Samples of articles I have published.
Businesses find ways to survive
By Daniel Geleyn
Published in The Pioneer on January 21, 2021
Ten months of pandemic restrictions have produced significant changes to many businesses as they have had to change the way they are delivering their wares and services.
“The pandemic has affected everyone and business has certainly not been immune,” says Jill Raycroft, CEO of the Belleville Chamber of Commerce.
“It is also clear how valuable small business is to the economy as the government has put billions of dollars into replacing what usually comes from business owners’ pockets, from wages to rent,” adds Raycroft.
The changes required to adapt during this pandemic have affected every businesses but not necessarily equally.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected businesses equally, it can be a case of thrive or survive depending on the sector and the ability of the company to implement change,” says Susanne Andrews, CEO at the Quinte West Chamber of Commerce.
But there are no questions that adapting to this new reality has been a challenge for all of them.
“While we all support the need to keep each other safe, small business owners have a long list of things to do to ensure they don’t contribute to the spread,” says Raycroft. But she is also quick to add that “there is little evidence to support shopping in a small store or eating in a restaurant puts you at risk. None of our cases locally have been attributed to these situations.”
The efforts by many local governments to get residents to shop locally appears to be working, according to some of the businesses we visited. In addition, putting their businesses online was also a significant factor for success for many of them.
Here is a look at some of those businesses, in the areas covered by our second-year photojournalism students, and some comments on how they have navigated these difficult times.
David Dossett has been the owner of Martello Alley in downtown Kingston since July 2015. His unique store, located in the back of an alley, features art from local artists. “The shutdowns definitely affected us as most people want to see the pieces of art before they buy,” he says. But he adds that he had a very successful summer in 2020. Most tourists that summer were from close to Kingston and buying from local artists was very important to them.
Kathryn Brown, owner and currently the only employee of Kate’s Kitchen, runs her small business on Front Street in downtown Belleville. “I think people made a conscious effort to shop local, so for me, I had a successful second half of the year,” she says. But the first lockdown in Ontario was difficult as Brown had to lay off her employees because of the financial strain caused by the pandemic.
Sonya deWal is the owner of Gourmet Diem, a small cafe located in downtown Belleville. She also provides catering and sells specialty foods and cookware.
“Right now with the lockdown we are slow, just walk-in and take-out only. Yeah, it’s very devastating,” says deWal.
Tina Koonings is the owner of the Stirling General Mercantile. When asked about how the pandemic has affected her business, Koonings said ”We had to close our store in Bancroft but the business here will survive. We have a variety in here that people want. They want candy from their childhood.”
Taylor Russet, 21, transformed this Trenton small-town staple that used to be called The Grind over this past fall. The new store, now called The Grind&Vine, now serves both coffee and wine. Since its opening Russet has braved vandalism and a fall in business due to the pandemic but he continues to keep a smile on his face. “It’s been slow,” Russet says, “but that’s good because it means people are staying home.”
Kathryn Corbett, the co-owner of Lighthouse Books on Main Street, Brighton, is loved by local teens and young adults from her days as the librarian at the nearby elementary school. Since then, she has made waves as a small-business owner on Brighton’s main drag. Lighthouse Books remains open for curb side pickup for all of Brighton’s bookworms looking for a new read during quarantine.
Tracey Pettigrew is the owner of Paisley’s Wee British Shoppe in Clarington near Bowmanville, a store known for its imported British goods. Pettigrew, who was born in Paisley, a small town outside of Glasgow, Scotland, has been operating the store for over 10 years now. Reflecting on how COVID has affected her store’s operations, she says the pandemic has changed business in many ways, especially in terms of operating hours and staffing. But when discussing sales, she said “Encouraging people to order online actually increased our customer base which is good.”
Discussing store closures and lockdown procedures, Pettigrew says she completely understands why stores must close and how it could help save lives, but it is still hard to see big box stores open and thriving while some small businesses are forced to close their doors.
