More Faces From the Frontline
This October, Maine magazine dedicated its issue to frontline workers from all over the state, shining a light on the everyday heroes who never missed a beat when they were called upon.
These workers showed up during the COVID-19 pandemic, day after day, as so many of us retreated into the safe confines of our homes: Grocery store employees and pharmacists; nurses, doctors, hospital staff, and aides; EMTs, firefighters, janitors, and sanitation workers; teachers, caregivers, and nonprofit workers; members of the U.S. Postal Service, delivery drivers, transportation workers, and warehouse staff; and so many others.
We asked our readers to highlight a few of their personal heroes—those who went over and above to help amidst this global crisis. These are their stories.
Laura Tracy, submitted by Marty Hamre
When Laura Tracy, assistant branch manager of Bangor Savings Bank’s Camden location, needed to obtain a signature for a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan for a small business customer, she climbed into a small engine plane with her flight instructor, and flew the documents to her customer on the island of North Haven.
Laura’s story is one of many examples of how the employees at Bangor Savings Bank have shown an unwavering commitment to serve and meet the needs of their customers throughout the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19. Consistently working long hours, BSB team members provided emergency relief loans, such as PPP, for their customers to ensure no one missed the deadline. Additionally, they’ve helped customers navigate different banking channels, adjusting to doing business in these extraordinary times with longer than usual drive-through lanes, using mobile banking, and mobile remote deposit capture—many for the first time. BSB associates have also been spreading kindness within their communities with pay it forward initiatives, cooking meals for first responders, and donating food and school supplies to area youth. Regardless of the challenges presented, the employees of Bangor Savings Bank continue to stay true to the bank’s vision by delivering our You Matter More experience each and every day.
Ilma Lopez and Damien Sansonetti, submitted by Emily Isaacson
Ilma Lopez and Damien Sansonetti are entrepreneurial geniuses with hearts of rose gold. Ilma is a native of Venezuela and started her career in the fancy restaurants of New York City. When she and her husband, Damien Sansonetti, also an award-winning chef, decided to move to Portland, they not only started a restaurant but started a community of caring around food. This began with the staff and local patrons of Piccolo and Chaval. I met Ilma at the Reiche Elementary School PTA bake sale, where the James Beard–nominated pastry chef was selling her delicacies to raise money for field trips. Time and again, Ilma and Damien share their time, talent, and resources with various organizations in our city, from providing elegant treats at Portland Bach Experience fundraisers to feeding activists at the Black Lives Matter marches.
When COVID hit, Ilma and Damien knew that quarantining would be hard not just on their family and their businesses, but on the entire restaurant industry. They also knew that the hardest hit people would be those who already struggle with food insecurity. In collaboration with other restaurants and nonprofits, they started Cooking for Community. C4Cmaine connects Maine’s food economy—farms, restaurants, chefs, service workers—to Mainers experiencing food insecurity, including the elderly, low income, and unemployed. As a result of their hard work and insight, thousands of people have received meals these past six months. But they did not stop there. Damien and Ilma saw how the pandemic was affecting their restaurant family and others in the hospitality industry, so they started ReUpME, a restaurant relief fund to support small businesses in danger of failing. Ilma and Damien are always fighting for the little guy and asking how they can use their talents and resources to support the community. They inspire me to think bigger by looking closer and to love harder with every resource I have. We are so lucky to have them in our community.
Hospitality Workers, submitted by Kellie Greenleaf
Since the middle of March, hotels in Maine have had to completely change they way they operate and, in many cases, had to close temporarily due to the slow down in travel. However, many hotels remained open, serving the community and housing essential workers sent to Maine to either help in the battle against COVID-19 or work on vital construction and logistical projects to help keep things running smoothly.
Hospitality workers have been noticeably absent from most lists appreciating essential workers during this time. In most cases with a skeleton crew, many hotels in Maine that remained opened provided a safe haven for hospital workers, first responders, self isolators, traveling nurses, laboratory workers, displaced veterans, etc. Masked, gloved, and armed with special sanitization products, hospitality workers cleaned and sanitized guest rooms every day to be sure they were free of germs.
While others were able to work from home, hospitality workers went to the hotels every day to serve their guests. They worked tirelessly to find new ways of providing a morning meal to their guests. They risked exposure every day by being in public and literally interacting with people from all over the country. They handled soiled linen and trash from guests working in ERs and COVID testing facilities. They became temporary long term care facilities for rehab hospital patients who needed to be discharged from the rehab center, but could not yet return home due to COVID. They isolated themselves from high risk family members, and many still have not seen family in months. They have worked with the homeless and helped get food from food pantries for those who need it. his is true of hotels all over the state, especially in the larger cities of Portland, Bangor, South Portland, Lewiston, and Auburn.
Patricia Vinton, submitted by Jennifer Hazelwood
My husband and I have owned three Subway locations in the Portland area for over 22 years: Ossipee Trail in Standish, County Road (Route 22) in Scarborough, and Main Street in Westbrook. We so appreciate all of our Team members at these locations who have “hung in there” since mid-March with customer monitoring, hourly sanitizing, health screening reports, mask-wearing. They are often roasting hot while working between bread-baking ovens and plexiglass; are the recipients of angry customers who do not want to wear masks; and are often dealing with their own fears about the pandemic. However, my nomination is for our amazing area manager, Patricia Vinton, who has been with us for nearly 20 years and oversees all locations.
Patricia not only has not missed any work, she has remained upbeat, is a fantastic support to her staff, and a courteous sounding board to customers. She enjoys the support of her senior staff, Daniella, Justin, and Carrena, and is also the person they can lean on and learn from. Her energy is never-ending, she is as honest as the day is long, and her faith in it “getting better” is boundless.
John Crane, submitted by Sarah Alexander
I would like to nominate John Crane, general manager of the Portland Food Co-op. John led the Co-op’s efforts to quickly and safely adapt store procedures to keep employees and customers safe, and ensured the store stayed stocked even when other grocery store shelves were bare.
John went above and beyond what was mandated and made the Co-op one of the safest places to shop during the pandemic.
Election Workers, submitted by Emily Scully
Please highlight the state’s election workers. These are citizens who are often volunteers who have put themselves on the front line to ensure Maine’s elections were able to run. They will be again facing a large challenge in November for expected record-high turnouts. It is hard enough finding election workers, but with so many being in the “high risk” category, these heroes really came through to save the day.