May 2020 Issue - Written by resident Tammy Whaley
Our world changed virtually overnight with the Coronavirus pandemic. We are working and learning from home, maintaining social distance, reaching out to family and friends for long talks, trying our best to support local businesses while striving to keep everyone we love safe and healthy.
These are monumental changes but one thing that has remained consistent in our community is that we continue to care for each other. The stories below are just a few examples of Eastside residents helping one another.
Sander Morrison is a DJ with WNCW who lives in Andrews Farm. A creature of habit, Sander has eaten at The Skillet almost daily for the past 10 years. The staff has always provided the best customer service and are like family to him. With local restaurants hit especially hard by the pandemic, business owners are trying to reconfigure how to survive financially.
The Skillet now provides take-out service only so Sander offered to pay for every order on Sunday, April 5 as a way to boost sales. His offer went viral on social media and some customers learned of the generous offer only when they arrived to pick up their orders. Thanks to Sander’s generosity, The Skillet did about $2,400 in sales on that one day, which allowed them to provide a week’s pay for its employees.
“Sander’s offer helped us a lot because we were barely getting by,” said Kelli Sapounas, the restaurant’s owner. “Hopefully it brought out people who had never been to The Skillet before and they will return. This definitely helped the staff in terms of a paycheck and morale. We are very grateful.”
Sander and his wife, Carlin, can empathize with The Skillet’s staff because they both have a history in the food and beverage business. “We are all in this together. I was blown away by the response and my efforts put some money in people’s pockets and it may help to keep one of my favorite restaurants in business.”
Sander said, “We have to get through this together even though we have to by necessity be apart. I was thrilled to do something that had a positive impact in my community with the people I care about.”
As an essential business, Bell Laundry remains open for business. Lisa Pappas quickly found a way to help her community by sewing facemasks using fabric from clothes that customers are donating. Men’s dress shirts made of high-count cotton and handkerchiefs are used to line the masks, which can be washed daily and re-worn.
“These are not medically grade facemasks but they do keep people who may be asymptomatic from passing along the virus to others,” said Lisa, who was working to provide masks for the police and fire departments.
With some grocery stores and other businesses requiring customers to wear facemasks while in the stores, facemasks are in high demand. Lisa says it costs about $2 to cover the cost of each mask but she is not charging only accepting donations.
To order a mask, call Lisa at (864) 583-8668. Bell Laundry is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
White’s Pine Street Exxon is the only full service station in town. Full service once seemed like a luxury to those used to pumping their own gas. But with COVID-19, it is now providing a major piece of mind to those who don’t want to come into contact with the gas pump handles that may carry a lot of germs.
“You can pull up to the full service pumps and we will pump your gas, clean your windshield, check your tires and look under the hood,” said Johnny Lee, manager of White’s Pine Street Exxon.
“I have been coming here for years and the full service option is great. White’s Exxon really takes care of their customers,” said Laura Hodge.
Ken and Laura Gordon have lived at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Palmetto Street with daughters Kennedy (14) and Zoe (12) for about seven years. The concrete dogs that stand guard on the front porch are often dressed up for holidays and special occasions.
“The previous homeowners used to put Halloween masks on the dogs so we continued that tradition and quickly expanded it more holidays,” said Ken, who recently put facemasks on the dogs to encourage neighbors to take the necessary COVID-19 precautions such as wearing a mask, taking their temperatures and wearing gloves.
“We try to keep it light and fun and give the neighborhood something to smile about or to acknowledge things like holidays and graduations. The response from the neighbors is overwhelming. When I am out doing yard work, people stop constantly to tell us how much they enjoy the dog statues.
Eliza Hyde, a Woodburn Road resident, is the mother of four children who range in age from kindergarten to 8th grade. Their MacBooks, iPads, pencils and school supplies are scattered across the dining room table, which is the base for distance learning in the Hyde household.
“It feels like “Little House on the Prairie’s” one room schoolhouse! Amidst all of this, I am also doing distance teaching to my precious second grade class,” said Eliza.
“Zoom” has become part of the daily vocabulary and lives of Eliza, her husband Max, and their children Llewellyn Ruth, Max Thomas III, Eliza Rose, and Annabelle Beatrice. Although this change has been unsettling and difficult to adapt to, Eliza said there are many silver linings.
“It has been nice to slow down life’s pace. We have reconnected as a family and movie nights, board games, walks, and bike rides have filled the gaping holes left by missing our friends and being out in our community. We have settled into a routine that limits screen time and incorporates outdoor activities and play. Our imaginations have flourished. How refreshing to witness this as both a mother and a teacher!”
Hunter Smith is seeing the COVID-19 pandemic at an up close and personal level. The Spartanburg High School sophomore, who lives on Westminster Drive, works at Publix.
He interacts daily with customers who are confused by the toilet paper shortage and the limit on the amount of food items they can purchase. As he carries out the customers groceries, they have a chance to make small talk and share their fears with Hunter.
As the pandemic continues, Hunter says Publix is taking greater precautions to protect its employees and customers. Each Publix employee has a facemask, the shopping carts are sanitized after each use, and 220 shoppers only are allowed in the store at one time as directed by state ordinance. The aisles are now “one-way” to provide for better social distancing and blue tape on floor shows people how far to stay back from other customers during check out.
“The majority of the shoppers are being very polite and maintaining social distance. They have also started declining our carry-out service as a way to keep us and them safe,” said Hunter.
Hunter said he has noticed shoppers using the mobile apps InstaCart and Shipped instead of coming into the store themselves.
Crystal Pace, a Hillbrook resident and area director for sales for Pinnacle Hospitality, is a ball of fire who is dedicated to helping her neighbors. When the pandemic first began, Crystal posted an offer via the NextDoor app to run errands or go grocery shopping for neighbors and several said yes to her offer and kindness.
Most recently, Crystal led a food drive for TOTAL Ministries, a nonprofit that provides for basic needs to assist families who are facing financial crisis.
“I offered to pick up food items from people’s front doors and was stunned when 25 people responded,” said Crystal. “I was amazed to drive to Marlin Drive, where homes were without roofs from the February tornado, and find donations set out for TOTAL Ministries.”
With so many homes to visit to pick-up donations, Crystal called her employer to tell them it would take her the whole day for the pick-up. Heirloom Restaurant immediately donated a great deal of food and sent employee Courtney Ezell to help Crystal.
“TOTAL Ministries was so incredibly thankful for the donations. I love living on the Eastside, everyone is so nice and generous. Helping others is my way of managing the world when it seems so out of control.”
On a recent sunny day, Allison and Michael Green were outside their Otis Boulevard home with children Hayden (17), Reynolds (10), Hillary (8), and neighbor Nora Atkinson (7). Together they were creating beautiful and colorful works of chalk art on the driveway.
“We thought this may bring a smile to the neighbors who walked by,” said Hillary.
Allison and Michael have been keeping their children occupied with schoolwork, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and scavenger hunts. For Easter, the family filled large plastic green eggs with treats and “egged” the yards of their friends.
“It was definitely a different way of celebrating Easter but we wanted our friends to know that we are thinking of them and to give them a little something fun to do,” said Allison.
“The pandemic has certainly brought our lives to a halt but it has allowed us to really determine what is truly important in life and to spend invaluable time with our family,” said Michael. “I’m not sure that I want to go back to the old way of life before COVID-19.”