Mike and Jessica Irvine, a father and daughter team, operate “Mikes Countertop Shop” in the west end of Sudbury. The shop, which has been operating for a decade, has recently instated new safety measures to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, including limiting store capacity to one person at a time, and sanitizing all display countertops after each customer visit. The volume of their business has remained relatively stable during this pandemic.
Community comes together to help Verona fire victims
By Daniel Geleyn
Published in The Pioneer on January 21, 2021
Community members from the small south Frontenac community of Verona demonstrated their compassion as they rallied together to help residents who lost everything in a tragic fire on Jan 7.
At about 10 p.m. on Jan 7, a fire broke out in the McMullen Manor apartment complex in Verona. The complex had 28 one-bedroom units and was home to about 30 residents. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, thanks to smoke alarms in the building which alerted residents.
Three of the residents of the complex were also members of the Verona Free Methodist Church, less than 100 metres away.
“One of them texted me and said my house is on fire,” says Pastor Kathy Casement. “That’s all I got so I phoned 911 to confirm the extent and found out the whole building was indeed in flames.”
The pastor then started making calls to her members for help. Within minutes, members of the congregation had opened the church and informed the authorities that the victims could use their facilities. Kielo Carlson, a member of the congregation since 2011, said “There was no one here when I arrived but then the emergency people started directing the residents to the church, so they started coming in.”
The residents were offered warm and cold drinks and snacks but most of them were in a state of shock, many of them still wearing their pyjamas.
“I’ve been running a clothing store called Style Revival where I provide clothing for free in the basement of the church since 2012,” says Carlson. “So I took many of those residents to our store so they could at least get some clothes.”
By the early hours of the next morning, all the residents were able to either go with friends or family in nearby communities, or they were lodged in a Kingston hotel coordinated by the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation.
“We stayed until all the residents were safely placed and were able to close the church at about 2:30 in the morning,” says Casement.
The Verona Community Association stepped up the next morning and used the cooking facilities at the Free Methodist Church to provide meals for the emergency people working at the scene all day Friday and Saturday. “The food was all donated by local stores and restaurants,” says Casement.
The news of the fire spread quickly and donations to help the people who lost everything in the fire started coming in.
“We started getting donations from people as far away as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa,” says Carlson.
They received so much that they had to divert the donated items to other neighbouring communities which also became overwhelmed with all the items being donated. More than a week later, they still have large bags of unopened donations filling the basement of the church.
Susanne Casement, a long-time resident of Verona who found out about the fire the next morning was inspired by the outpouring of support from her community. “Thank goodness that the church and the community association were there,” she says. “It makes me feel very happy to be part of such a caring community.”
A sanctuary for creativity
Published in The Pioneer on December 10, 2020
Budding artists have chance to develop their artistic talents
By Daniel Geleyn
The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, a unique centre of excellence for the arts in Kingston, offers many avenues to develop budding artists in our community.
The Tett Centre is a charitable arts organization which operates in the beautiful JK Tett heritage building on Lake Ontario’s waterfront in Kingston. Its mandate is to provide a dynamic arts hub that co-ordinates and creates high-quality, accessible, arts-focused programming for all levels of artistic abilities and experience.
The building now known as the Tett Centre was originally part of the Morton Brewery and Distillery complex which was reputed as the largest of its kind in North America during the mid-19th century. It later served as a military hospital and army Headquarters until it was sold to the City of Kingston in 1971 as part of the vision of the director of recreation at the time, John K. Tett. The building was then used for many years by a variety of cultural groups until the city did a complete renovation from 2010 to 2015.
The Tett Centre is now home to nine tenant arts organizations, eight resident artist studios, and four multi-use rentable public spaces. Together, it forms a dynamic hub that promotes the arts in many different forms including individual artists, craft guilds, a dance schools, a mineral club, a theatre group, and even a musical instrument-lending library.
The Creativity Studios are located at the south end of the second floor of the building. Each of the artists rents his/her own personal studio and has access to it 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year so they come and go as they please.
“I have had this studio at the Tett Centre for one year but I’ve used the Tett Centre for 27 years on and off,” says Bethany Garner, a textile artist who has been quilting for more than 45 years. “The art hub gives an opportunity for a few artists to have studios, share some space, and exchange ideas. Our studios are individual but we also have common space and we welcome visitors any time.”
