While coronavirus COVID-19 has produced a lot of unknowns and anxiety throughout communities, helpers always abound in these times of stress and uncertainty. Whether looking at the nurses in the hospitals, grocery store clerks, mailmen, janitors or even the neighbor next door, there is still a lot of good even in these times of a global pandemic.
Milledgeville is no exception to having lots of good around.
Pamela Jackson, who manages the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Milledgeville, is one example of how to see the bright side in all the dreary.
Jackson was able to provide groceries for some team members during the difficult time that the hospitality, and so many other industries, are facing. She and other staff members during the unsure times were not prepared for the hit that they took.
“Holiday Inn Express & Suites employs 25 people, majority of which are part time, that have families as well as live by themselves,” Jackson wrote in an email interview with The Union-Recorder. “We went from a 98% to a 100% occupancy for the past two months as well as the upcoming next three months to a whopping 18% occupancy almost overnight. It was devastating to say the least. [That decrease in occupancy] means in the business world layoffs/cutbacks. Nobody had planned or expected this to happen and I can assure you my team members were not prepared, nor was I.”
Jackson has always gone above and beyond for her staff as well as guests at her hotel, but she worried about the ones that did not know where they, and often times their family, would get their next meal from.
“Most live paycheck to paycheck as this is what we do,” she added. “And the thought that my team, the ones that were there for me when we were sold out working so hard to make a living, all of a sudden [that work] comes to an abrupt stop, no income. There is a fear in that how do I pay my bills, how do I buy food, how [do I] survive. And even though we provided temporary unemployment, the check is not there over night. It is important to me that my team members have food, that they have a meal, that they don't go without.”
It was a no-brainer for her to help others out. She attributes her decision to step up during the hard time to the way she was raised.
“I will check on them, I will be there for them,” she wrote. “That's what I was raised to do, ‘never meet a stranger and always help a neighbor out.’ It’s times like this that we need to reach out and help others. Be kind, people need that right now.”
Her positive attitude toward her employees is not the only way that she is choosing to spread kindness and joy right now. While she said that her stomach is ‘full of Jell-O,’ she is choosing to remain confident that while yes, it’s a scary time, but things will indeed get better.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” she said. “But on the outside, it’s a time to stay confident, show those around you it’s going to be OK. It’s like the saying ‘never let them see you sweat,’ if I were to panic, those around [me would] panic. So I choose to laugh, joke and smile and those around you will too.”
While this attitude is often contagious from Jackson, she admits that she is in fact a human during all this as well.
“I am human, I do cry now and again. I’m not always so tough,” she joked. “I have a huge support team, people in the community and friends and neighbors; we call each other daily to lift up each other’s spirits.”
Even though her smile is a light to others around her, she does realize the seriousness of all that is going on. But, for her, she wants people to realize that, while yes, the numbers are important to look at, people are more than just a stat on a chart.
“There are people in the world that need help, love, understanding, they need to know that someone cares about them, that they are not just a statistic in the world,” she said. “It doesn't take money to pick up the phone and tell someone they are thinking of them, it doesn't take money to text someone and let them know you are there for them. Yes we all would like to be financially stable, but it may be that one person, the one who struggles who can help you by lifting you up when your money is no longer worth anything.”
Jackson is not immune to the struggles of COVID-19.
“The hospitality industry, I have never seen it so affected,” she said. “…my hotel is a ghost town. It’s heart breaking as we worked so hard to be the top in the market and top in our brand and in a blink of an eye, we hit bottom.”
While not reveling in the negative, Jackson knows that she and others will come out of the crisis.
“Now is the time we need to work together as people, as a community, as a neighborhood, as a work force,” she said. “We need to uplift everyone. In the end, honestly, why not be happy, why not find positivity in each day. The anger, hate and anxiety is what will hurt us. God gave me a gift to unwrap today, a gift of life, why not share it with those around you? It may be tough and life may be hard, but kind words are free, an act of kindness…why not? It may change someone else’s way of thinking.”