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CORONAVIRUS HEROES, Part 2: Providing the essentials in the wake of a Pandemic

This is the second in the EAGLE’s 10-part Coronavirus Heroes series. Every weekend, a new Coronavirus Hero will be featured. This week’s Coronavirus Hero is Orlando Calomese, of Larson’s CashSaver. 

Orlando Calomese has been working at Larson’s CashSaver for over two decades and rarely misses a day of work.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Oxford two months ago, Calomese’s work ethic would be put to the test like many others, but he did not let it deter him.

The term “essential worker” became common vernacular once COVID-19 arrived in the United States, deeming those who would continue to keep going to work in the face of the global health crisis and those who were required to stay home. Grocery store workers were put on the same level as healthcare workers, though Calomese said he just sees it as doing his job and nothing more.

“It’s been a rough experience, but we’ve came through a lot,” Calomese said. “We all worked together. I worked with good people, and we’ve all just been working together.”

Providing a steady food source was crucial at the onset of the quarantine and shelter-in-place orders. People were not able to go to work, but they still had to provide food for their families, for themselves.

Calomese works in the dairy section of CashSaver, making sure eggs, milk and cheese products are fully stocked. Healthcare workers deal with COVID-19 on a daily basis, but grocery store workers such as Calomese interact with the general public everyday as well, when the invisible threat of potential catching the virus is at an all-time high.

Choosing to stay home and not risk coming into contact with COVID-19 is something Calomese said never entered his mind.

“As long as we’re going by the guidelines and doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re in good shape,” Calomese said. “It’s been great. Knowing we’ve got good customers coming in here and they’re depending on us, so far we haven’t let them down yet.”

Grocery stores were hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic, with people coming in and depleting stores’ stock faster than shelves could be replenished. Toilet paper was one of the most in-demand items, but milk and bread, the common items people flock to stores to purchase in the face of a potential disaster, were also being bought in bulk.

CashSaver increased its deliveries to five times a week at the beginning, but the demand has slowed back to a more regular pace and plateaued in some cases. No matter if it’s high-demand or a normal day’s business, Calomese said he is grateful for the customer’s that do come to them seeking essential items.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a job,” Calomese said. “I thank them for coming in.”

Calomese is just one of many employees at CashSaver and other area grocery stores who are choosing to still go to work and serve the community on the front lines of the pandemic. Those employees have allowed local businesses such as CashSaver the option to stay open, when most small businesses are struggling.

“Everybody’s showing up for work,” said CashSaver co-owner Brent Larson. “We’ve only had a few that were scared during the peak of the virus that stayed home for a couple weeks. Not sick, but just out of caution. It’s been a really good group that we’ve stuck together and everybody has shown up. Seemingly, the sales have flowed pretty well because of it. Not only people have shown up, but we’ve had really good work performance out of the people that are here.”