Crestone copes with COVID
by Mary Lowers
Strange days indeed, but that’s not stopping the Crestone/Baca Grande community from figuring out how we live with the COVID-19 pandemic safely. I spoke with people in the know about how they were responding to the situation. The community in general gets a gold star. Numerous local organizations, businesses and individuals have rallied to help and provide service to people.
First, I questioned our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). In the area Forbes Park, Crestone, Saguache County, and Monte Vista have CERT teams in place. The program was created for situations when numbers and scope of incidents overwhelm conventional emergency services. Our CERT group has 20 volunteers with ten active members.
CERT Chief Michael Fulcher said, “Your CERT team will continue to focus on home food deliveries to our at-risk citizens. We are open to finding new ways to serve. With more volunteers we could possibly expand our delivery schedules to include more days of the week. Many of the volunteers are helping in other areas of helping the community including home gardening, making and distributing face masks, and keeping the peace. No matter what we face there will always be volunteers standing together, willing to serve our community.”
Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN), of which I am proud to be on the board, is our local non-profit helping people in crisis since the mid-1990s. NHN is available to help folks in these tough times. You can go to www.NHNCrestone.com and apply online or we can get you a hard copy of the simple one-page application. Our criteria is that we help people in crisis in our service area from the south end of the Baca to the northeast side of the valley from Moffat through KV Estates to County Road GG.
NHN pays invoices/bills, not individuals, so if you need help make sure you include an invoice/bill in your application. Thanks to generous donations NHN has made up for missing our Spring Dance and Yard Sale fundraisers. We will have the Yard Sale as soon as it is safe. The funds do go quickly these days and NHN is always looking for donations to keep helping. NHN provides a lot of firewood every winter. We are partnering up with the Crestone Energy Fair’s (CEF) new Wood Coop which will be a local wood business. CEF volunteers are helping NHN work on the community free wood pile.
Crestone Energy Fair Coordinator Lisa Bodey shared with me how CEF is working for and with the greater community creating the threads we need to connect and cooperate. She told me, “The CEF hosted two work parties to move soil for the Crestone Town Greenhouse demonstrating Shumei’s Natural Agriculture methods. CEF, created a lovely, portable hand-washing station for COVID-19 safe food distribution on Care and Share days.”
I asked Lisa about what will happen if this pandemic will not let us have the Crestone Energy Fair in August. She replied, “CEF has discussed moving the event back as far as mid-October. We would love to host our 31st annual celebration of how we live and create exchange in Crestone. In lieu of an event, we can showcase local residents sharing alternative building techniques, innovative energy techniques, permaculture and other practices that support resilience through CEF’s online presence.”
Postmaster Amy Hardin has worked to make our very busy post office safe for staff and customers. “The staff is wearing masks and some are wearing gloves and we are all washing our hands a lot,” Amy told me. The PO has yellow caution tape on the floors indicating where customers need to stand to adhere to six feet between people for social distancing. In a clever move, Hardin went and purchased clear shower curtain liners which hang from floor to ceiling with openings for reaching the buzzer for service and to slip mail through. It works great and is cheaper than plexiglass. This clever barrier idea has been adopted by the Moffat and Saguache post offices. Hardin told me that even though it takes a bit longer at the PO “people have been great.”
Crestone Food Bank
And then there’s food. The Crestone Food Bank has increased its open hours to 10am-noon Wednesdays and Saturdays. Donations are accepted from 9am to noon the same days the Food Bank is open.They have been very busy serving an increasing number of people due in part to COVID-19 related job loss. Marge Hoglin, one of the Crestone Food Bank directors, said, “Beginning the last week in March we changed procedures to protect the health and safety of volunteers as well as clients, and began distributing pre-assembled boxes of food at the door.” Marge said, “With regard to the impending food shortage the Crestone Food Bank is in a better position than most food pantries in the region. Continuing donations from the larger community help ensure some food security.”
The new food bank up Galena Ave. at the Crestone Mercantile is helping with more storage and more space. Marge, Crestone Food Bank volunteers and the community are very grateful to Steve McDowell and Elaine Johnson who built an addition onto their store for the food bank. Large commercial freezers and refrigerators purchased with funds from the Saguache County Tax Grants help with good safe storage. Marge told me, “Most important, donations from area residents have provided us with funds to purchase additional needed food. Those funds go very quickly however, and additional donations are needed to keep the shelves replenished.” You can take donations to the Food Bank from 9am to noon on Wednesday and Saturday or you can mail donations to PO Box 222, Crestone, CO 81131. If you would like to volunteer, come by the Food Bank when it is open or call 719-539-7789 or 719-745-7825.
Care & Share
The Care and Share Food Distribution happens the first Tuesday of each month in the Town Park in Crestone between Town Hall and the Crestone Eagle office on Galena Ave. Food is given out from 10 to noon. The Care and Share organization gleans food from all over Colorado and packs it in big warehouses located in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. From there Care and Share sends trucks out all over the state full of food.
I have been working with this program for a number of years and the number of people served went up in April. People were great about using COVID-19 protective protocols, washing hands, wearing masks and gloves and keeping social distance at the distribution in the park. Care and Share gives us vegetables, fruit and bread, and sometimes other stuff. After individuals have picked up food for themselves and their families, Care and Share Crestone and Moffat volunteers send the remaining food to the Crestone Food Bank and the Moffat Food Bank. As I write this Care and Share seems to be able to keep up, as it did prior to this plague . . . what will happen as anticipated food shortages roll in is unknown.
Saguache County Social Services
Saguache County comes to town monthly to distribute food boxes. You can call Saguache County Social Services at 719-655-2537 to find out if you qualify for a food box. Senior citizens get some extra items in their food boxes, so please remember to let them know if you are a senior. A yellow notice board is hung from Town Hall the week of Commodities Distribution.
