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406 forum: COVID-19 heroes

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From March 15, 2020 to March, 15, 2021 the Big Sky community has come together and adjusted to the new pandemic reality. One year after Big Sky Resort shut down early, Explore Big Sky talked with community members to see how they adapted their personal lives.

Question: How have you adapted your life over the past year? Plus: What have you learned?

Dr. Tyler Martinez, Doctor of Osteopathy, Big Sky Medical Center

“With COVID we’ve definitely had to change and adapt our life, pretty significantly. Very limited travel, very limited going out and socializing, learning the term social distancing in the first place. It’s been a lot of hanging out with very close friends or very close family and doing whatever it takes.”

Emily Voorheis, Team Lead of Clerical Staff, Big Sky Medical Center

“COVID-19 has really taught me how to transition into more of an integrated lifestyle. So really working on differentiating between work and home life, and also bringing in the idea that not everybody is as in tune with what’s going on as we are. As hospital staff we get a little bit

more information, although not a lot more, but we have to look at it through a new set of eyes with every patient.”

Chaney Coleman, Emergency room RN, Big Sky Medical Center

“Here in the ER we have PPE that we were used to with just flu and things like that prior to the pandemic so wearing PPE for a full year has been a different way to do our clinical practice. I think we’ve adapted, luckily for us, we haven’t really had any limited resources, so I’ve never felt compromised which was nice.”

Bryan Livergood, Clinical Engineer and Inventory Agent, Big Sky Medical Center

“I learned many things. Being in supply chain and biomed there were certainly challenges in making sure that the hospital is supplied with the proper PPE and medical equipment. There were certainly strains in the supply chains, but we were able to adapt and were able to keep the needed supplies and equipment on hand.”

Daniel Bierschwale, Executive Director, Big Sky Resort Area District

“Other than eating a lot more takeout my life has changed drastically since the beginning of the pandemic. One major thing that I’ve learned is not to take those that we love and care for, for granted. I have been very thankful for the opportunity to be able to connect with those that I love during the pandemic.”

John Haas, Founder and President of the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, Founder and President of Haas Builders

“Personally, I spent a lot more quality time with my family and close friends, making meals, getting outside, enjoying time together. Overall, I ended up spending a lot of time figuring out how to simplify all levels of my life and focus on the important pieces. Foundation-wise, Spanish Peaks Community

Foundation ended up raising and giving away as much money as we have in the past. We also raised an extra $250,000 this year for the Big Sky Relief Fund, which I was involved with.”

Jana Bounds, reporter, Lone Peak Lookout

“What I’ve learned over the past year with COVID is the value of other human beings in our lives, and that we need to have the willingness to ask for help. That includes from our family and friends but also people in the community. We saw the best and the worst of humanity at play in 2020. And I think we are very fortunate to be in Big Sky.”

Mandy Hotovy, General Manager, The Wilson Hotel

“I’ve noticed that each of our businesses are more and more in support of one another.  Everyone in the community has put forth the effort to make sure that we all have our masks on when entering any establishment.  Roxy’s has been amazing as well with providing

businesses with gift bags that include social decals, masks for our teams, hand sanitizer solution, etc.  It’s great that we have all been able to share our common practices with one another.  That has helped each of us keep on top of our cleanliness and social distancing techniques, that way everyone feels safe and comfortable during these uncertain times.”

Hannah Bray, Outside Operations Supervisor, Big Sky Resort

“The first thing I’ve adapted this year is my new social norm. This year I have learned that I have my three really good girlfriends and we hang out in places where it is socially distant and safe. The biggest thing I’ve learned is

how important my three really good friends are and my friends and family. When you don’t see your family for so long and then you get to see them you really cherish those moments.”

Jamie Walter, Post Master, Big Sky Post Office

“We’ve had some of our workers run mail out to a car. We have some callers who say ‘I don’t really want to come in,’ and sometimes if they need to buy stamps or they have a P.O. Box—so we kind of changed it so people could just show us a text. We also had people bring us food and snacks and that’s

typical during Christmas time but during the pandemic we have such an upload of packages come through because people were getting their stimulus checks, people were at home bored so literally we haven’t had a break. So a lot of people were just constantly telling us they appreciate us, which is really nice to hear.”