The common space the artists share is right in the middle of the studios so it is readily accessible. This space promotes interaction between the artists and it allows them to socialize and learn from each other. Although they all work on different mediums and they have their own unique style they get inspiration and motivation from each other.
“Before I came here, I knew what I did and I know people appreciated what I did but I had impostor syndrome as I did not see myself as an artist,” says Lisa Morrissey, who works with reclaimed wood and branches found on the ground to create a variety of decor items. “But since being here in the last year, the other artists have helped me see that just because I work in a very different medium, I am still an artist. When I see an old branch on the ground, I see something that nobody else would see.”
The current pandemic has made things difficult for many people. The isolation imposed by COVID-19 is very real for artists that work alone in their studios, especially when no one is shopping for their creations. But this small island of creativity has provided a great support for these few artists during this difficult period.
“During COVID, there are many days when you get disheartened,” says Morrissey. “You continue to create every day but it goes nowhere, just on your wall. But here, we see each other through that, there’s always great support.”
The other spaces in the building also continue to be used by other permanent or temporary tenants, while following public health guidelines, during this pandemic.
“There’s always something going on,” says Morrissey. “It’s just such a vibrant building.”
Volunteer gives back to the community
Published in The Pioneer on November 26, 2020
By Daniel Geleyn
“We’re lucky the rain just stopped a few minutes ago.” It is a cool and very damp Friday morning, but Paul Elsley has three large tables set up in the driveway of his suburban Kingston home under a tent with large Rotary logos on all four sides. You can smell the fall in the air, feel it in your bones, and of course, see it in the colours of the trees. But Elsley is not distracted as he meticulously sets out food that has been donated, locally grown in a community garden he helps maintain, or purchased with money raised, while some of his neighbours make their way to work. He doesn’t let the sound of traffic disturbs him either as there is much to do.
Like every Friday for the past few months, he has been up since about 5:30 a.m. to start his routine. Today, there is enough food to feed 37 families for a weekend. A couple walking on his street asks what he is up to with all this food. As Elsley tells them what the food is for, they nod as a sign of approval and respect for what he does.
By 10 a.m., six volunteers, all women of varying ages, from university students to grandmothers, some with their hands wrapped around their coffee mugs to keep themselves warm, arrive eager to get started despite the wet and cold. They know exactly what to do as Elsley has organized their workspace with precision, making sure to count the exact number of bright yellow grocery bags, also graciously donated by a local shop, that they will be required to fill today. Additional volunteers will arrive throughout the rest of the day to pick up some of the full bags to hand deliver them to the homes of families in need. “As a teacher by profession, I have always worked with kids, so helping to feed young ones so they can focus on their school work is a natural fit for me,” says Elsley.
Elsley grew up in the small town of Petrolia in southwestern Ontario. After graduating high school in 1978, he went to Western University in London, Ont. where he earned a degree in history and English and then went on to teachers’ college, graduating in 1983. “My dad and my siblings are all teachers. And teaching combines working with kids and coaching sports which are two of my passions, so teaching was always what I wanted to do.”
Although he loves kids, Elsley would not have any of his own until later in life. After many years of teaching, he met his wife and got married. Although he loved teaching, he retired early from that profession after 27 years to move to Kingston with his wife who had enrolled at Queen’s University in a law degree program. In the following few years, while his wife was still in school, their first daughter was born which was followed by a second daughter, so Elsley decided to stay at home to help raise his daughters while his wife pursued her career as a lawyer. He describes his happiest moments when his two daughters were born.
“We didn’t start raising a family until I was 52. To be blessed with two healthy and happy young girls is such a blessing.”
Elsley says he has four passions. “First and foremost is my family. My second passion is service through Rotary and giving back to the community; third is the outdoors, and lastly is sports, which I did more when I was younger but I still like to dabble in when I can.”
