It is pretty easy to be cynical right now, angry, sad and scared. Over the last several weeks, or what seems like years, our lives have been turned completely upside down. Lost loved ones. Lost jobs. Lost savings and retirement. The loss of face-to-face human interaction. Not being able to hug those closest to us. Forced cancelations of special life events. I could go on…and on…and on. It is really hard to accept this “new normal.” Living life behind a mask, however safe, isn’t human. We don’t realize the joy that a stranger smiling in public brings until it’s suddenly covered up and taken away. While we’re busy missing the comforts of daily existence, we’re living life behind a screen, desperately trying to make an unimaginable situation seem ordinary. The uncertainty that many of us are feeling is excruciating. Collectively, we don’t know what the future holds.

During such uncertain times, when I myself have been sad, scared and overwhelmed with grief, I’ve tried to find comfort in the good that is all around; individuals in communities across the world that are heroes masquerading as ordinary people. March 20th was Mr. Rogers birthday. On that day, my social media feeds were filled with uplifting Mr. Rogers quotes, including my favorite:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

This statement holds true for the community that I am lucky enough to call home: Happy Valley. Over the past ten years, we have weathered many storms. The helpers and heroes of our small community have propelled us through some terrible times, always with a mutual understanding that we are better together, as a family.

Over the last few weeks, I have seen an overwhelming number of positive stories come out of our community and have witnessed Happy Valley’s heroes firsthand. We owe these individuals and businesses a debt of gratitude for coming to the rescue during these distressing days. It is thanks to them that the small, close-knit community we love, has a chance to survive the many side effects of the awful COVID-19 pandemic.

Area small businesses, including many restaurants, have been hit extremely hard by the shutdown. From the moment all non-essential businesses were asked to close their doors mid-March, beloved local restaurant, The Corner Room, announced it was preparing free meals to feed local service-industry residents impacted by the pandemic. Their generosity and leadership influenced Cozy Thai Bistro to also offer free meals to those financially impacted by coronavirus. The health and wellbeing of citizens in our communities is of critical importance right now and what better way to help those in need than by providing them with a nourishing meal? Going above and beyond,  The Corner Room also provided a free bag of groceries to those in need this week. A statement from the company performing this heroic act read:

“As we all continue to navigate through these trying times, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to support our fellow community members. Together, we will survive this pandemic and bounce back stronger than ever.” 

Small businesses throughout our region are using their various talents to help fight COVID-19. The wonderful team at The Makery are leading this heroic effort with their Makery Mask Makers initiative. During a time when protective supplies are limited for essential workers, The Makery has spearheaded a campaign to make handmade masks for the community. I am inspired by The Makery’s dedication to keeping Happy Valley safe and healthy and giving back in such a creative way.

One of the biggest concerns for the beating heart of our State College community, locally owned and operated businesses, is paying rent without a steady stream of income. Many local landlords, like Calder Joint Venture and the Freidman family, have acted as heroes during this time, dramatically discounting or not charging rent for the month of April. The Moyer family of State College, who own the property that is currently home to Miska Jewelers and The Animal Kingdom, have waived rent this month in hopes that they provide relief during an unpredictable time. Trickledown effects of selfless acts like these will help ensure that State College maintains its small town charm for years to come.

When most people picture their heroes, they probably don’t picture their boss; however, I am not most people and my boss is one of my heroes. I have been lucky enough to be employed by Lions Pride and Steve Moyer for nearly 14 years! Over the past (almost) three weeks, Steve has done everything in his power to assure his employees that everything will be ok and that while the coming months will be challenging, he plans on keeping us all together because we are a team and a family. From quirky morning group texts, to “I miss you guys” emails, he has done everything in his power to remain positive during difficult days. While all small businesses are faced with economic uncertainty, he has made it a top priority to pay his full AND part-time employees, alleviating financial stresses for the people that work for him. I hope he realizes his generosity and how much he is valued because “thanks” will truly never be enough.

Lastly, I want to take a minute to give a huge virtual hug of gratitude to the thousands of heroes that keep our community, in the heart of Pennsylvania, running. Thank you to the doctors, nurses and staff at the medical centers throughout Centre County for keeping us safe and being on the front lines during this pandemic. Thank you to the farmers, grocery store employees, the restaurants serving takeout/delivery, and truck drivers who keep us fed. Thank you to the gas station attendants, postal and sanitation employees for the essential work you do. Thank you to the police officers and first responders for keeping our community safe. Lastly, thank you to the wonderful people in the State College and Penn State communities for rallying around and supporting the many local businesses in Happy Valley. Your gift card purchases, take-out orders, online orders and kind words have not gone unnoticed. You are all heroes for keeping us running during this time.

Be safe and be well, Nittany Nation. We can’t wait to see you again soon!

Danielle Stemple is a 2008 Penn State University graduate. In addition to acting as Lions Pride's marketing communications director, she is also a buyer for the retailer. Danielle recently earned her master's degree from West Virginia University in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking and training for ultra marathons. She can be reached at [email protected]

https://www.lions-pride.com

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