There are many unsung heroes around the Island, still working and out in the community, virtually and otherwise, throughout the pandemic emergency. Here are a few of them, ordinary people at work during the coronavirus crisis.

 

Sarah Crittenden owns Ghost Island Farm with Rusty Gordon. — Jeanna Shepard

Sarah Crittenden owns Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury with Rusty Gordon, her partner in life and work.

“We’ve been together since dirt was invented,” she said.

Ghost Island Farm is coming up on its ninth year. The farm stand is a small operation but packed with produce year-round. It is open to everyone but also utilizes a member system where customers pay a lump sum up front and receive a discount. The up-front money is essential for the farmers to plan and plant crops.

Usually, this is a quiet time of year to start seeds and work in the dirt but in recent weeks there were lines out the door, spilling onto the front lawn.

On Friday, the farm stand went to an online ordering model.

“We realized it wasn’t safe anymore to have people in the stand or waiting on a line,” Ms. Crittenden said. “We tried to switch to selling on the porch, with one person coming in at a time, but that turned into a nightmare. We have such a small space.”

Now customers place their orders online and then the staff gathers the produce and calls back to say when it is ready. Although it has been a quick technological learning curve, Sarah, Rusty, Coco Brown and Alison Kisselgoff are finding their way. Usually, customers are called back within 20 to 30 minutes of placing their order.

But of course it’s not the same without the customer interaction. For the moment, even the jazz records playing on the ancient record player are silenced.

“I’m just listening to the hum of the reach-in refrigerator and the hum of the lights over our tomatoes,” Ms. Crittenden said. “We are getting lonely.”

Ghost Island is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday (members only) though Sunday (everyone). To place an order, visit ghostislandfarm.square.site/

-Bill Eville

 

Chrissy Kinsman, owner of Pie Chicks — Jeanna Shepard

Chrissy Kinsman owns Pie Chicks, the Island pie-making business she began in 2013.

Ms. Kinsman said her workload is busier than it usually is this time of year. Ordinarily, she would be focusing on summer planning but instead she is in the kitchen.

For her, it is about keeping her business going during this time as well as finding ways to give back to the community. She is still baking pies about twice a week based on whatever ingredients are available at the grocery story. She has also reached out to the Food Pantry and Island Grown Initiative to help out in whatever way she can.

“I want to make sure there is food available for people who want it and need it,” she said.
She began working with the Food Pantry last year and so is well positioned to fill in gaps there now.

“I just want to give back since I am able to go to my kitchen and work,” she said. “I have a ton of gratitude that I can go into my kitchen where it is safe and do what I love.”

Soon school lunches may include Ms. Kinsman’s baked goods.

“This is how we get through it, by being helpful to each other,” she said. “It feeds my heart.”

-Bill Eville

 

Ed Cisek owns Cottage City Cab Company. — Courtesy Ed Cisek

Ed Cisek is the owner of Cottage City Cab Company.

As the coronavirus pandemic situation unfolded in March, Mr. Cisek said he noticed a different mood in his customers.

“There was just something in the air. I’ve been doing this for so long you can tell the vibe people have. No one was really talking about it, but everyone was kind of holding their breath both literally and figuratively.”

On March 18, he stopped his traditional taxi service.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable that I could maintain the six-foot distance in the taxis. The idea of me possibly being a spreader or my passengers being a spreader and contributing to the spread of the illness made me really uncomfortable.”

In the meantime, Mr. Cisek wrote on his company’s Facebook page that he would be available in emergency circumstances. For now, Cottage City Cab’s main line of business is delivering auto parts that come over on the Patriot boat to Island mechanics.

He is already wondering what the summer will bring.

“I think that’s the biggest question everyone is wondering right now in the industry. Are they coming over? I know right now there’s still the travel ban, how long is the travel ban going to last? Will visas even be issued? Staffing is already such a big problem on the Island. This summer, if we get the all-clear in the next couple weeks or months, it’s going to be very hard to know what staff is going to look like.”

-Aaron Wilson

 

David Araujo is the director of the Island Intervention center. — Mark Alan Lovewell

David Araujo is the director of the Island Intervention center and the director of the emergency services program.

The Island intervention center oversees the urgent care program that is run out of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. The emergency services program handles all the emergency service cases that go through the hospital, the jail or the community. They handle assessments and figure out the safest possible placement for individuals.

As of right now, due to the stay-at-home orders, Mr. Araujo said there are currently no clinicians at the community services campus. Instead, outpatient clinicians are working remotely via Telehealth or Zoom.