He has been a Rotarian for eight years and is now the president of the Rotary Club of Kingston, the oldest Rotary Club in Kingston which happens to be celebrating 100 years of service in 2021. Still comfortable in front of students, Elsley ran the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) workshops held for the last three years in Kingston for high school students from Ontario, Quebec and northern New York State. This program was run on the St. Lawrence College campus in 2018 and 2019 while the 2020 program was run online because of the pandemic. For three days, with the help of guest speakers and facilitated by young Rotarians, the students would develop a project to help their own community.
The same year he became a Rotarian, Elsley also started a program in Kingston to feed kids of families in need because he saw the need to fill a gap. “It is a not-for-profit and its focus is to feed children during the school year on the weekends.” The Food Sharing Project helps feed children in schools by providing breakfasts, lunches and snacks to kids who were going hungry. But many of those children would go back to school on Mondays hungry. So Elsley’s idea was to help feed those kids on the weekends as well by providing them with a bag of healthy food they could take home on Fridays. The program is now affiliated with Isthmus and Kingston is the fourth chapter of Isthmus.
“With the pandemic, the schools closed quickly in March, so we had to come up with a new model. Through partnering with the Food Sharing Project and co-ordination with the school boards, we started delivering food directly to the families’ homes and this was a very eye-opening experience for us.”
The combined programs were even extended to the summer months and about 600 families were provided substantial boxes of food every two weeks.
“The amount of coordination to make this happen is incredible,” said Elsley. Thanks to his connection to the school boards, the other food security programs in Kingston, and the Rotary Clubs in Kingston and area, Elsley was able to raise the required funds, find all the volunteers necessary, and make this incredible contribution to families in need in Kingston.
Leading by example, Elsley was often seen throughout the summer maintaining and harvesting at a community garden in the west end of Kingston. With the sun beating down on their heads and the weeds often knee high, he and the many volunteers he was able to corral could be seen, often with their hands and knees well encrusted with mud, pulling weeds or harvesting the fresh produce that could then be included in the boxes and bags of food for the families. Bernie Robinson, who provides this community garden as his contribution to the community, even donates his own maple syrup to reward the many volunteers who come to help.
“When schools reopened again in September, the Food Sharing Project was given permission to work in the schools again but with some restrictions like having individually packaged food items. So their cost skyrocketed and the food is not as nutritious.”
The same restrictions prevented Isthmus from returning to the schools, therefore Elsley had to improvise and run his own program from his garage. Although this is working for now, the cold weather will present another challenge. But the Food Sharing Project, after seeing the benefits of the Isthmus program, has decided to adopt a hybrid program whereby they will again co-operate with Isthmus to deliver some of the food directly to the homes of families.
As the driving force behind Isthmus, Elsley has been a powerful catalyst for members of the community to come together to help those in need. According to Brenda Moore, the chair of the Food Sharing Project, “He is a very big-hearted man but he has such a practical brain. His approach to challenges is, ‘We can just figure it out,’ and I love that.”
His hands-on leadership and dedication continue to be a beacon of hope in this community during the pandemic.
The changing face of veterans
Published in The Pioneer on November 12, 2020
By Daniel Geleyn
Seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War, the faces we see at Remembrance ceremonies are much less often those of WWII veterans but more often those with more recent military service or members of the community who still see the importance of remembering those who served.
Canadians often think of a veteran as someone who served in the First World War, the Second World War or the Korean War. But the definition of a veteran is much broader as it includes any former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who successfully underwent basic training and is honourably discharged. Even though many ex-military members may never have served in combat, it is important to recognize that by serving in the military, they essentially signed a blank cheque of unlimited liability, including their own lives, to protect our rights and freedoms.
As time passes, it is not surprising to see fewer veterans from these major conflicts. Any remaining Second World War veterans would be well in their 90’s by now. Even for the Korean War, in which combat operations were concluded in 1953, any veterans who were involved in that conflict would be at least in their late 80’s in 2020.
