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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Hats Off to Reading’s Heroes

As I’ve noted in past columns, the ever-earlier morning bird song, the flowers poking through the ground, the movement of the sun across the horizon a little more every day—these are all reminders that despite the weirdness, the earth is still spinning. Like the plants need the sun and rain (and occasional snow) to grow, we need to help each other to survive what is going on. That, too, is natural and normal, but in a time of crisis, it’s necessary.

Bill and I have worked up a shopping strategy that keeps our trips to the grocery store to once every 10 days or so. Despite our best efforts, we’re still working out the kinks in that system. For instance, I needed milk to make English muffins (my recipe file is getting a workout), and we seemed to have consumed a lot since our last trip. That gave us the opportunity to check out something that people in town have been raving about: placing phone orders at the Reading Greenhouse for pickup.

I admit that over the last five years of visiting the Greenhouse, I’ve usually made a beeline to the plants and flowers, so happy to have such a great gardening resource close to home.

Leaving the Greenhouse with potatoes, cheese, milk, avocados, corn and layer pellets for the chickens, and a beautiful bouquet of locally grown daffodils, I realize now how lucky we are to have this source of food and Watroba’s in our town. The pandemic has brought new meaning and relevance to the term “shop locally.” It helps keep us safe, but it shows support for our town’s businesses. It’s a silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud.

There are other silver linings as well. So many folks in town have been putting their sewing skills to use during this crisis. The majority of people whom I contacted about this preferred anonymity, so all will remain nameless heroes, but heroes just the same. These talented folks have been sewing masks, caps, and gowns for Springfield Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mt. Ascutney Hospital, and other healthcare facilities.

I also heard that the blood drive, which occurred last week, was a huge success. The drive collected 44 units of blood, and 12 people were new donors. Lots of Reading residents were there to open their hearts and veins to help others. Blood drives are exempted from the state's social distancing rules, but the Holiday Inn in Brownsville, site of the blood drive, was closed. It took a little bit of logistical work for it to reopen for this event. A big thank you to the Holiday Inn for making this work and to all the generous donors!

Another inspiring story I heard is that a man in the village is checking with his neighbors to see if they need anything from the grocery store before he goes shopping. Being a personal shopper for these people reduces the number of folks who could possibly be exposed while out—a very selfless and caring gesture.

The Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf is open during its normal hours (2pm to 4pm on Mondays and 4pm to 6pm on Thursdays). Food Shelf operations around the state and country are seeing a greater need for their services. Just remember that the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf is always there for anyone and everyone who needs it.

The folks on duty are following the Vermont Foodbank guidelines for safety and are temporarily providing curbside service instead of the usual "stop and shop" procedure. To do this, they make up the boxes of basic food supplies that include the staples plus produce and leave them outside the building. If you have questions about the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, call Sara Norcross at 802-484-5097.

Here's another local initiative that has been around for a while, but has new relevance and a new way to provide service.

The Reading-West Windsor Aging in Place Committee is proud to announce that they now have a special phone number that seniors can call to chat about anything on their minds. The number is 802-952-0097. All you have to do is leave a message with your question or concern. Someone from the group will call you back very quickly to chat and provide support as needed.

These are trying times, especially for people who may be alone in their homes. It’s good to know that even though contact is limited, it is available. Maybe just chatting will help you feel a little less isolated and possibly provide information or answers to your questions.

So hat’s off and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who is working to make Reading a better place during these times. If you can’t sew or can’t make a grocery run or can’t donate blood, there is plenty more to do. Smile. Call. Email. Video chat. Check in on people. Send a postcard, even if it’s to your neighbor, telling them you’re thinking of them. When we are free and clear, these are things we will remember and cherish.

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on April 9, 2020.

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