Mr. Araujo said the jail also has an iPad set up with Zoom if need be.

“We are trying to either socially or physically distance ourselves from all clients, and not because we don’t want to see them, just more for safety measures and safety precautions going forward right now,” Mr. Araujo said.

Every morning Mr. Araujo meets with his staff and program directors electronically. Since the start of the Island-wide shutdown, Mr. Araujo has built a network between Island police chiefs and other individuals. He said the goal is to keep a dialogue going as everyone works through this situation.

“I think we’re in this gray area where we had solutions when it was a concrete system, but now that it’s not a concrete system, nobody has all the answers,” he said. “And I think that either collaborating or talking with other individuals or other groups that may have come up with something that you don’t have is a wonderful thing.”

-Aaron Wilson

 

Asa Baer is the livestock manager for Grey Barn Farm. — Molly Glasgow

Asa Baer is Grey Barn’s livestock manager.

While many other job sites on the Island are shutting down, Mr. Baer and his four co-workers continue to care for about 90 cows, 60 pigs, 40 lambs, a flock of chickens, calves and a couple of cats.

With social distancing taking precedent, Mr. Baer is scheduling his crew so their shifts don’t overlap. It’s a big change at Grey Barn where the staff is used to working together.

“But cows always have to be milked, so it’s not really all that different,” Mr. Baer said.

“All my employees are doing three 14-hour days in a row and one half day before being off for three days,” he added. “I’ve got a great crew, everybody’s been good.”

A typical day begins when the rooster crows, with feeding the calves and milking the cows starting at 5:30 a.m. The parlor gets cleaned and milking wraps up around 8:30 a.m. Mr. Baer starts his day feeding three different groups of cows, each group receiving a different kind of food. Once milking is complete, he helps feed the pigs, bottle milk and wash eggs before afternoon milking begins at 3 p.m.

“Everybody seems pretty good, it’s defiantly a little chaotic just because of the way it’s scheduled, but everybody has been in good spirits,” Mr. Baer said.

At the farm stand, business is booming. New protocol only allows one person in the farm stand at a time to retrieve groceries.

Mr. Baer said he just got back with a load of 30 pigs that usually hold him over to the next load which typically comes in August. If sales continue at this pace, though, another run to meet the June and July demand could be necessary, he said.

Aaron Wilson

 

Andrew Berry is a captain of the Chappy Ferry. — Jeanna Shepard

Andrew Berry is a captain of the Chappy Ferry.

Four years ago he retired from his possition as assistant principal at the regional high school.

“The ferry is like water or electricity,” he said. “It’s an essential service for people that live on Chappy. You have to get everything from groceries to emergency vehicles over there. It’s essential we keep it running.”

He said the social-distancing precautions have interrupted the pleasant banter during the short ride to and from Memorial Wharf in Edgartown to Chappaquiddick, but he said it is a good sign the ferry and passengers are taking the measures seriously.

“Passengers in their cars tear up their own tickets. They can even leave their windows up.”

Walk-on passengers are asked remain six feet from the captain.

“It’s strange not having any interaction at all,” he said.

Mr. Berry said there was a slight increase in ferry traffic when the coronavirus news began to emerge and summer residents returned to their homes on the island. But now that people are beginning to settle, he said the harbor has become quiet.

“It’s quite a drop off in activity around here. Even driving into work, the street are empty. It’s pretty eerie. There’s no boat traffic, no moorings to pick up, just the occasional scalloper.”

Will Sennott

 

Nyasia Smith works at DeBettencourt's Garage in Oak Bluffs. — Jeanna Shepard

Nyasia Smith works for DeBettencourt’s garage in Oak Bluffs. On Wednesday, she was working the gas pumps, but on other days she also works behind the counter ringing customers up for gas, coffee and snacks.

Recently, however, traffic at the gas station has started to lag.

“It’s really slowed down a lot,” she said. “No one is really coming in. We went from being so busy to only needing two people working at a time, to we barely need one person. And even then it’s only five cars coming through every hour, if that.”

Normally, one employee works the register indoors and two work the pumps. But in the interest of minimizing the chances of exposure,

DeBettencourt’s has put a hold on their self-service coffee station.

“If they can stay in their cars rather than entering the store if they don’t have to, then that’s best,” Ms. Smth said. “We can do everything with less contact and less traffic.”

The lack of customers has brought uneasy feelings about the future, she added.