The changing face of veterans in Canada is illustrated by the yearly selection of the National Memorial Silver Cross Mother who is selected to represent all of the mothers of military personnel killed on duty. For the last 22 years, 15 were mothers of military personnel killed in Afghanistan, which is appropriate, since this was the most significant military mission for Canada since the Korean War. Three were mothers whose sons or daughters were killed in accidents, three on a peacekeeping/peacemaking mission and one by suicide following a mission to Afghanistan, therefore recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a combat related injury. You have to go back to 1998 to find the last Silver Cross Mother whose child died as a result of the Second World War.
Tom Briggs, the president of Branch 361 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Kingston says he no longer has any members who are Second World War veterans.
“Only about one third of our 400 members are veterans. The rest are members of the community,” he says.
Briggs himself, now well in his 60’s, is a 21-year-veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. But even his father who completed 27 years in the military, was too young to serve in the Second World War. “My dad joined the Army in 1945, but he was too late to see combat,” he says.
Malcolm Holt has been a member of 416 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association in Kingston for 41 years. He is turning 88 this year but he is also too young to have served in the Second World War. “I was born in 1932 in Birmingham, UK,” he says. “A little before the war, when I was five years old, I noticed my mom putting away a small box of extra sugar cubes,” he says. “I asked her ‘Why are you doing that?’ and she said ‘We’re going to have a war.’ but I did not understand what that meant at the time,” he adds.
Holt has memories of his city in the UK being bombed while he and his family would have to hide in shelters. “We did not have toys during the war so we collected pieces of bombs, shells and shrapnel,” he says. “That’s how we amused ourselves.”
When he was old enough, Holt served in the Royal Air Force for two years in the mid-1950’s. Shortly after his service he came to Kingston and he has been living here ever since. Despite the fact that the time he served in the RAF was very short, those were formative years that made him become an ardent follower of everything related to aviation. He still holds fond memories of his time in the RAF and he enjoys exchanging stories with his friends at 416 Wing.
On November 11, even though you may not see veterans who served in the major conflicts of the last century, don’t forget to remember those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice, no matter how that sacrifice came about.
Pandemic impacts saying goodbye
Published in The Pioneer on November 5, 2020
By Daniel Geleyn
James Reid Funeral Home, like many other service providers, has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that have challenged its staff in unforeseen ways.
The most significant impact has been the limitation on the number of people able to gather in one spot for a celebration of life. Funerals typically involve large family gatherings where people comfort each other, often by hugging. The pandemic and its associated restrictions on social distancing have significantly changed the way such celebrations must take place.
“With COVID, our celebration centre now has a drive-up where people can come and visit while staying in their car,” says Jim Reid, owner and operator of James Reid Funeral Home on John Counter Boulevard in Kingston.
The strict limitation on the number of people able to gather has forced funeral homes to be innovative in the ways in which they can support grieving families. James Reid Funeral Home has been at the forefront of some of those innovations.
“Despite the connectivity challenges, we have been able to live stream interment ceremonies from the cemetery,” explains Reid.
This new way of doing business even gave the opportunity for the son of a deceased person who lives in Thailand to be able to attend the interment ceremony. This would never have been possible without these innovations.
The new policies in place to deal with the pandemic have also mandated that the funeral homes are responsible for monitoring the gatherings associated with funerals, even at the interment sites which are not owned and operated by the funeral homes.
“The funeral home has to provide one staff for every 10 attendees so that is quite demanding given our staffing levels,” says Reid.
The requirement to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for its staff was an additional challenge for the business. But as Reid explains “We always had protection to deal with dead bodies and dealing with them as if they were always infectious.”
The main challenge was that there was little information about this disease at first and no one knew how it was transmitted. Now that it is known that COVID is mainly transmitted through droplets in the breath of living bodies, dealing with the dead bodies is not seen as such a challenge.
James Reid was established in Kingston in 1854 and initially manufactured furniture and coffins. “I’m the fourth generation and my daughter Sarah, who is working at the funeral home as well, is the fifth generation,” says Reid.
The original James Reid, along with his wife and their 12 children, built the original business. “The men in the family built the coffins and the furniture while the women lined the coffins and upholstered the furniture. Everyone contributed,” says Reid.