The 920 | Better Together

Great Reads

The Family Upstairs

By Lisa Jewell

“The Family Upstairs” is a thrilling mystery about a young woman named Libby Jones, who was adopted as an infant. On her 25th birthday, she discovers that she has inherited a large home in the high-end Chelsea neighborhood of London that has sat vacant since her birth parents mysterious deaths nearly 24 years ago. What Libby discovers is that not only did she inherit a house, but her parents and a third man killed themselves in the home, and that she has two older siblings who have been missing all these years. At the same time, we meet Lucy Smith, a single mother in France, struggling to provide for her two young children and protect them from her abusive ex-husband. Lucy is out on the street when her phone gives her the ominous notification, “The baby is 25.” The two women must face demons past and present to discover just what happened all those years ago.

Reporting Always:

Writings from The New Yorker

By Lillian Ross

Lillian Ross wrote for “The New Yorker” for more than 60 years, beginning her career there in 1945. She established working relationships with some of the greats in entertainment, especially Ernest Hemingway and John Huston, both of whom she wrote about extensively during her career. Her articles run the gamut from interviews with actors such as Robin Williams and Al Pacino, to tagging along on a senior class’s field trip to New York City. Some of the best articles capture snippets of life in NYC during the 1950s, which can feel very far away to us in 2020. My favorites include a surprising and introspective piece about Hemingway titled, “How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?” and a piece about an American bull-fighter titled, “El Único Matador.” Truly a book with something for everyone, and the collection is great for those who don’t have the time to devote to an entire book.

Waiting for Tom Hanks

By Kerry Winfrey

“Waiting for Tom Hanks” is a light, contemporary romance novel about young, freelance writer Annie Cassidy. Annie went to school for film studies and is obsessed with romantic comedies, especially Nora Ephron’s. Annie has been working on her own screenplay and dreams of one day making a movie of her own. When a movie is going to be filmed in her Columbus-area neighborhood, she jumps at the chance to work on a movie set. Unfortunately, she manages to spill coffee all over the leading man, the notoriously cocky actor Drew Danforth. Drew is anything but Tom Hanks-material, but Annie can’t help but feel drawn to Drew, even if he is leaving town in a matter of weeks. Annie and Drew’s story is a light, fast paced romance and, overall, a really fun read. I recommend this for anyone that enjoys a cute romance with plenty of pop-culture references.

Sure, it’s absolutely ridiculous to turn down a real-life guy because of a movie star, like saving myself for one of the Jonas Brothers in junior high, but it’s how I feel.”
Kerry Winfrey, "Waiting for Tom Hanks"

Taste July 2020

The Flavors of Vietnam (and Mom’s cooking)

Location

Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine
555 North Casaloma Drive, Grand Chute

 If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for new restaurants here in Appleton, and Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine is an exciting option. Taking over the spot formerly occupied by Wildflower Pizza on North Casaloma Drive in Grand Chute, owner Tony Nguyen has transformed the space into a comfortable, casual, and affordable place to sample something new or enjoy something familiar. The restaurant opened in January of 2020, and has found its rhythm and its niche, providing warm and friendly service along with an extensive menu that showcases Pho, the signature Vietnamese noodle soup.

Chef and owner Tony Nguyen spent ten years cooking throughout Europe, in Prague, Paris, and Berlin, before moving to Appleton five years ago. His goal for this, his first restaurant, was to give Appleton something special and diverse, combining fresh, healthy, and clean ingredients into tasty Vietnamese cuisine that pays homage to his mother, an expert chef whose love and sacrifice Tony remembers with every dish.

On a recent visit to Tony Nguyen, my dining companions and I started off with Vietnamese coffee, a sweet drink served cold or hot; an avocado Boba tea from the extensive list of flavors; and a coconut smoothie with subtle, not overly sweet flavor. In addition to the smoothies and Boba tea, the restaurant offers wine, beer, and a full bar specializing in tropical drinks. (Tony Nguyen recommends the Brother John.)

We moved on to an appetizer sampler featuring crab rangoons, summer rolls, and our favorite, the pork dumplings which are very gently deep fried for a lovely contrast with the tender, savory pork filling. The summer rolls were bursting with fresh flavor, and each one had a whole shrimp and a crispy rolled wanton “stick” inside for a rather different take from most spring and summer rolls I’ve tried.

