“If we could salvage those restaurants and get together as a community, then maybe everybody would still have a business to come back to when we get to the other side of this thing."
“I was always taught to love your neighbor and that when a crisis strikes, everybody should get together, all hands on deck. You survive things together. The ones who are able to help should help and the ones who need help should receive help. Because at some point, the roles are going to reverse.
In February, when we first started hearing about COVID, nobody knew what it was about, nobody knew what was going on. Then it started becoming more localized, and we started getting cases in Oklahoma, and everybody is trying to figure out what in the world's going on here, is the world fixing to come to an end. There were people that were just kind of panicky, and people didn't want to leave their houses. Then businesses were closing down, businesses were shutting their doors. A lot of the smaller restaurants weren't equipped for the drive thru or the curbside or anything like that. They didn't know what to do. They were just thrust into this problem.
Our company, Covington Aircraft, was declared essential, so we were able to keep our doors open. It didn’t seem fair that we got to keep our doors open, keep people employed, while other businesses had to close their doors.
We started looking at what our company could do to help protect our employees, because the safety of our employees is our number one priority. Not knowing what all was involved with COVID, we were reading the same reports that everybody else was. There was so much unknown and so much changing on a daily basis. We started looking at what we could do to keep our employees safe, so that when they came on site to work, they stayed here for the day and weren’t going off site.
We also started looking at ways we could help our community of Okmulgee, to try to salvage our friends' businesses. I called my friend, Heather, who runs Okmulgee Main Street, and asked what our company could do to help some of the local restaurants. How can we get together to help businesses that have the doors closed. How can we help them be able to make rent payments. We started brainstorming ideas and came up with the idea of having a group of restaurants cater the meals for our employees every day.
Then I called my friends who run other companies, told them what Covington was doing, and suggested they do the same with some of the other restaurants. If we could salvage those restaurants and get together as a community, then maybe everybody would still have a business to come back to when we get to the other side of this thing. I was calling banks, I was calling car dealerships and different companies like that. They all said they would figure out what they could do. Some of them were able to do one day a week which is great. It's just do what you can. Everybody needs to do what they can to help others right now.
The restaurants were more than grateful and I was hearing reports from different wait staff and cooks and all that the support helped them to make rent payments, pay their utilities, get stuff their kids needed. So it was cool to see that.”
-- Aaron, Covington Aircraft (October 2020). [Aaron's story is in "Who We Are Now: Stories of What Americans Lost and Found During the COVID-19 Pandemic."]