Madolyn Alexandra Davis of the Crestone Inn, Gift Horse and Eureka Thrift has brought a helpful program, the Alpine Achievers Initiative, to Crestone. They are providing sack lunches in the Town Park 11am to 1pm. The lunches are prepared off-site and are free.
We are lucky in our community to have two great grocery stores, Crestone Mercantile on Galena Ave. and the Elephant Cloud Market on Cottonwood St. Mahryan Beelendorf, Manager at the Cloud, said business is up. The store is implementing COVID-19 safety measures. There’s a hand-washing station outside the front door and employees and customers are asked to wear masks and gloves. “Everyone’s been cooperative,” Mahryan said, referring to the safety measures.They have had a run on their bulk food as people want to stock up on “rice and beans.” Mahryan told me “food shortages do not seem too bad, but wholesale prices are rising.” The Cloud Station Cafe is serving their popular soups, drinks and sandwiches at the counter behind the registers in the market for to-go consumption.
Crestone Mercantile has chosen to reduce its hours during the crisis to help folks stay at home. They are open 8am to 7pm except on Wednesday and Sunday when they are closed all day. The store will not let anyone shop without a
mask and gloves but has disposable gloves and masks for those who do not have them. The Mercantile is cleaning like crazy in the hardware, lumberyard, and laundromat, as well as the grocery with what owner, manager and butcher Matt Johnson described to me as, “a mix including a food-grade cleaner Coronavirus hates.” As far as volume of customers goes Matt said, “there are waves of people doing bigger orders. It’s time to cook. The Mercantile is still able to offer a variety of products. People are stocking up on bulk and dry stuff.” In addition to the popular rotisserie chicken and ribs, the Merc has a growing selection of pre-cooked to-go items in the deli case. Crestone Mercantile Lumber & Hardware is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8am-4pm.
Some of our local eateries are open for to-go-only service. As I mentioned earlier the Cloud Station is serving food to-go at the counter behind the cash registers in the Elephant Cloud Market. Crestone Mercantile Grocery has more prepared food items in their deli case. The Desert Sage Restaurant is serving lunch and dinners to go. The Sage’s menu with specials is available on FaceBook or you can call the restaurant at 719-256-4402. Tshering Dorji, owner and chef, told me when you call in an order he will provide you with a pickup time. You just come in to pick up your food and pay. Tshering said, “We have been continually sanitizing everything.” He admitted business has been slow and he’s hoping to pay the utility bills. “Regular customers are helping to keep us going.”
I stopped by Mandala Pizza where Desi Farci along with her family were homeschooling, working and getting ready for the business day, Desi said, “We are taking to-go orders at the store or by phone (719-256-5656). We have no seating in the store or at the picnic tables. If people let us know when they order they can beep their horn or ring us on their cell phone when they pull in and we will give them curbside service.” Mandala Pizza’s pizzas are also available at local markets in take-and-bake form. Mandala Pizza is carefully cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day for customers’ and employees’ safety.
Buck’s Pizza of Crestone is serving their wood-fired pizza at the kiosk, noon-7pm as outdoor cooking weather permits. Owner Cassey Graeff who runs the business with partner Seth Buchanan told me, “exact safety precautions are being followed for food preparation, food handling, and food delivery.” Masks and gloves are worn onsite “to ensure safety of staff and patrons.” Buck’s wants to “thank Crestone for the support.” You can see more about Buck’s Pizza on their Facebook page and other community pages on Facebook.
Marina Balekian, an owner of Crestone Spirits, has reduced store hours to 11am-8pm. Customer service is handled through a window. Marina said, “with our new window system and extra cleaning all around our employees have less time between transactions.” Marina asks customers to plan one rather than multiple trips to the liquor store to help keep their health and her employees’ health safe. She said, “Plan ahead to gather all supplies in one trip.”
Gift & thrift stores
Retail stores seem all to be able to help you by phone appointment. Gift Horse and Crestone Creative Trade are available to customers in this manner. Lonny Roth of Crestone Creative Trade will open for you. “Just call ahead at 719-256-4554 and I will open for a group no larger than three, or for individuals. We carefully wipe down all surfaces after people leave the shop.” Madolyn will also open the gift or the thrift store if you call or PM her on Facebook. D’Lane Kilgore’s Phytology and Thriftology, a shop specializing in plants and unique second-hand items, will be open in the Sangre de Cristo building Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9am-4pm. D’Lane will only let one or two customers in at a time and is asking people to wear masks and gloves. “We are taking COVID-19 sanitation measures in the shop,” D’Lane told me.
As we shelter in place, many Crestonians are making facemasks and not just your everyday face masks but comfortable cloth masks with pockets inside to insert an extra layer of protection. It seems as though Bonny Settle and her daughter Jananne were among the first to start making these masks and they shared patterns and supplies with others. Jananne told me, “Materials for the masks were donated. I have no idea how many masks have been sewn and distributed.” Because of the shortage of masks nationwide Jananne says Bonny and other mask makers were “motivated by necessity.”
Other mask-makers include: Katie Getchel and Adam and Cristina Cabeza-Kinny. Jananne told me, “a crucial part of mask-making production is thanks to Adam and Cristina’s laser at Blue Earth Design, which made the mask template for the pattern.” Brisa Story is making masks which she’s donating to hospitals. I called Lynn Ertle the other day and she was busy making masks while homeschooling her grandkids. Cristina Cabeza-Kinny had the thought to send masks to the Navajo Nations who are suffering from this virus in great numbers, as are many indigenous people. Crestone mask-makers are making a difference, and not just here either. Crestone is becoming a village of mask-makers!