Tony Nguyen’s entrée menu offers something for everyone, whether you’re familiar with Vietnamese cuisine or totally new to it. Try the Pho, or go for fried rice, lo mein, entrees featuring beef, chicken, pork, and seafood, or something from the enticing list of Vietnamese street food. There are also many vegetarian offerings. Tony Nguyen says that the dishes he would recommend to a first-time visitor are Pho, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and Bo Ne (sizzling beef).

Entrees range in price from $8-$20, and the portions are large enough that most people will walk out with leftovers to enjoy later.

Taking Tony’s advice, I ordered the Vietnamese pancake, and it was presented so beautifully, I almost didn’t want to eat it. Almost. The pancake, entirely new to me, was a crispy, wafer-thin crepe, made from rice flour and turmeric, and stuffed with vegetables and pork. The dish was so good it made me want to try every item in the Vietnamese street food section of the menu.

Other entrees we sampled were the teriyaki tofu and the house special scallops. Both dishes were expertly crafted stir fry served with steamed rice and an abundance of color and style. Every dish we tried at Tony Nguyen was a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; from 12-7 p.m. on Sunday; and closed on Tuesday.

 

 

Summer Green Soup – July 2020

Summer Green Soup

by Michelle Fierek

This soup is a beautiful celebration of summer as our green vegetables take shape and we can enjoy time in our gardens. Made with seasonal green vegetables like asparagus, peas, leeks, and spinach, we can add creamy white beans for extra protein in this vegan and gluten-free soup. Be sure to cook it with just enough time to soften the vegetables and retain the desired bright green color.  Experiment with sizes and textures of the vegetables to make it fun and interesting! For example, cut the pea pods diagonally to expose the line of peas or keep out a couple of asparagus spears for garnishing. A splash of lemon heightens the vibrant color and fresh flavor.

Ingredients 

1 T olive oil

1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

6 cups vegetable stock

3/4 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (15 oz) can Cannellini beans, drained

1 cup sugar snap peas, pods cut diagonally or in thirds 

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 cup packed, fresh spinach, chopped

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

1) Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
2) Add zucchini and minced garlic. Stir and cook for another minute.

3) Add vegetable stock, asparagus, pea pods, and beans. Simmer until tender and bright green, approximately 5-7 minutes.

3) Stir in the spinach and peas, remove from heat, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice to taste.

In the Garden July 2020

Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat

by Holly Boettcher

Family-friendly activities during summer vacation that are both interesting and inexpensive are in high demand. But did you know that you can certify your very own backyard with the National Wildlife Federation? All you need to do is provide the following basic elements to attract songbirds and pollinators such as hummingbirds, bumble bees, and honeybees.

Food

Food sources are a critical component to wildlife habitats. Children love to help plant native perennials such as Purple Coneflower, Showy Goldenrod, and Little Bluestem. Incorporate berry producing trees such as American Mountain Ash, or Wild Red Cherry to watch Cedar Waxwings enjoy a buffet of fruit in the fall. Supplemental seed feeders are another way to attract songbirds. Consider leaving a dead tree or branch in your yard, which not only attracts insects, but also encourages fungi and lichens to grow. Think of the decomposing wood as a buffet for the birds.

And don’t forget about Hummingbirds. Although they enjoy nectar feeders, they also need protein, especially when caring for their nestlings. If you use nectar feeders, keep in mind the nectar spoils quickly. Be sure to clean the feeders every few days in a solution of 10 parts water to one part bleach, rinse well, then refill with nectar made of one cup of boiling water and ¼ cup of sugar. Cool before adding to your feeder. There is no need for red dye, as it can sicken the hummingbirds.

Water

All life needs a water source to survive. A shallow dish, backyard birdbath, or a small garden pond will do the trick! Don’t forget to keep the containers clean, rinse daily, then add fresh water. Put a small rock in the center so the birds don’t drown. Your children can help with cleaning birdbaths and filling them each day.

Cover

Children can also help identify places for wildlife to find shelter from extreme weather. Many species need a place to hide from predators. Your backyard friends need to feel safe in the habitat you are creating for them. The National Wildlife Federation suggests providing at least two places to find shelter. Some good options are shrubs such as arborvitae and evergreens, a roosting box, ground cover, or a meadow.