“It might cause future problems if people have to be laid off. They might have to choose the workers because there are not hours to give or work to do.

We just hope for things to get better or that it can get better and that it all doesn’t have to come to all of us being laid off at some point.”

Aaron Wilson

 

Jack Ryan works at the West Tisbury post office. — Bill Eville

Jack Ryan lives in Oak Bluffs and works at the West Tisbury post office. Each morning he takes the Vineyard Transit Authority bus to work.

“Normally there are some teachers and students and people who work at Cronig’s on the bus with me,” he said. “But now I’m the only one.”

Mr. Ryan was worked at the West Tisbury post office for five years, and the Vineyard Haven post office for two years before that. The postal service is one of the few businesses running regular hours and in close contact with the public. Mr. Ryan said there are protocols in place.

“We all wear gloves, have tape on the floor where customers should stand to keep far enough apart and we wipe down all the surfaces every chance we can get.”

There is a benefit to working in customer service during these days of social isolation.

“Our customers are fantastic. Really. The bring us treats, cookies, and stuff from their gardens, you name it.”

Mostly people come in to pick up their mail and packages, he said. “A lot of medication comes through the postal service so they need it. And stuff for their animals. We have a lot of horses up here.”

Ordinarily, this would be the season of live animals coming through the mail, too.

“Chickens and ducks. But not now. It’s prohibited. But people are bringing us eggs.”

One customer dropped off some extra gloves for the postal workers.

“I don’t even know who she was,” Mr. Ryan said. “She was wearing a mask.”

Bill Eville

 

Danielle Light teaches fifth grade math at the Oak Bluffs School. — Courtesy Danielle Light

Danielle Light is a fifth grade math teacher at the Oak Bluffs School. She is also a parent of a third grader and a fifth grader, and so is seeing both sides of the homeschooling equation.

As a teacher she helped create an online curriculum for her students. As a parent she is incredibly appreciative of the work her colleagues have done for her children.

“I feel like the way the information is being provided to them is so age-appropriate and user-friendly,” she said.

Ms. Light’s children received Chrome books from their school and start their day by logging on to learn about their daily assignments. Her fifth-grader has three different subjects each day where all of his teachers post a daily activity. Her third-grader also receives email activities each day.

“She got sent home with a bag of books that we have already gone through in a week. But there’s so much digital reading they can do, so they have plenty of work to keep them busy.”

Once the kids are done with morning lessons, they take a break for lunch. In the afternoon, they dive into some special activities prepared by their teachers. On Monday afternoon the children were challenged with building both an indoor and outdoor mini-golf course.

“My kids are dragging two by fours from the back of the house to the front and I have no part in this,” Ms. Light said with a laugh.

“I’m in a very good place of enjoying this and enjoying the time with them,” she added. “It’s because their teachers are providing the work, that’s the piece that’s made this so helpful. It has made it a very comfortable environment for us.”

— Aaron Wilson

 

Molly Coogan, store manager, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.

Molly Coogan is store manager and buyer for the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven.

On Monday, following Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate, the store closed its doors at 2 p.m. for however long is necessary.

Ms Coogan hit the road doing a few last deliveries.

“I took some kids books — Frog and Toad, Ferdinand, some other classics ­— to a family with little kids, and dropped off the new Emily St. John Mandel novel The Glass Hotel to another customer. It comes out officially tomorrow so she got it early,” she said.

Last week, when the store was still open for browsing, Ms. Coogan said people were mostly looking for books on pandemics and plagues but the store had already sold out.

“The Plague by Camus was long gone,” she said. “But I did sell World War Z, about the zombie apocalypse. I don’t know, maybe it makes people feel better, that it could be worse.”

After finishing her book deliveries, Ms. Coogan headed home to Oak Bluffs where she lives with her husband and two sons.

She is reading Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith.

“It’s a Southern Gothic novel. I had just finished a campus novel that took place in the Midwest and wanted to go south, to where the kudzu was swallowing up everything,” she said.

Although the store is closed for now, Ms. Coogan remains open. Readers can visit the website to order books, and on the door of Bunch of Grapes, Ms. Coogan has left her email.

“Anyone who wants to can check in with me and ask for book recommendations,” she said.

Visit bunchofgrapes.indielite.org or check in with Ms. Coogan at molly4books@gmail.com

Bill Eville

 

Jennifer Kleinhenz, licensed veterinary technician. — Julia Wells

Jennifer Kleinhenz is a licensed veterinary technician who has worked at Animal Health Care Associates in Edgartown for the past seven years. She lives in Oak Bluffs with her husband, who is an arborist.

