BeaverCountian.com is telling our county’s stories of personal sacrifice and need as we combat the coronavirus pandemic together.
Today, stories from county chocolate makers, county mental health professionals, a pregnant Patterson Township woman, warnings for the “Mupeers,” and a high school student’s dream ended.
By BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone.
Niki Gaberseck, 19, is five months pregnant with her first child, a daughter due in July.
She had just moved into her new place in Patterson Township with her fiancé when she found out she was pregnant. So that was a surprise.
Then a week ago, her employer at a fast food restaurant at Pittsburgh International Airport laid her off, giving her only half of the previous check it owed her, and nothing yet from her next expected check. So that was another surprise, but definitely not as happy as the first one.
She didn’t want to name the company because she didn’t want to risk losing possible backpay, but she said it owns other businesses outside of the airport as well.
“They said (the coronavirus threat) had put them in a cash-starved situation,” Gaberseck said. But that didn’t make sense because the pay period she received only half her pay for was from March 2-15, she added. “It wasn’t even my final check.”
Then, her fiancé got laid off from his welding job at Sukup Steel Structures in Ambridge. Another unhappy surprise.
Both have filed to collect unemployment, and both are looking forward to expected federal stimulus payments and they hope it all will keep them afloat. In the meantime, her doctors at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital have had a checkup with her by video messaging.
They asked her to buy a blood-pressure cuff to track her rates, and she fortunately already had one. She and her fiancé are playing cards and putting together puzzles and thinking about baby names as the baby kicks inside her. Gaberseck is wondering what her birth will be like and if hospitals will still only allow one person to be with her.
“I hope it’s blown over by then,” she said. “Because I don’t think I’d be able to do it without my mom in there.” If she has to choose, it will be her fiancé.
“It’s my first kid,” she said. “I never expected to have to go through it without my mom. I expected her to be there.”
Mary Anderson Cardwell was packing up shipping orders Thursday morning at Anderson’s Candies in Baden. Meanwhile, Mike Crudden was busy making cherry cordials at Rosalind Candy Castle in New Brighton.
If you want Easter basket bunnies and other chocolate goodies from local favorites, they are available. You’re just going to have to take an extra step to get them, and these local chocolatiers are hoping you do.
With Easter just more than two weeks out, this would typically be by far Anderson’s and Rosalind’s busiest time of the year. Crudden said Easter sales typically are about 30 percent of his yearly sales. Parents and grandparents would be browsing their chocolate-filled counters and breathing in the heady scent. Instead, they’re calling and asking if they’re open.
Although they’re allowed to still be operating, both businesses have chosen to keep manufacturing products but to close storefronts and offer curbside pickup. They’re also taking online orders and shipping locally and elsewhere.
Curbside customers should call the stores, order what they’d like, and then plan a pickup time.
Anderson Cardwell said her 104-year-old business just off Route 65 has never seen a downturn like this, “not even after 9/11,” she said. Crudden also said it’s been tough. His store has been operating since 1914.
Both stores gave employees the option to keep working.
“The health of everyone is our top priority,” Crudden said. Some have elected to stay home, he said, others are working various hours in different shifts to cut down on interactions. And Crudden himself is doing all the running to the curb to limit anyone else’s exposure.
“I don’t want others to be exposed,” he said.
“The community has been great,” Crudden said. “People are saying they’re choosing different (local) businesses to help during this time … and we’re doing the same.”
And, if there is any silver lining for chocolate lovers, Easter candy will be marked up to 50 percent or more off after the holiday.
Beaver clinical psychologist Dr. James Huha of Beaver answered his phone today, saying he’s been inundated with patients’ calls.
“Most of us are really, really running,” Huha said of he and his peers. “Many mental health professionals are receiving calls from patients because they’re having anxiety from the pandemic situation.”
Huha said patients are watching too much TV and listening to too many varying accounts of what’s happening and it’s causing hysteria and extreme anxiety. He said we need to concentrate on accounts that are based on solid, scientifically based data and from scientific organizations.
“I think people tend to allow their minds to catastrophize about this,” he said, adding that he personally believes the pandemic response is under control and everything will work out.
Another county mental health professional with a master’s degree in counseling couldn’t identify herself or identify whether more people have been seeking advice because of her work restrictions, but she provided some exercises Beaver Countians can be doing to squelch any anxiety they feel.
