Excelsior Springs Voices During COVID-19

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In an attempt to collect local stories documenting the COVID-19 impact that has been inflicted upon the citizens of the Excelsior Springs area was important to me. I used the Excelsior Springs Area News, Events, and Daily Deals Facebook Group to ask: “How has this crisis impacted you here locally? Have you lost your job? Is your business being hit by it? How is it changing your life?” The response was enormous, with over 150 citizens weighing in. Many shared their experiences now in being out of work, others are essential and are continuing to work. There are many that are missing loved ones and multiple small business owners shared concerns.

Suddenly Unemployed

Many families locally are dealing with unemployment, as revenue streams have diminished and shelter in place orders continue. Citizen Timothy Britton shared that looking for work during this time has been difficult, too. There are some places hiring, such as the grocery stores and Amazon, but other than that, the local economy has pretty much stopped. Take for instance Julia Terry‘s situation, who hasn’t been to work in weeks after working in a local restaurant. Her husband is still working a 12-hour shift, and due to her being immunocompromised, he goes through a thorough routine of sanitizing when he gets home.

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One of the largest hit industries has been leisure and hospitality. The Elms Hotel & Spa has been closed in Excelsior Springs since March 22nd and employees like Nikki Messina have found themselves out of work. Now that stay at home orders have been extended, the return to work is currently uncertain. Also high on the list of industry changes have been our retail stores. Many have resorted to establishing online shopping carts and offering curbside pickups or local deliveries to continue sales.

Kendra Clevenger found herself suddenly quarantined from work for two weeks, when she came into contact with someone who had contracted the virus. Then there’s Jana Schlossenberg, who reported losing a part time job and is having to refrain from buying anything extra for the kids when her husband’s hours were cut, too. The longer the shelter in place order stands, the more job positions will become vulnerable in being cut.

Small Business Voices

Well over a majority of our economic community is made up of small businesses. While many local businesses are leaning more heavily on their online presence using websites and social media to continue revenue streams, other small businesses are really hurting. Take for instance Chuck and Diane Wheeler who own Broadway Toyz downtown. Diane says, “We are closed. Due to contracts with vendors, we are unable to sell online. Have had a few loyal customers order. We have delivered and done curbside pick up. Not sure if we’ll survive. Hard to consider letting go of a dream. Especially one that was so appreciated.” They’re not the only one. Angela Snapp, owner of Niraha downtown is also closed. She says, “Being in the service industry is hard. I didn’t have much retail, so I am not selling online. I am not sure I will be able to re-open due to the financial losses I am taking right now.”

Other small businesses are finding themselves in the essential category and are continuing services, practicing social distancing guidelines given by the county. Domestic Engineers, a cleaning business, reported having a 70% drop in revenue and shared concerns about having a good recovery when 80-90% of their revenue comes from Air B&Bs.

Kimberly Draper shared her story saying, “My husband and I were just about to open a brick and mortar business. One that would have made several dreams come true for us. One the that would have given us a retirement plan. Things we had worked years, decades, to happen. We had THE perfect location, cheap rent, all the inventory, spent money, to open that business, just to have it not happen, and lose the money spent. We’re forced to sell business assets just to make ends meet.”

Essential Workers

Despite high unemployment figures, there are still many essential workers in the community who are continuing to report to work. Jessica Barney works at Price Chopper locally. She reports this being an eye opening experience, with people acting rude to workers when they’ve found themselves out of products. She says she’s thankful to have the work but also nervous to go in each day. She’s not the only one feeling nervous about working in this environment. After receiving a new position at Aldi‘s, Alisha Cotton shared being thankful but also worried about the possibility of bringing the virus home.

Many employers are doing what they can to keep their employees on the payroll. Eric St. John is a freight truck driver who is still working. He says he was hauling auto parts for the Claycomo/Fairfax plants but with them being closed, he’s one of a few that were kept to run general freight. He reports getting less money than before but is grateful to be working and home every night. Jan Smith feels the same way about her job. She’s been helping to deliver meals to students across the district with Apple Bus Company.

Doreen Hasserbeck shared her viewpoint in being a nursing home administrator here in Excelsior Springs. The changes for her have been that residents can no longer have any visitors from their family and loved ones. They’re not allowed to have activities with their friends in the facility and have to be six feet apart. They can’t be in groups more than ten. They don’t have any outside contact other than FaceTime, Zoom, or when their family come to the windows to look in on them. She also reports the impact that this is having on her staff saying, “My staff comes to work scared to death of bringing the virus in to them. It’s heartbreaking to see the residents faces so sad and lonely. We try our best to stop and visit them in their rooms from a safe social distance but many cannot see or hear well. We all took an oath to love and care for our residents, to give them the best life possible. This virus is slowly taking that way from us, the caretakers, and the residents. I’ll forever be different because of this virus in how I do my job. How grateful I will be when my residents can laugh and have fun again.”

Mental Health Impacts

Many parents throughout the thread shared their challenges in being a parent at this time. With all schools being out, kids are at home attempting virtual learning for the first time and parents are left acting as teacher. Casey Blocker and her husband are still working full time with kids home. She says, “Trying to help with homework after work and manage the household is stressful but we are managing.” Ginger Harris talked about the impact this is having on her family sharing, “Everything has changed for our family. The way we work, the way we learn, how we eat, how we interact with family and friends, the way we approach finances, household responsibilities, exercise, and shopping.”

Hazel Day shared how difficult it has been for her not getting to see her 11 grandchildren. She says, “They are missing their Granny’s hugs and they are frustrated. I am, too.” Krystal Collins misses her family, too, saying, “We all miss our freedom. My kids miss their teachers and friends…I can’t wait to hug the people I love outside my home.” One citizen shared their experience having manic depression, PTSD, and anxiety. She says the conditions of her depression have worsened. Richard Thogerson with the Clay Ray Vets Club says this is hard on our local veterans. That they are missing their Bingo. Then there are residents like Matthew Mullikin who says he’s been social distancing since 2017, when he started dialysis.

Conclusion

No matter your position in the community, everyone’s life has been impacted by the virus in some way. No longer being able to go to events, eat out with friends, or even go to the grocery store without wearing a mask. As orders are extended now until May 15th, with the understanding that if cases spike the orders will be reenacted, we are all suddenly finding ourselves in a new and different world.

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