BeaverCountian.com is telling our county’s stories of personal sacrifice and need as we combat the coronavirus pandemic together.
Today, stories from a Beaver Falls wedding decorator; a Bridgewater alliance; a Chippewa Township care facility; and an Italian in Economy Borough.
by BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone and reporter Sandra Fischione
NORTH SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP
Danielle Portman was keeping herself busy at home this afternoon, ironing chair sashes and maybe going for a run later. Otherwise, she was “going nuts” not working her typical long days with her wedding decorating business.
Portman, who lives in North Sewickley Township and owns Muffie’s in Beaver Falls, said all of her brides scheduled for this month have canceled their weddings and most have moved their dates. Half of her April bookings have been canceled so far.
Those who have rescheduled are looking at summer dates, she said. She typically deals with brides, but one groom made his first call to her to cancel. Portman assumed the bride was too upset to talk.
“I’m hoping by May we’ll be back to normal,” she said.
The camera’s angle was only so big and the three knew they were violating the social distancing rule, but they felt what they had to say was important for their small town to hear.
So at 7:30 this morning, Bridgewater Mayor Tim Reddinger, council person Judith Bert and Fire Chief Chuck Bates stood side by side before the camera and made a video later shared on social media.
And this is what they told their 800 fellow residents: You are not alone.
“Our community has suffered through many crises, floods, blizzards, and we’ve always come together,” Bert said. “If you’re out of town and you have a relative in town, please feel free to call the fire department or the police department for a welfare check. Take care of each other, if you’re going to the grocery store, call your neighbors, see if you need bread, milk or whatever. Don’t panic. We’re here and we’re a unit.”
Bates reminded everyone to follow government guidelines. “Wash your hands, wipe things down, keep things clean. We are all in this together.”
And Reddinger stressed calmness and taking care of each other and especially the elderly.
“We will survive and we will come out the end, and when we do, please, please go to our local businesses. They have been so cooperative in closing down and just to-go orders, but they’re not multi-millionaires and they’re not big box stores, so when it’s over remember them,” Bert said.
Later, Bert said Reddinger initiated the idea on Friday night and they agreed it was a good thing to do.
“We thought we could show the town that we’re all working together. We felt that it was really important to say that there weren’t separate entities. That any time they needed anything, we’ve always taken care of our own down here,” Bert said. “We wanted to make them feel that we were here and if anything happened they could call.”
Julie Simmons of North Sewickley Township visited her 81-year-old mother last week at Beaver Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center in Chippewa Township.
Her mum is recuperating from a broken hip and Simmons goes to see her regularly. But on Wednesday, Simmons had to see and talk to her through a glass window. She held up her new puppy Patch for her to see.
“It just kind of made me miss her more,” she said.
Marco Fiorante of Economy is part of the gig economy, freelancing as a therapist, singer, teacher of Italian and wine “educator.”
So when the state closed schools and churches and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people because of the highly infectious coronavirus, Fiorante, 31, found his employment opportunities evaporate.
His Italian class venue was closed, and his therapy sessions, wine tastings and concerts were canceled, including an Easter concert in Beaver and an Italian-American concert in Naples, Fla., both originally scheduled for this month.
“I’m doing stuff, but I’m not working,” said Fiorante, who estimates his income has been slashed to 5 to 10 percent of his normal income.
His wife, Gina, a visual merchandiser for IKEA, is still receiving pay from her employer, also closed. But as a freelancer, Fiorante said he is ineligible to collect unemployment. He said he is still keeping busy, doing things like checking to make sure elderly friends have groceries and other needed supplies.
One of his primary concerns is the fate of his young therapy clients, who are ages 6 to 14 and have autism or behavioral problems. Fiorante would visit their homes for therapy sessions.
“The situation for these kids is very bad,” Fiorante said. With schools closed, he said, “They are with their siblings, in a closed environment,” while schools are struggling to find ways for them to cope. Fiorante said today that he had no sessions this week with his therapy clients.
“I want to be able to do these online, but now we’ll have to train to do them,” and figure out how to follow state regulations for such sessions. Fiorante, who holds three master’s degrees, including one in the psychology of music therapy, all from an Italian university, hoped to begin electronic sessions as early as next week.
A native of the Puglia region of Italy who immigrated to the U.S. five and a half years ago, Fiorante also taught four classes in the Italian language at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Beaver, now closed. He and his wife, Gina, had hoped to have their baby son, Antonio, just over 3 months, baptized next weekend, but that event, too, had to be canceled.
His parents and two brothers remain in Italy, where Fiorante keeps in regular touch.
“I talked with my mom today. It’s three times worse (in Italy) than here. They only allow two people at a time in the grocery store,” Fiorante said. “The police and army are everywhere,” making sure everyone stays home.
In Economy, Fiorante is able to get Antonio out for daily walks.
“I live by a cemetery, so it’s easy to walk there. I’m trying to stay away from crowded places. I have to do some grocery shopping, so I have to wear a mask and gloves.”
Fiorante said the current health threat and financial situation have made him “down; I’m devastated.” But speaking about Antonio made his mood brighten.
“Antonio has a bunch of toys. He has Daddy and Mommy” around more often. “He’s the happiest one. He eats, poops and sleeps; he’s an angel.