A Place to Raise Their Young

Wildlife needs a sheltered place to raise a family. Much of the above cover areas will double as a home for your backyard friends. They are looking for comfortable places to date, mate, and raise their young. Don’t forget to incorporate host plants such as common Milkweed for the Monarch Butterflies so you can have quite an adventure with your children looking for caterpillars.

Sustainability

Once you provide the above four elements, you can take it a step further by managing your property in an environmentally friendly way. Be mindful of soil and water conservation, use native plants, eliminate invasive plants, reduce use of chemicals, and replace lawn areas with pollinator gardens.

Make Your Commitment Official

Turning your backyard into a certified habitat is an easy and fun way to get the entire family involved in making an impact on neighborhood wildlife. To learn more please visit: http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify.aspx and above all, HAVE FUN!

Open for Business – July 2020

We’re Open!

It’s back to business for Appleton bars and restaurants

by Tim Froberg

The once deadbolted doors swing open again and the sights and sounds of commerce return to the Fox Cities.

Welcome back, Appleton businesses! Life in our little corner of the world hasn’t been the same without you. Allow us to salute your survival skills.

Nothing can be found in any pre-COVID-19 business plan about surviving a global pandemic, but the local business community found ways to adapt and endure during an economic firestorm caused by one of the deadliest infectious diseases in world history.

Some businesses are operating at full capacity. Others have scaled back on services, staff, and operating hours. The common denominator is a willingness to adapt to a changing world and observe safety measures to keep employees and customers safe during this global crisis.

No, it hasn’t been business as usual for a majority of area restaurants, bars, and service providers, but many have reopened since the shutdown, which lasted from mid-March to late May prompted by Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order.

“We need, and we’re trying, to get the machine rolling again,” said Fe Montalvo, one of the owners of three El Azteca Mexican restaurants in Appleton. “We need to get the economy back on its feet so we can survive and make things better for our customers and employees. We hope the nightmare is over.”

El Azteca relied on takeout orders to stay afloat until the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Governor Tony Evers’ stay-at-home-order on May 13, allowing bars, restaurants, and other businesses to reopen.

“We appreciate our customers’ loyalty very, very much,” said Montalvo. “They knew we were in a bad situation and kept placing orders and leaving tips. One person left a $20 tip on a $50 order. We’re very thankful to our customers. It allowed us to bring a service to them and give our employees a chance to work a few hours a day.”

El Azteca, like most restaurants and bars, incorporated safety measures such as social distancing and customer capacity limits since reopening its dining area.

“We’re doing all we can to keep employees and customers safe,” Montalvo said. “We’re fortunate in that our restaurant space is very large, so that makes it easier to not have everyone so close together. We’ve spent a lot of time cleaning and make sure everything is disinfected.”

Here’s a look at other area businesses that have reopened this summer.

George’s Steakhouse

Opened in the late 1930s, the popular Appleton steakhouse found a way to survive the Great Depression. So, it’s no surprise that George’s has done it again.

Rather than stay open through carryout, owner Brad Quimby shut down until the lifting of the state’s stay-at-home order.

“There’s certain menu types that just don’t fit carryout,” said Quimby. “We’re a steakhouse. We didn’t think people wanted to get a $30 steak and eat it out of a Styrofoam box.”

Quimby and his staff tackled various maintenance projects during the downtime and did extensive deep cleaning. By spacing out tables and removing chairs, he estimates the business is operating at about 50% capacity this summer.

Some popular amenities, such as complimentary appetizers, have been removed from tables but will be brought to customers upon request.

“Things are a little different, but I think the public expects that,” Quimby said. “It comes down to can you make a living when you might be looking at half a building for a while? It will be stressful managing the numbers, but we’re happy we’re back.”

Rookies Sports Bar and Grill

Rookies powered its way through a two-month shutdown by relying on takeout and delivery service. The inside dining portion of the business reopened May 26 with various safety procedures in place, ranging from food servers wearing gloves and mask to the installation of hand sanitizers by the entry and restrooms.

“It was a hard few months and we’re looking to get rolling again,” said Rookies owner Steve Carrow. “We have four delivery apps and the phone business helped us get through it. It’s exciting to see customers back in the bar and we’ve done everything we can to make them feel safe.”

