rely on each other to get to the other side. And, of course, maybe medical science will discover a vaccine while we hold our breath.

NAME: Richard Paul Gray
BUSINESS: Certified-Environmental, Inc.

I am a Board Indoor Environmentalist that has been in business for over 20 years, which should mean I have more answers than questions; not the case. I know of 2 of my friends that have had Covid-19 both are over 60 years old, both said it was no different than the flu. Both are back into life after 12 days.

 I know a lot of people from doing business here in California and am puzzled by the lack of evidence other than the news media about this pandemic that has closed down the entire country and is devastating  to our lives. I’m looking forward to hearing from others, I am tracking this testimonial project. Like to hear from you.

NAME: Kit Johnson
BUSINESS: J4 Automotive, East Helena, Montana

When the shut-down happened, business dropped drastically as folks stopped driving and only essential businesses like ours stayed open. For about four weeks we kept busy doing shop maintenance and training, but business gradually started to pick up as restrictions were lifted.

NAME: Adam Hutchinson
BUSINESS: Missouri River Brewing Company, East Helena, Montana

When forced to slow down your everyday life and stay inside, you start to appreciate the things that we took for granted.  We choose to enjoy the sun rising, Family dinners, game nights, maybe pick up the dusty book.  Kayak and paddle board sales are way up as people journey out to the wilderness away from the masses.  Absolutely has everyones lives been effected in a negative way.  But the sun is still warm on my face and the beers taste great with the people I love most.

NAME: Doug Carpenter
BUSINESS: Heritage Food Store, East Helena, Montana

Here at Heritage Foods, we’ve had to overcome many obstacles during the pandemic. The biggest of which has been keeping product on the shelves. In the beginning, there was a run on toilet tissue, rice, pasta, soup and cleaning supplies. Then, as the virus spread, it became difficult to carry fresh meat as packing plants were shutting down and the whole supply chain became affected. And, of the meat we were able to receive, we would only be sent one case of the four or five that we ordered. Today the hardest things to get are cleaning supplies.

We have be very fortunate not to have had any employee get sick from Covid-19. We continue to do our best to provide for the residents of East Helena and the surrounding area.

NAME: Spencer Haire
BUSINESS: High Plains Sheepskin, East Helena, Montana

High Plains Sheepskin has been a part of the East Helena/Helena community since 1984.  We first would like to thank our local customers for supporting us through the past few months.  In many ways, i feel like the COVID pandemic has affected us in the same way it has affected many other retail businesses in the area.  The initial shutdown of course prevented people from entering our store but we were fairly lucky it didn’t occur during our busy season.  After learning more about how the virus is transmitted, we were able to put into place the proper precautions necessary to keep us and our customers safe.  Our business has a strong online market, but we feel we need to maintain certain requirements, such as mask wearing and occupancy limitations, to continue keeping our community safe.  As we move into the busy Christmas season, we would like to thank our customers in advance, for showing us patience and respect.  It takes incredible people like you to ban together and persevere through times like these.

NAME: Laura Demoreno
BUSINESS: Homemaker, California

I’ve lost my mom in the most unnecessary way. She had Alzheimer’s and she died of sadness. I am sure of this because though she had a disease that would never improve and would have eventually taken her life, it happened at a much more accelerated rate than it needed to. In February 2020 we placed her in a memory care facility. She was visited by my father daily and by myself and sister on weekends. She seemed to have started to acclimate to the change and was doing pretty well physically and cognitively.

Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly the visits stopped completely. We were not allowed to come to see her nor was my father. A man she was married to for 55 years that was one of the only constants in her life. We figured we would soon be allowed in, or at least my father would and in the meantime we tried FaceTime visits, letters and sending photos, phone calls and when the time came patio visits (albeit with a mask and fence separating us). From mid March to June her decline was visible. She had stopped talking altogether and walking, which was something she loved to do, became difficult. We continued to ask when one of us would be allowed in and asked about my father acting as an “essential caregiver” that wasn’t possible due to the “rules.” We got to see her again in July (patio visit), but before that visit we were told she had declined some more. Indeed she had. She was now wheelchair bound and didn’t seem to respond to any of us. We went again (another patio visit) in early September and were warned things were getting worse for her, hard to imagine because last time we saw her the decline was jarring. But indeed, she was sitting in her wheelchair, eyes shut, and stopped eating or drinking. We were about to pull her out of there because we were at our wits end. It wasn’t the memory care facility, they were doing their best, but she was dying of sadness because it was confusing to her that her loved ones stood before her but couldn’t touch her, they wore masks and maybe she wasn’t even sure who we were.