Restaurateur: Alex Omania, owner, Lotus Pad

“The most important thing I learned, and it translates into the business, is that it’s never as bad as you think. Ever. There’s always a way to navigate a problem when you concentrate on the solution instead of the problem: always looking ahead. It’s like riding a bike: you never look at the

tree, you look at where you want to go. The biggest thing I learned was to stay positive: to look for solutions, not problems.”

Shawna Winter, Managing Broker at the Big Sky Real Estate Company

“I have been taking as many precautions as possible, keeping distance, adapting to wearing masks, and trying to embrace the fun accessory aspect to it. I thought, you might as well make this whole experience as fun as possible and incorporate it into your fashion. As far as the real

estate industry, you have to gauge how sensitive, your clients are to the pandemic. That’s just a constant understanding the people that you are working with and respecting, how they feel about it.”

Fernando Rodriguez, UPS Driver

“Covid has affected me personally with my job as a UPS driver in that it is much busier. Amazon is always a big thing as far as delivery, but it has just gotten to be a lot more orders. Where there used to be 4 or 5 of us and now there are like 7 of us drivers just to get done in a proper day’s time – 9

or 10 hours. As far as what I’ve learned, I guess my opinion is masks do work. Out of all of us drivers, only one of us has gotten COVID-19 this year, which I think is pretty good considering how many people we see each day.”

Grace Ganoom-Grein, High School Program Director & Math Teacher

“At Discovery we’ve always been conscientious about teaching to the individual and making sure that we are addressing each individual kids’ needs and we’ve had to do that even more so this year. So I think we’ve learned how to best address

kids in different ways in different settings and levels of comfortablility.”

Libby Flach Big Sky Discovery Academy Student, age 16

“I was at a completely different school setting last year at Ophir, so I didn’t really know what it was like here before COVID, but I guess doing online school was really different and it’s much harder to motivate yourself when you’re not in school so I’m

really happy that there’s less people here so we can be in-person and be socially distanced and with masks on. I’ve adapted to it pretty easily.”

Annel Gaarcia Big Sky Discovery Academy Student, age 16

“Because of quarantine I was able to spend time with myself in a way. So I got to learn and grow and learn who I am and I didn’t have to focus as much on what might be going on around me. Instead I got more freedom to be able to express myself more. … I’ve seen

people respecting other people’s boundaries more, like their personal space. Because before I feel like in the lift lines people would stand really close and get onto chairlifts, but people keep their distance more.”

Kevin Germain, Board Chair, Big Sky Resort Tax District

“Community: people, in true Big Sky fashion, saw a need and they rose to the occasion. The whole Big Sky Relief effort happened within a week. It happened unbelievably quick. From Resort Tax to the philanthropy groups everybody just saw the need and jumped in. Life is short. Value the people around you. I think everybody took a step back and reprioritized things. That has been the last year for me.”

Jeremy Harder Lead Facilitator of Creativity and Innovation, Big Sky School District

“As I reflect on this past year the silver linings and the cohesiveness of our community is what stands out most. Ironically neighbors, colleagues and family members have become more supportive than prior to the pandemic. The random acts of kindness are a prevalent theme … We should be grateful for the Big Sky

community and proud that we have supported each other so when things return to whatever the new normal becomes we don’t forget that we are a strong supportive community that cares for each other.”

Monica Franklin, Cashier at Country Market

“I became more mindful of what I could do every day during my shift to keep myself and everybody else safe. What I learned was patience. A lot more patience, dealing with customers, how to handle difficult situations in which people didn’t want to wear a mask and how to keep calm under stressful circumstances.”

Sean Doherty Owner, Headwall Sports

“I do find that because we live in a smaller community … that we’re more on the human level. I’ve lived in New York City, where I could sit right across from you like this for an hour a day, every day for 10 years and never speak a word to you. People

just being nice to each other and respectful to each other and understanding that everyone is operating under a little bit more stress and strain—that was really cool to feel in a small community with a local population.”

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