BeaverCountian.com is telling our county’s stories of personal sacrifice and need as we combat the coronavirus pandemic together.
Today, stories from a New Sewickley Township nursing student; a Brighton Township pastor and jiu-jitsu teacher; the Freedom tax collector; a Monaca bar and grill; and a Chippewa Township superstore.
by BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone and reporter Larissa Theodore
NEW SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP
Twenty-year-old Cassie Kohler of New Sewickley Township was walloped this week by restrictions caused by the coronavirus.
She lost her waitressing job at The Sports Grille in Cranberry Township when it closed, and the Community College of Beaver County nursing student was told her in-person classes and hospital clinicals were suspended.
This is her final term in CCBC’s two-year associate degree in nursing program, which will allow her to become a registered nurse after taking and passing her state boards. Those boards cost $200 plus state fees, which right now are an additional burden.
CCBC told her not to expect to return to in-person classes until at least April 10. And the organization that coordinates the boards has suspended it until at least April 16.
Kohler is skeptical that she’ll actually return to in-person classes, though she’s been reassured she’ll be allowed to graduate. She doesn’t know if she’ll be able to personally collect her diploma as expected on May 5 in front of her proud parents. She doesn’t know if CCBC will have the pre-boards preparation that would typically take place in an auditorium. And she doesn’t know when she might be able to take the in-person boards.
But she does know she has already accepted a job offer at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland on the pulmonary unit starting on June 22, contingent on her passing the boards. Many of her friends also have job offers, she said. The excitement she felt accepting that job a few weeks ago is now tempered.
Now, she’s hunkered down at home with her parents, studying hard online. She and her fellow students and friends message and miss each other.
“It’s like suddenly we woke up and everything is done,” she said. “I worked so hard for this and to not walk across the stage with my friends would be disappointing.”
The government’s not in charge. We’re not in charge. No one but God is in charge as we go through this COVID-19 pandemic and we must trust in Him, Tim Michaux said.
But the Brighton Township pastor and Jiu-Jitsu academy owner is also taking what measures he can to keep his parishioners and students safe.
And, if you look on the bright side, he’s getting a lot more time with his kids.
The Beaver Assembly of God has temporarily suspended in-person services until at least April 5, the executive pastor said. And the Gracie Barra Beaver County Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, which leases space in the church building, has told its 120 students the same.
The church made its decision on Tuesday, Michaux said.
Parishioners – and anyone who wants to – can participate in a livestreamed short devotion and time of prayer on the church’s Facebook page at 7 every night as well as a livestreamed 10:30 a.m. Sunday service, Michaux said.
“The beautiful thing in this day and age is we have the capacity through social media platforms to stay connected,” he said.
Michaux, 34, said the church started livestreaming services about two years ago. Parishioners can also tithe online or through the mail.
“The building is not really the church,” Michaux said. “The people are the church.”
Jiu-Jitsu students also have free exclusive access to Gracie Barra’s parent company’s online training videos, which would typically cost about $500 to purchase, Michaux said, adding that people have been incredibly supportive.
“We’re in this together,” he said.
As the longtime tax collector in her small town, Melissa Kaercher closed her Freedom Borough office to the public and directed taxpayers to a drop box.
She picks up mail daily and offers to meet up in person if anyone asks. She knows these are uncertain times and money isn’t trickling in the same.
“I think a lot of people may be holding onto their dollars,” she said. “When you have a small community, and that’s the bulk of your money, you’re at their mercy. And I can’t say I blame them. You can catch up on your taxes, but you’ve got to feed your family.”
Freedom is a municipality of 700 households that depends on its tax base. Roughly $275,000-$240,000 in real estate tax helps run the borough, which had planned to seek a tax anticipation note prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
School taxes are collected for 2019 – that was closed out Dec. 31 – and delinquent taxes will be collected until the end of March. Usually by this time, Kaercher would have received more 2019 money, but “it’s very slow.”
“To me, even more frightening than the virus is when it ends,” Kaercher said. “Where are we going to be?”
Laws are being adjusted because of need. April 15 is nearing, when the borough expected to file for unpaid 2019 taxes at the courthouse. The courthouse currently is closed to outside traffic.
Kaercher’s family also owns a catering business in the borough and is getting cancelations and postponements on events like cash bashes and fundraisers that help organizations subsist. She’s hopeful their longtime business will weather the storm, but worries for struggling businesses and those just starting out.
“We’re all in this together. It’s not just me, not just my business, it’s not just Freedom Borough. It’s pretty much the norm everywhere.”
Bryan Beightley was at work cleaning his fryers at Whiskey Rhythm in Monaca today and preparing for takeout orders. When asked how he’s doin’, he answered, “I’m doin’.”
He voluntarily closed the bar and grill on the main drag on Monday and started carryout and delivery from 11 to 11.
“The thing is, I could have waited till last night (when the governor mandated nonessential businesses such as sit-in restaurants and bars to close). But I have a four-year-old, my cousin who works here has a baby. I didn’t feel comfortable putting our people in that situation.”
He’s following the mandated timeline, he said. “I’m hoping at the end of it, we come out OK. … It’s rough right now. I hope at the end of it, the small guys come out OK.”
Beightley said his business has gotten a huge, unexpected outpouring of support on social media. Maybe he and his wife Ayslyn’s previous support of others’ needs and fundraisers is paying dividends. Maybe it will keep him going.
“Honestly, I didn’t think that it would be as good as it is,” the 29-year-old from Rochester said. He’d worried about how he would pay his food bill, but so far he’s hangin’ in.
“It’s Friday…. Quarantine…. Chicken Wings…. Carryout/Delivery…. 724-495-0934 We appreciate everyone!” he posted on his Facebook page.
Used surgical gloves dot the parking lot at Walmart in Chippewa Township today.
Some shoppers wear them to push their shopping carts through the store and then discard them after loading their purchases into their cars. At lunchtime the store seemed a little busier than usual but shoppers were orderly and calm.
Yet a few unusual sights around the store showed this was not a typical Friday.
An older man wore a white filter mask as he walked through the pharmacy section. The toilet paper aisle was cleaned out and paper towel stocks were very low. A sign asked shoppers to be courteous to others and take only one pack.
Other than a few bare shelves in the canned goods aisle and a dwindling number of egg cartons, most other grocery sections seemed well stocked. Workers pushed wheeled pallet jacks stacked high with boxes of items for replenishing the shelves.
“It got a little busy. But nothing like last week,” said a cashier as she swiped and scanned a long line of canned vegetables for a customer.