At that point the facility offered hospice because she had not eaten or drunk in days. We took it and magically we were allowed into the facility to be by her side. We thought maybe we’d be ushered in a side door and she’d be put into an isolated room or something, but no, we washed our hands, put on a gown, gloves and n95 mask and went to her room to be with our dying mother, my father’s dying wife. She was in hospice for maybe three days before she started to “transition.” The damage was too far gone, she couldn’t recover. She was lucid and responsive those first days of hospice but by then her body couldn’t recover from the lack of food and water. She died of sadness due to COVID-19. This isn’t ok. She wasn’t the only one, like her there have been many patients that couldn’t take the isolation from family and despair that brought. This isn’t ok. Something needs to change. Yes, protecting the residents is very important, but at what cost? There should be the option to have a least one designated “essential caregiver” allowed for residents of these facilities. I do not want my mother’s death to be in vain. This cannot continue. Please honor our elders, our loved ones, these very important people. Don’t let them be forgotten. Don’t let another die of sadness.

NAME: Marcia Day
BUSINESS: Marcia Day Hair Design, California

My story is the story of many self-employed solopreneurs. Government says, “don’t go to work.” “We don’t know how to stop or control this thing.”
Well, OK.. The way I pay my bills is one client at a time,14-20 a week. Yes, I filed for unemployment for the first time in my life and there was the extra $600 a week for a while. So I got by. I got by on generosity from my landlord, my clients and family.Some of my clients bought hair color kits from me and taught their husbands how to apply, or did it themselves. A few, wired money or sent extra $$ to help while we waited this out.
Well, I never knew how important my job, skills and relationship to people made their lives better until COVID 19 made the abyss open up.
MY lesson from this ongoing experience:  Appreciate every day, everyone you love and meet along the way. Be generous, understanding, funny and patient!
AND yes, it’s ok to be depressed and frustrated, but don’t let it ruin your DAY !

NAME: Ed & Sue Scalzo
BUSINESS: Forever Yours Fine Furniture, Reno

Interesting enough we were actually traveling back from San Diego, Friday March 13 2019. Things were just starting to hit the fan and the seriousness of the situation was  settling in with everyone.

At the airport flying home to Reno people  were skittish, some wearing masks, with everyone quite anxious to get home. Our store was open for the weekend
with good sales, however by Monday we were told that things would be closing down. We shut down the store and were open for appointment only. By the end of that week we had laid off several of our employees. For the rest of March and April our sales dropped approximately 70% and we sat around in a quarantine
state of mind.

Starting early May we were allowed to open with safety guidelines, and in our case we have a large showroom were able to allow customers back into our store with masks and practicing social distancing. Incredibly enough we are one of the industries that has bounced back, as people reimagined their homes and living space, being home so much. So at this point sales have returned with a surprise demand and there is actually a rediscovery of the joys of ones home.

 Our store has existed in the Reno/Tahoe area for over 44 years and that’s our story. We feel for other local businesses that have had a harder time getting restarted, the restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit in our area. Our last thought is try to support your local small businesses that are a bedrock to your local communities.
Peace and Blesssings.

NAME: Cliff Spenger – Oakley the Tree Man
BUSINESS: Traveling Entertainer
Website: www.cliffspenger.com

Normally, being a traveling entertainer, I would have performed at about eight county and State Fairs this year. Instead, the Festival we were at in March closed when the Pandemic hit. Then one by one all of the rest of the fairs canceled their 2020 season.

Sequestered in NY, I took a 15 week online course on creating an online course. I took another course in setting up the platform to hold the course.
 I’m currently taking a course on launching my course. And another course on article writing.
All of these projects are moving along. The side benefit is they keep me learning and my mind is not dwelling on the negatives.

NAME: Edie and Marvin Newman
BUSINESS: Retired

Born and Raised in East Helena and moved from Montana 14 years ago. Now in Kentucky and unfornately the Covid is all over the world. We are blessed to be retired so are able to stay home and out of touch with the virus as much as possible.  But seeing loved ones in our family being struck down with it and recovered Thank you Lord. It is a scary thing. I see my daugher in law one of the most careful persons I know to the point of wiping down all her groceries before put away.. She got bit by the Covid .. Our son as well.  Now one of my grandson in Helena has it too. Keeps this mom and granny praying for sure. We do not fight the the mask, we use gallons of sanitizer, wash wash wash our hands. but it only takes one slip of the germ to make it to you .. My heart goes out to those that have business hurt by it and jobs lost and bills that can’t be paid.  All we can do and we do .. is try and keep safe and pray for everyone else.

NAME: Jolie Nast
BUSINESS: Peer Support Specialist

COVID-19. When it hit  I was aghast. Now it’s seems like everyday life. Working in the behavioral heath industry I have seen a scare of COVID more than once. Questioning every day whether or not I’ll be eligible for the vaccine. All I can do now is pray for my elderly mom and my 16 year old.