BeaverCountian.com is telling our county’s stories of personal sacrifice and need as we combat the coronavirus pandemic together.
Today, we bring you stories from a New Brighton soup kitchen; a New Brighton pastor; a Beaver yoga instructor; a Beaver Falls restaurant; a Vanport Township gym; an Ambridge funeral home; and even Donnie Iris.
by BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone and reporters Sandra Fischione Donovan and Larissa Theodore
Karey McIntyre, who was born shortly after WWII and that’s all she wants you to know about that, was in a busy huff this afternoon.
The coordinator and cofounder of the nonprofit Twelve Loaves Soup Kitchen at 11th Street and Second Avenue in New Brighton was finishing up the daily meal and accepting a private donation of chicken breasts and sandwich bags – boy, she really needed those! – and talking about the tremendous local generosity.
“Run out after him!” she called to another volunteer about the man with the sandwich bags. “Get his name and address. I need to send him a thank you!”
Because of the pandemic, for at least the next two weeks the soup kitchen is operating curbside takeout from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday instead of the former twice a week, McIntyre said. Anyone is welcome to come.
“I don’t care, if you come in and say you’re hungry” you can eat, she said. When your fortunes are better, donate a can of vegetables, “and make it a big can!” she said.
The last sit-in meal was Monday, when 60 people came through the doors. Yesterday as the new coronavirus schedule started, 35 people stopped for bagged lunches, McIntyre said.
Today, almost 40 came by and got roast pork, baked beans, macaroni salad, a dessert and milk.
On Friday, needy folks will enjoy hot sausage donated by the New Brighton Gridiron Club. And there will be a wide variety of vegetables donated by the Pondarosa restaurant in Chippewa Township. Restaurants are widely donating food to soup kitchens they can’t use quickly enough, McIntyre said.
What Twelve Loaves can’t use quickly enough, it will donate to a Beaver Falls soup kitchen, McIntyre said. Other county soup kitchens operate in Aliquippa and Ambridge.
McIntyre said First Baptist Church sent volunteers to help today. “People are so generous and helpful,” she said.
Wouldn’t you know that she stopped at Craig’s Hardware in the borough for some things and she was given a check this morning? Wouldn’t you know she opened it in the car and it was for $500?
“That’s the kind of people we deal with all the time,” McIntyre said. “I’m so delighted to be alive to do it.”
Father Glenn Crytzer at New Brighton’s Christ Anglican Church is going virtual.
The church on Third Avenue suspended its services this week, and is livestreaming services on its Facebook site at 9:30 a.m. Friday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
The decision was made by the diocese bishop and word was passed along to all congregations, Crytzer said.
Christ Anglican has a congregation of about 75 with about 40 coming to regular services, he said. But last Sunday, as it was still open to the public, the sanctuary got a “little spike” of outside believers.
“We’d been getting a lot of calls,” Crytzer said. “A number of people from other churches (that had already suspended services) wanted to know where they could come.
“It’s difficult for people seeking comfort especially at a time like this,” he said. “It’s such uncharted territory.”
Andrea Kirkman sat at her computer Thursday uploading yoga instruction videos to her website and social media accounts. Her recordings are maybe not professional quality, but it’s at least something she can provide to existing students and the public at large to help.
Kirkham, 46, of Hanover Township is the owner of Sangha Center for Yoga and Wellness in Beaver. The studio closed its doors on Monday.
“It’s kinda crazy right now,” she said, adding the studio plans to be closed for at least a week and probably next week as well. She’s also been fielding calls and messages, working on reimbursements for canceled workshops and extending passes.
“We’re just trying to keep our students moving” and practicing until they can come back to classes, Kirkham said. “We just want to support the people who have supported us.”
Sangha, open for 10 years next month with about 700 students a month, is getting no income during this time. “It will be a very hard transition for us” to come back from the closure, Kirkham said.
She said she’s doing her part to support other locally owned businesses, such as ordering take-out from local restaurants.
She said practicing yoga not only is great exercise, but helps tremendously with anxiety and with peace of mind.
“I think there never been a more important time to calm yourself down,” she said.
Marina Apostolis is heartbroken watching Athens Family Restaurant – the business her father opened 40 years ago – dwindle from a bustling Beaver Falls hotspot to a quiet, lifeless space.
“We’re very slow. I think we’re actually going to close because it’s just not worth it to stay open,” she said during what should have been a busy lunch hour today. “It’s definitely been a challenge.”