The fact that many of the area’s major summer events have been cancelled makes the months ahead more daunting than usual for bar and restaurant owners.

“Mile of Music, Octoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness – all are big money-makers,” said Carrow. “It’s going to be a very challenging year for all the bars here.”

StoneArch Brewpub

StoneArch didn’t rush to reopen following the reversal of the state’s stay-at-home order and waited until June 1 to fully relaunch the business.

Curbside pickup and carryout options kept the business alive during the shutdown.

“We didn’t do anywhere near the volume of business we usually do, but it helped us survive this thing,” said StoneArch co-owner Tom Lonsway. “We were also in the middle of a massive remodeling, so we took our time in reopening.”

StoneArch has been able to capitalize on an outdoor patio dining area, giving the business time to lure customers back to the main dining room.

“The virus is still out there and who knows how long it’s going to last,” Lonsway said. “We know it’s going to take some time for people to fully come back to restaurants. Never did I expect to see something like this. But that’s life. We need to survive this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Dairy Queen

The three Appleton Dairy Queens survived the pandemic better than most due to a popular drive-through option, which produced strong sales.

DQ’s lobbies have been closed for much of the pandemic and there hasn’t been a push to reopen them.

“We lost some good business like everyone else has, but we’ve always done well with the drive-through and we adjusted,” said Nicole Foth, Dairy Queen Manager. “Initially, we had a two-week shutdown just to make sure that our staff was healthy, but we reopened April 9, just before Easter.

“The biggest change we made was allowing our cake business to have drive-through availability.”

Staffing has been Dairy Queen’s biggest challenging during the pandemic.

“April is usually our biggest hiring time and we do a lot of one-on-one training,” Foth said. “Initially, we were phasing in new employees while trying to separate them from the main crew, just to make sure that everyone was healthy. When you start bringing in new people and training them, there is always a concern among the crew that they’re healthy.”

Glass Nickel Pizza Co.

Glass Nickel experienced solid financial success during the height of the pandemic, despite a closed dining room.

Known for its award-winning pizza, pasta, and salads, Glass Nickel’s business model is built around takeout and delivery services.

“Luckily, 60% of our business is carryout and delivery,” said Glass Nickel owner Doug Wassman. “That part of the business is self-sustaining and increased substantially. If we didn’t have carryout and delivery, we would have been gone.”

Employees now follow contactless safety procedures during delivery. All payment is done in advance through credit cards.

“We’ll drop the pizza off at the front door and ring the doorbell, but there’s no contact and no cash is used,” Wassman said.

Glass Nickel, which also has locations in Neenah-Menasha and Green Bay, shut down its dining rooms during the height of the pandemic, but they’re expected to reopen in some capacity by fall.

“If you open your dining room too soon and then have to close it, that may not go over well,” Wassman said. “It’s tough to plan right now. You play everything by ear because you can’t predict what’s going to happen.”

Vande Walle’s Candies

Vande Walle’s is licensed as a food manufacturer, so it had the good fortune of keeping its doors open during the stay-at-home order.

While in-store foot traffic decreased, online sales spiked and Vande Walle’s worked hard to meet customers’ changing needs. They offered curbside pickup and a delivery service for the first time.

“Delivery was something we hadn’t done before and we offer it free within five miles with even a minimal purchase,” said Steve Vande Walle, a co-owner of the family business.

Vande Walle’s also made in-store adjustments, installing plexiglass barriers between the salesclerk and customer. As usual, hygiene and sanitation were stressed with employees.

“Because we’re a food manufacturer, we’ve been doing these things all along – washing hands, using sanitizer, washing down surfaces between products, and using hair nets and gloves,” said Vande Walle. “That’s part of our normal operating procedure.”

Jacobs Meat Market

The family-owned business opened in 1945, and it will take more than a pandemic to close it.

Jacobs was designated an essential business and remained open during the state’s stay-at-home order. By offering a valuable in-demand product, Jacob’s did more than just hold steady – it actually thrived.

“I felt very blessed to not only stay open, but to be as busy as we were,” said co-owner Luke Jacobs. “We were super busy, especially during the stay-at-home period. At first, people started hoarding toilet paper. Then there was talk of a possible meat shortage and people started doing that with meat. We never put any limits on and were fortunate that people really embraced our business.”