Most anxiety, she said, is likely stemming from feelings of loss of control: control over your future, control over your movements.
There are ways to “take back your power,” she said of these “grounding exercises.”
First of all, follow CDC guidelines, she noted, then “eat the meat and spit out the bones.”
Media reports can be overwhelming, she said, and recommended condensing the news to what can help you in your immediate life and “spit the rest out.”
Focus solely on now, not tomorrow, “stay in the moment.” When you’re overwhelmed, use your five senses to identify a designated number of immediate things. For example: five things you can see; four things you can touch; three things you can smell; six things you can hear; and two things you can taste.
That exercise will help to calm you and bring you back to the moment, she said.
Take a walk if it helps you in the moment. “Dance,” she said. “If you’re at home and you don’t have to go to work, dance in your living room.”
PYMATUNING AND ELSEWHERE
It appears locals have been opening campsites and summer homes in popular areas such as Pymatuning Lake much earlier than usual, most likely because they’re off work.
And although welcoming of their business during typical months, social media boards in those areas have been humming with warnings for us “Mupeers.”
Yes, they call us “Mupeers.”
Evidently, those of us from the county and the Pittsburghese region who flock north to Erie and surrounding popular summertime haunts often say, “Mupeer for the weekend,” or “Mupeer for the week.”
This is a bit of what they’re saying about us Mupeers:
I hope all of the people coming out of the cities can observe the social distancing while here. Not carry more virus into our small communities
My god watch the news
Stay in the city we will have nothing open until the 30 of April please keep your distance
So..the whole idea of staying home is so you don’t contaminate…or touch anything that has been contaminated in your wonderings. I miss camping too and in theory it would seem ok..but why even put anyone or your family at risk…this really sucks..but the longer we put off what needs to be done the longer it’s going to linger…just my 2 cents.
Pymatuning State Park, the state’s largest, has been a local favorite since being built during the Great Depression. All state park facilities are closed until April 30.
That means all park buildings, including park offices, restrooms, campgrounds, cabins, marinas, shoreline mooring, boat racks, all reservable facilities, and all forms of accommodations are closed. All events and public educational programs are canceled.
The public can still access trails, lakes, rivers, non-marina docks, forests, roads, and parking areas for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking. Anyone with reservations in this time period will be contacted, and full refunds will be made.
So, the “Upairs” are worried we’re going to overwhelm their small hospitals, and that could be a valid point.
Listen up, Mupeers!
This was supposed to be Mason Hedge’s big senior year.
His last time on Freedom Area High School’s musical theater stage. His last prom. His final walk to the school’s alma mater as he accepted his diploma.
Instead, Hedge, 18, of Freedom is sitting at home, looking at scholarship applications, shooting some hoops, thinking about where he might study musical theater performance in college, exercising on the treadmill, and messaging with friends.
“I gotta keep my mind busy or I’ll die from boredom,” he said. The activity could also keep his mind off his disappointment.
Tonight, Hedge was set take the stage as the male lead Seymour in Freedom’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
He and the cast, directors, stage crew and orchestra members had been hard at work nearly every day since mid-January on the show. Freedom Area is known for putting on top-notch performances, and Hedge had been in the prior five as well.
When school districts first closed schools, the show was postponed. When districts were forced to close longer, the show was canceled.
“It kinda took a blow on me,” Hedge said of getting the news. “My heart just sank. It was my final musical and I was gonna go out with a bang. … It really hit me.”
Hedge said his director hopes to find a way to put on the performance in the summer, if things get better. “But for me, it’s not going to be the same,” he said.
Prom hasn’t been canceled yet, Hedge said. It’s scheduled for May 8 and “promposals” and dress buying have already started, so kids are crossing their fingers.
On Monday, Freedom will begin online instruction and Hedge doesn’t know exactly what that will be like yet. But his school day will be from 10-2, broken up into four blocks each day and including personal learning time he must track, as well as some class video conferencing.
He’s also working online now with fellow members of the school’s newspaper at fhs-press.com. They’re planning to put their next monthly print edition in school lunches being provided to students for pickup at three locations.
Hedge is still hoping that classes may resume, and he doesn’t want to think about graduation possibly being canceled.
“It’s kind of scary,” Hedge said. “I definitely want to walk that stage. I definitely want the recognition. I don’t want to think about it yet. … It would be devastating.”
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