A number of businesses and residents around Huntsville have been finding painted rocks with messages of hope written on them.
“My rock said ‘love’ and I posted on my personal Facebook on that day (March 29),” said Catherine Cole, owner of The Great Vine. “I was having quite a challenging time and that little yellow rock of sunshine filled my heart with joy. It was so random and kind and truly and profoundly appreciated at that moment. It connected me to my community with a message that even though I may be struggling I was loved and that was, at that moment, enough.”
The “rock fairies” as some residents are calling them also left painted rocks at Huntsville Hospital.
“I think it’s been wonderful for staff to see these thoughtful tokens of appreciation as they come and go to work,” said Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) CEO Natalie Bubela. “I’m sure they feel encouraged by their greater community. There have been many supportive comments and cards, banners and flags, and even thank you signs at the end of residential driveways dedicated to essential workers. I think these gestures truly resonate and bring a sense of support, togetherness and solidarity.”
With the restrictions put on local businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that aren’t shut down are having to find alternative ways to serve customers.
Cole has adjusted her hours to operating four days a week, instead of seven, and limited the hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Seniors and residents with compromised immune systems are able to shop from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
The staff are taking orders via phone, their Facebook and Instagram pages and are offering same day delivery to Huntsville and Port Sydney if orders are placed before noon.
“Serving customers during this time is a gift, a privilege and a challenge as well,” said Cole. “We are so deeply indebted to our community for supporting us all these years and we want to be able to ensure that our community’s health needs are met because we know that so many of our customers depend on these supplements to remain healthy. We struggled constantly with the ethics of how to reduce our footprint in the world, keep ourselves and our customers safe and to create the best possible conditions for safety and isolation. We are also aware that for those with special diets and needs we have a very unique product line that you are unable to get at any other location.”
Cole and her husband Kenneth have been operating The Great Vine since 1991, with 28 of those years at their downtown Huntsville location.
While the identities of the rock fairies are unknown to most, Cole does know one but is keeping it a secret.
“The rock fairy is bringing joy, helping us to remember we are a community and spreading compassion and sunshine. I am truly grateful,” she said. “These times are trying, too much at times, and remembering what is important—family, love, community, health—that is the lesson I need to embrace.”
Bubela agrees with the sentiment behind the rocks.
“I believe this a very caring way to bring positive and inspirational messages to anyone during what is a very challenging time for many people. I’ve noticed them outside the grocery store and at drive-thru windows as well,” she said. “It’s a way for people to express themselves creatively and channel positive energy for the greater good.”
Bubela said the community support for staff at the hospital has been outstanding.
“MAHC continues to be on the receiving end of donated masks, gowns and gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as financial support through donations led by our foundations. As well, through the support of our foundations, an employee care program supported by local businesses provides grab-and-go prepared food support at lunch, in addition to ‘comfort stations’ at each site with snacks and inspirational messages. In addition, lodging/hotel supports, spiritual supports and psychological safety supports are available to staff and have been made possible by various community partners and friends. Our communities continue to rally around us and we are grateful for this support.”
Hospital foundation staff have been helping to organize the donations of supplies and meals from local businesses as well. For any future donations, Bubela encourages residents and business owners to reach out to foundation staff to ensure items are received safely without putting anyone at risk.
“Foundation staff are working remotely at this time and will return messages so we can facilitate these very thoughtful donations,” said Bubela.
For the Huntsville location, the contact is Cheryl Perry. She can be reach by phone at 705-789-2311 ext. 2372 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Bracebridge the contact is Amanda Brown. She can be reached at 705-645-4404 ext. 3193 or email@example.com.
The Facebook group, Muskoka Rocks, features photos of some of the rocks. According to the group, the rocks are being sanitized before being left around town.
As the pandemic continues, residents are reminded to stay safe at home.
“We encourage people to stay home wherever possible and physical distance from each other to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and limit the potential influx of patients requiring acute care,” said Bubela.
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