Still, it wasn’t business as usual. Despite high sales, Jacobs had to adjust to pandemic conditions. With fewer customers entering the actual market, Jacobs offered options such as curbside pickup for the first time.

“We had to adapt and probably one-third of our orders were curbside pickups,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been in business almost 75 years and just when you think you have your business right where you need it to be, something like this happens.”

The Frame Workshop

The Frame Workshop is known for its award-winning custom picture framing, along with a selection of fine art, gifts, home décor, and Christmas collectables. It attracts customers from across the globe and is the largest European Christmas shop in the Midwest.

They were forced to shut down the shop during the first few months of the pandemic, but online sales continued to pump in revenue until it fully reopened following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision.

“A lot of our gift items were on our website and with the store closed, it was really easy to direct our customers to our website,” said Frame Workshop owner John Ranes. “Puzzles were a huge gift item. We offer five different lines of puzzles and they proved to be really popular.”

Since fully reopening, The Frame Workshop has put an emphasis on customer and employee safety.

“We want to make sure customers have a comfort level when they’re here,” said Ranes. “We’ve worn masks and have been wiping every down everything. We usually have only one to three people in here at a time, so the transition has been pretty easy.”

Northland Mall

Most of Northland Mall’s 17 stores – including retail giant Kohl’s – were closed for several weeks before reopening in late May and early June with limited hours. Pet Supplies Plus, deemed an essential business, was the exception.

Northland Mall originally opened in 1969 when it was known at Northland Plaza and featured a Kroger supermarket. When Kohl’s arrived in 1983, the mall became enclosed and was given its current name.

“It’s been a challenge and the virus isn’t going away,” said Angie Walker, property manager for the Northland Mall. “Some of our shops offered curbside pickup just to maintain. It’s tough when you don’t have money coming in.

“We’ve had to make certain changes. We put up stations for hand sanitizers and have asked people entering the mall to wear masks. We have hair and nail salons that require that. But overall, it’s great to see people back in our stores again. I think that over time everyone here at the mall and on the strip will bounce back.”

Salute to the Heroes – July 2020

Heroes emerge in coronavirus crisis

by Tim Froberg

Dr. Anthony Zeimet

Infectious Diseases Specialist for Ascension Medical Group at St. Elizabeth Hospital

Jyot Soni

Board-Certified Family Physician/Hospitalist, Aurora Medical Center

In comic books and Hollywood movies, superheroes wear masks and put their lives on the line to make the world a better place.

Real-life heroes of today’s COVID-19 pandemic share similar traits. These essential workers – whose occupations range from doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police officers to grocery clerks, cashiers, and stockers – also wear masks and risk their own health for the greater good.

But don’t expect them to take any credit for the courage they show every day while dealing with a highly infectious virus. They say they’re simply doing their jobs.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” said Dr. Anthony Zeimet, an infectious diseases specialist for Ascension Medical Group at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton. “This is why I went into medicine. This is my job and there’s an inherent risk to it. It’s nice that people are showing a respect toward the things we do, but I take care of my patients the way I always do – with love and compassion and the way I’d want to be treated.”

Zeimet covered all three Ascension hospitals with telemedicine in Northeast Wisconsin during the peak of the pandemic and worked closely with Ascension’s infection prevention team to set up processes and protocols.

“If I could put the COVID situation into one word, it would be ‘surreal,’” said Zeimet. “As an infectious disease specialist, you read and learn about pandemics throughout your training and medical school. But you never really think, in this day and age, you would have to live through one.”

Zeimet, who wears protective equipment including gloves, scrubs, a surgical gown, and an N-95 face mask when treating patients, doesn’t see COVID-19 suddenly disappearing from our world.

“It’s probably going to be a couple years,” he said. “If you look at the influenza epidemic of 1918 – it lasted about two years. I don’t think it’s really going to die down until we have what is considered herd immunity. That’s when a majority of the people have been exposed to it and have had it.”

Here’s a look at how other essential workers in our area are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. JYOT SONI, BOARD-CERTIFIED FAMILY PHYSICIAN/HOSPITALIST, AURORA MEDICAL CENTER

Perhaps the biggest risk for many medical workers is catching the virus and bringing it home to family members. In the early stages of the pandemic, Soni, a family physician in Oshkosh, treated a patient who tested positive for COVID-19.