At about 5:15 p.m., Gov. Tom Wolf ordered what Marina was dreading: the mandated closing of all but “life-sustaining businesses” to close at 8 tonight. Wolf mentioned restaurants and bars must close, but carryout, delivery and drive-throughs food and beverage service may continue.
Marina’s father, John Apostolis, who emigrated from Chios, Greece in 1973, opened Athens Family Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in 1980. The eatery had been nonstop with customers for years, so much so that the family had been praying for time to get caught up and get things done.
They didn’t expect this.
Only family are working because they can’t afford to pay employees. Employees were positive about the layoffs, but it was still upsetting for the owners, knowing there was nothing they could do to help, she said. This week, the restaurant is also trying takeout, but the future of operations still looks bleak.
John Apostolis has worked from open to close for so long, he is still coming in and putting his apron on.
“It’s so upsetting to see everything he’s worked so hard for is, kind of like, gone overnight. We’re still here. We’re trying. We keep telling him to take a vacation, take a break. Hopefully they find something to cure it and we’re back on our feet,” Marina said.
Rick Daman was working on one-on-one strength training with a client this afternoon.
He closed his business, Daman’s Strength Training at 16A Georgetown Lane in Vanport Township, to the public at large on Monday in an effort to help halt the spread of COVID-19 in the area.
“I felt it wasn’t a mandated thing,” Daman, 39, of Brighton Township said. But it was the right thing to do, he added.
He said he has received “unbelievable, positive feedback” from members “who have gone out of their way” to call, text and otherwise contact him to express support.
“I wanted to do right by the community and the people,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”
Daman’s sent members a mass email, allowing them to come in Tuesday and select a piece of sanitized equipment – maybe a barbell or a kettle ball – to take home for use. “Dozens came,” he said.
Then they can choose from three daily live workouts the business is streaming online on Zoom at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Daman leads the 6 p.m. workout; his wife Dena does the 6 a.m. routine. He’s been seeing about 15-20 people participate each time, he said.
Daman’s also sent out eBooks for at-home workouts, one for kids and others for athletes and each gender of adult. “We’re delivering as much value as we can,” he said.
He said the family business, which has been operating for just over 10 years, is also trying to do one-on-one work via Zoom and Facetime.
Daman said regular business will resume when he feels it’s safe. “I don’t want to be the reason for an outbreak,” he said. “You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.” He wants to be part of the solution.
Also, “I don’t want to lose my business. I busted my ass for this business.”
When Bob Matich sat down to help a family make funeral arrangements for their loved one on Thursday, he did two things he was not accustomed to doing: he didn’t shake anyone’s hand, and he sat at the other end of the conference table at Bohn-Matich Funeral Home and Cremation Services Inc. in Ambridge.
Such is making funeral arrangements during the coronavirus pandemic, where Matich was ready to recommend a private visitation. The state Funeral Homes Association on Tuesday issued guidelines recommending either no viewings or limiting them to gatherings of no more than 10 people.
As it turned out, the members of the small family said, “We don’t want anyone coming in here and affecting us,” and opted for that very thing.
And he said there was a slight chuckle from the clients when they told Matich their mother never wanted a visitation anyway, adding, “This (coronavirus) makes it easier to follow Mom’s wishes.”
Another set of clients chose no visitation at all for their loved one, just a private Roman Catholic Mass. Matich said the Catholic Church currently recommends not publicizing the time of Masses of Christian Burial in local newspapers to prevent additional family and friends from attending and possibly exposing or being exposed to the virus.
So far, the Bohn-Matich Funeral Home has not had clients asking for normal visitation, but if they did, the funeral home is prepared to limit groups of mourners to 10 at a time according to the recent recommendations, Matich said. Other visitors can wait in their cars or elsewhere.
“We’ll say, ‘Please pay your respects and move on; be kind enough to let others in,’” Matich said. “Some people can linger for three hours.”
EVEN DONNIE IRIS IS AFFECTED
On Thursday, Beaver County native Donnie Iris was browsing a Florida Publix grocery store. His concert planned for tonight at the nonprofit Center of Anna Maria was canceled days before because of the pandemic concerns.
The center is expecting to reschedule it for December. And Iris told BeaverCountian.com he was thinking of getting himself home.
“We’re probably leaving Saturday, because I’m hearing of a possible lockdown” of the airlines, Iris said.