For Lindsay Garre Bierwirth, co-owner with her husband Fred of the North Chatham fitness center Chatham Works, stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic is a way to show her young daughters that in hard times, you have to help others.
“In the darkest times, you shine the brightest light,” Bierwirth said during a telephone interview last week. For several months now Bierwirth has opened her gym at 323 Orleans Rd., North Chatham for monthly blood drives. She has also organized holiday food drives and arranged for four local people to receive free gym memberships.
During the coronavirus pandemic that began last March, numerous businesses in Chatham, Harwich and Orleans have worked in ways big and small to alleviate hardship for local people.
Cape Fishermen’s Supply at 67 Depot Rd. in Chatham, sold masks for Women of Fishing Families (WOFF). WOFF is a non-profit that supports Cape Cod fishing families with funding and education. The masks, which were pink or blue, sport the WOFF logo that says, “See the boot. Know the cause,” wrapped around a female figure.
“In this day and age you gotta do what you gotta do,” says Dave Libby, who has owned Cape Fishermen’s Supply with his wife Caroline since 2011. “We’re all in this together.”
Cape Fishermen’s Supply initially bought WOFF masks for the staff to wear. Then they decided “this would be a great thing to just have on the counter,” Libby says. The store sold the last $10 mask on Jan. 13. Proceeds went to WOFF.
In December, Harwich Paint and Decorating on Route 137 in East Harwich raised money for the Family Pantry of Cape Cod through the silent auction of a 6.5-foot Christmas tree and a number of red-colored items such as a wagon and a portable grill. And Deb Greinier, owner of Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest Inc. in Harwich, donated a portion of her sales to the pantry. Greinier says she usually donates 25 cases of jelly with 12 jars each for the pantry’s Thanksgiving and Christmas food distribution. This year things changed, so she raised cash instead, giving the pantry a total of $1,674.
“Obviously we’ve been affected, but not to where my business has been shut down or to where we have to get food or aid. I’m still able to help,” she says. “It’s kind of cool that we were able to do that.”
Bierwirth’s business is one that has been profoundly affected by the pandemic. She opened her business in July 2019, and was forced to shut down in March 2020 per order of the governor.
“It was such a hard time for everyone,” she recalls. “Such a scary time.” She found herself struggling to explain everything to her daughters, ages 7 and 8.
Bierwirth grew up in Chatham and her father, David Garre, was a dentist practicing in Wellfleet. Bierwirth remembers her father’s concern for the people in the community, even sometimes bartering dental care for services such as landscaping. She wants to teach her daughters the same kinds of values of caring for others, and her children also inspire her.
“Even when times are hard, you can do something that makes you feel good,” she says.
A cancer survivor, Bierwirth is more cognizant than many of the importance of blood drives. When the blood drive vans could not operate due to the pandemic, she reached out to Cape Cod Healthcare and asked “what could we do?” She offered space in the gym for monthly blood drives that began last May. In one hour, the entire group exercise center is converted to a blood drive site with beds and staffed with nurses.
“Every single blood drive has been full,” she says. “I bring my kids and I show them. This is how you can give when things get tough.”
The next blood drive at Chatham Works will be held on Feb. 16, says Jonathan Decoste, senior blood donor recruiter for Cape Cod Healthcare. All donations stay on the Cape and help the local community.
Many local businesses are cognizant of the fact that some in the community are out of a paycheck, and unable to feed their families. While Bierwirth organized Thanksgiving dinners for 14 and Christmas dinners for 65, the Rock Harbor Grill in Orleans also organized food giveaways. The grill, at 18 Old Colony Way, dubbed December “Give Back to Our Community Month at Rock Harbor Grill.” It ran “No Neighbor Hungry” raffles, asking people to nominate local families for a food drawing. Each Monday in December three families won a household dinner from the grill. Also in December, in lieu of a holiday party, the grill raised just short of $6,000 to be divided among Cape Wellness Collaborative, the Family Pantry of Cape Cod and the Lower Cape Outreach Council, says manager Jill DiSabato. Grill owner Chuck Konner matched donations up to $5,000.
Chatham Village Market gave the Chatham Merchants Association $1,000 in gift certificates to donate as needed. Of that, $500 was given to the council on aging and $500 was given to Monomoy Community Services.