He took steps to protect his wife, Nicole, their 4-year-old son, Roshan, and 2-year-old daughter, Sitara.

Soni knew that a quarantine was necessary but didn’t want to separate himself completely from his family. He signed up for RV for MDs – a program in which RV owners lend a recreational vehicle to frontline medical workers self-isolating during the pandemic – and planned to temporary live in an RV in the driveway of his home during quarantine.

However, the RV was too large for the driveway, extending onto a crosswalk and violating a city ordinance. So Soni launched Plan B and stayed in hotel for several nights until the quarantine period passed.

“At the time it was difficult, but I was afraid to come home and possibly expose them,” Soni said. “I had to stay in a hotel to keep them safe.”

The world is gradually reopening, but Soni cautions that it may be some time before the coronavirus disappears.

“I’m glad things are opening, but this may come back stronger,” he said. “It might be like the flu and come on as a seasonal thing in the late fall or winter months when everyone is staying indoors. Another scary part is that we have a lot of older people in the Fox Cities area. Those are the folks that are at the highest risk and have worse outcomes.

“It (the virus) doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who it can infect. It’s especially disconcerting because a person could be asymptomatic and spread the infection without even knowing about it. That’s the most unnerving part of it.”

RICK JAMES, CAPTAIN, APPLETON FIRE DEPARMENT

Firefighters routinely deal with danger when called to action, and COVID-19 has added yet another layer of risk. But safety has always been a priority for the Appleton Fire Department and firefighters like James are following long-established guidelines as they respond to emergencies during the pandemic.

“We’ve had to be diligent, but that’s something we’re trained to do for our health and safety and for the health and safety of the community,” said James. “When it comes to hygiene and handwashing and making sure our personal protective equipment fits and is appropriate for the situation, that’s something we do day in and day out.

“But with COVID, it’s been a little bit of a step up for us. There’s only a finite number of us, so to ensure we have a workforce that can safely respond to the communities’ needs, we’ve taken extra steps to ensure we’re healthy.”

Those steps include extra cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and vehicles, wearing N-95 masks and safety goggles on calls, and having dispatchers follow a screening protocol for emergency services to identify those with COVID symptoms.

“It’s just about remaining vigilant and that’s what we practice all the time,” James said. “We’ve gone through a lot of worse-case scenarios in terms of staffing, should there be exposure within the department. But we haven’t had any issues arise yet.”

AARON OLSON, CHIEF, NEENAH POLICE DEPARTMENT

Police departments have also faced additional risks on the job due to COVID-19. The Neenah Police Department responded by launching a staffing plan to keep officers healthy. The force was divided into five different silos (or personnel groups) that work different shifts to prevent interaction with officers from other units.

“That can be a little challenging when you have a close-knit department like ours, but everyone took it in stride and communicated well,” said Olson. “It was a very challenging time for everyone, but we had some fun with it. Every silo had its own nickname, like the Gang Green Group or the Golden Griffins.”

Olson also asked officers to minimize risks when responding to possible COVID situations.

“We kept telling them to be smart and be safe,” Olson said. “We tried to control what we could control by having our officers wear their PPE and use good judgement. If you come into a situation where someone is coughing or sneezing, give them a mask and stand your distance.

“COVID is something that’s always in the back of your mind, but you can’t live your life in fear. We were fortunate that none of our officers got infected.”

Thanks to funding from the city council, the police department received funding to purchase equipment to sterilize protective gear.

“It looks like a refrigerator but sterilizes all gear, so we were fortunate to be supported by our city council,” Olson said.

CHARLIE BRUYETTE, REGISTERED NURSE, ASCENSION-ST. ELIZABETH HOSPITAL

It’s tough to find positives in the COVID-19 crisis, but Bruyette thinks he’s learned much about infectious diseases since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I like the challenge of learning about it,” Bruyette said. “It’s been crazy. There’s been new challenges every day and we’ve been learning on the fly.”

Bruyette said the best part of his job has been telling patients who test negative for the virus that they’re OK.

“You just don’t know if people are infected until the tests come back,” Bruyette said. “When you tell them they are negative, they’re so happy. And then you can finally take your mask off and they can see what you actually look like.”

Bruyette took extra precautions to keep his wife and young child healthy, washing his clothes and taking a shower immediately upon returning home. He marvels over the entire experience and the chaos that COVID-19 has created.

