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the occasions lady and

Cheers to 18 Years
by Audrey Poff, digital illustration by Brittney Osborn

As a small business owner, any day that you manage to keep your door open is a day worth celebrating.

There are many reasons why people choose to venture down the path of business ownership. For me, it was the desire to build something that would benefit the community, while giving me a creativie outlet that would provide me with the flexibility I needed as a mom. Although I had a passion for community journalism, I also wanted to be able to set my own schedule so I could be available when my kids needed me. When the first issue rolled of the press 18 years ago, Adam, Emma and Sophie were just 10, 6 and 21-months-old.

When we launched the magazine in August 2003, we knew there would be many obstacles ahead, but the one gigantic hurdle that never came to mind was a global pandemic. One year ago, considering both the number of those battling COVID-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic, it felt like it could not get much worse for small businesses – but then it did. This year, as the number of COVID cases began to decline and more businesses began returning to normal, we thought we saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Now, as the Delta variant spreads like a wildfire out of control, we realize there is still a weary battle ahead.

Like many others in our community, I battled COVID-19 last November. There was a point when I was not sure I would survive. The 10 days of fever and viral pneumonia took a toll on me. I couldn’t breathe, my heart rate was erratic and I slept through most of those first two weeks. Nine months later, I still have lingering effects, but I am thankful to have survived. Like most of you, I have had friends and family members who did not survive their battle with the virus.

Our son, Adam, is in his second year of residency in emergency medicine. His reports are bleak, and it often feels more like having had a son go off to war rather than into a medical residency program, but it is a war zone. Health care workers are physically and emotionally exhausted, and hospitals are overwhelmed and short-staffed once again as the virus continues to stretch the workforce thin. How much more strain can they take and at what cost?

Most months, I use this column as a source of entertainment, often attempting to add a little bit of humor to the magazine’s mix of editorial. This is not one of those columns. This month, as we commemorate our 18th anniversary in the second year of a pandemic that is once again raging out of control, I simply ask that you help put an end to the pandemic. If you have not been vaccinated, please consider doing so. This is not a situation that we can argue our way into a better outcome or wish away. More people will die, primarily those who choose not to get vaccinated, and more businesses will be forced to close.

In business and in life, the path to success is paved with reality. Allowing the unvaccinated to have continued access to public spaces while the vaccinated limit their exposure is not realistic, and it’s not working. Please protect yourself and others by getting a vaccine.

Cheers to 18 years of small business survival, and thank you to all of those who have stepped up and gotten fully vaccinated. We are all in this together.