“He’s the one in the trees with a chainsaw,” she said.

Between them they have five children.

She has been a vet tech for 20 years and also has a well-established pet-sitting business.

This week the petite, energetic technician could be found scuttling in and out of the veterinary center near the airport, fully masked and gloved, delivering prescription medicines and other items to people who had come for emergency visits with their pets.

Under the new pandemic protocol, owners stayed in their cars while their pets were escorted inside by Ms. Kleinhenz.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” she said.

“You feel like your hands are tied, but I feel like I’m there to protect Dr. Ross [the veterinarian] too,” she said.

“It’s been hard to have to turn away some things like a broken tooth or a broken nail, which we never do. But we are in an emergency. I went to the pharmacy today and it was like — through a window.”

Ms. Kleinhenz has no pets of her own at home, but with her business she is always caring for at least one dog.

Now that has changed.

“It’s so weird to have an empty house. I have no one,” she said.

— Julia Wells

 

Gary Robinson, Chilmark asst. fire chief. — Courtesy Gary Robionson

Gary Robinson is assistant fire chief in Chilmark and emergency management director in Aquinnah.

On Saturday, Mr. Robinson and his team started a mission to sew masks for the hospital. The team has also reached out to other Island organizations like the Hebrew Center and senior centers to widen the scope of the project.

“If we’re going to be housebound for two or three weeks, let’s get into our sense of community and give these people something to do,” Mr. Robinson said.

In addition to sewing masks, Mr. Robinson said the Aquinnah community emergency response team has been helping seniors by dropping off groceries and putting color-coded cards in their windows for residents to signal if they need help.

“Other than potential hurricanes and winter storms, we haven’t had to face something as potentially day-to-day life altering as this is,” he said. “It’s new waters for most of us.”

“The Island, instead of six different towns, is working as one voice,” he added.

The sense of community gives him confidence the Island will overcome this challenge

“There are no egos, everybody’s working together and with the citizens, they’re helping us out where they can,” he said. “We’re going to beat this thing.”

— Aaron Wilson

 

Rev. Cathlin Baker, minister, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. — Jeanna Shepard

The Rev. Cathlin Baker is pastor for the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury.

On Sunday, she held a traditional service for church members from a non-traditional location: her home. She opened the virtual service with an extravagant welcome and lifted up prayers and concerns congregants had sent in by email the day before.

“What I was trying to focus on Sunday was reducing anxiety . . . how to keep that anxiety at a distance, though there is a healthy dose of it we all need now,” she said. “We did some guided meditations to offer prayers of protection and peace.”

In a time when gathering in person is no longer possible, Reverend Baker said bringing people together by any means necessary is important.

“People were so happy to see each other. All the waving and socializing,” she said. “There is a history of church having to meet in secret, or wartime . . . You just have to loosen the traditions a bit to accommodate the situation.”

She said the service and those to come are shaped by the clerical season of Lent.

“The story of Lent begins with Jesus in the wilderness as he begins his turn towards Jerusalem. He’s walking alone. There’s that sense of desertion, but the presence of God through it. All those feelings are part of this season.”

— Will Sennott

 

Lauren Grey, education support staff, West Tisbury School. — Jeanna Shepard

Lauren Grey lives in Edgartown and ordinarily her title at work is education support staff for the sixth grade at the West Tisbury School.

Now she is The Lunch Runner.

“I take the lunch from inside the cafeteria to the cars outside when they come to pick up their lunch,” she said.

Pickup is everyday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at all the schools around the Island. Students can get both their breakfast and lunch during those hours, Ms. Grey added.

It may not be a long distance from cafeteria to curbside pickup but the pace is fast and frequent. On Tuesday, Ms. Grey delivered 120 meals outside.

“Everybody keeps saying I need a fit bit to keep track of how far I go each day,” she said.

The preference is for lunches to be pre-ordered  but orders can also be taken at curbside.

“There is a sign outside, you call a number, Mary Boyd answers the phone and gives it to the cafeteria.,” Ms. Grey explained.

Ms. Grey said the hardest part about the new reality is not having a routine — and missing the kids. But some of her students accompany their parents for pick-ups.

“It’s so nice to see their faces, even though we can only wave from far away.”

“It’s very weird,” she added. “I’m just happy to be helping out in any way I can.”

— Bill Eville