“It almost feels like we’re living in a movie and it’s not real,” said Bruyette. “I don’t think this is going away soon. This is part of our new normal.”

That new normal includes employees working in sync with one another to keep the coronavirus at bay.

“I don’t see myself as a hero – I see myself as Charlie Bruyette, the nurse,” he said. “I think the heroes are everyone in an organization, from housekeeping to food and nutrition people to doctors, managers, and infectious disease experts. Nurses have been getting a lot of credit, but we’re all team players working together with a larger team.”

JENNIFER BOSETSKI, REGISTERED NURSE, ASCENSION, ST. ELIZABETH HOSPITAL

Though based at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Bosetski traveled to Ascension’s Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee during the initial surge to assist COVID patients in ICUs.

“It’s been heartbreaking at times,” she said. “You might have one patient with COVID and they’ll tell you their husband is at a different hospital with it. You do things like FaceTime just so they can communicate with their families. You try and help them through it, both emotionally and health-wise.”

The initial phase of the pandemic was especially harrowing for Bosetski.

“I was really scared at first,” she said. “But once I got in with the rest of our team, our support staff, and physicians and saw how they were protecting themselves, I felt I didn’t have to worry as much and could focus on the patient. Still, things happen and it’s always in the back of your mind. Anytime you feel like a chest cold is coming on, you think about it.”

In addition to her hospital duties, Bosetski teaches clinical nursing classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

“That was interesting because pandemics had never previously come up in discussion and all of a sudden, I was sharing my experiences and what I knew about coronavirus,” says Bosetski. “We talked mainly about it as a respiratory disease and how it affects your lungs, along with how to recognize symptoms and head it off.”

TINA HULBERT, MANAGER OF PHYSICIAN OPERATIONS, ASCENSION MEDICAL GROUP

Hulbert helped develop and mobilize COVID-19 testing sites at Ascension’s St. Elizabeth campus in Appleton and Mercy Hospital in Oshkosh.

“As things unraveled at the beginning, we had to dismantle our clinics to deal with the high number of patients coming in,” she said. “With our providers, we incorporated virtual visits so they could talk with patients and then we put up tents to be able to service patients and get them tested. We put this together as fast as we could without compromising the safety of patients and our health care workers.

“It was stressful and challenging, but everyone stayed positive and our team approach really helped. Everyone was scared because it came out of nowhere. There was fear in our patients and our teams. But we put our chins up, powered through it, and did what we had to do.

“It was scary, but I never thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to do this.’ I wouldn’t say we’re heroes. This is what we do. This is the career we chose. This is where our heart is.”

STEVE JAHNKE, SERVICE CLERK, JABOBS MEAT MARKET

When Jahnke was furloughed from his job as manager of volunteers and audience services at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, he decided that working was the best way to get through the pandemic. He rolled up his sleeves and accepted a temporary salesclerk position at Jacobs Meat Market, which was designated as an essential business.

“I sat around the house the first couple weeks doing nothing, but you can only clean and organize so much,” he said. “A lot of my volunteers and paid staff shop here, so it made sense. Now I get to see them, which I couldn’t previously.

“This turned out to be a good thing. I feel like I’m doing what I need to do to get through this. Hey, we have to eat, and someone has to wait on customers.”

Working at Jacobs has allowed Jahnke to return to his roots.

“I was 14 when I started working at a grocery store,” he said. “I’m going to be 62 and I’m back working at a meat market. Kind of funny, but I enjoy it and it’s a great place to work. At the PAC, I work behind the scenes. I don’t have that interaction with the public like I do now.”

STEVEN KRUEGER, STORE DIRECTOR, PICK ’N SAVE, APPLETON WEST LOCATION

Krueger implemented several safety procedures at Pick ’N Save’s Appleton West store in response to the pandemic, including the installation of partitions at checkout registers and floor graphs to promote social distancing. The store checks employee temperatures at the start of each shift and provides workers with face masks to keep them safe.

In addition, the store expanded pickup offerings, added senior shopping hours, and expanded in-store cleaning in response to the pandemic.

“When COVID-19 changed our norms, our team stepped up to the challenge,” said Krueger. “They worked tirelessly to keep our stores cleaned and stocked so our community had access to the foods they need. We are being thanked by countless people on a daily basis for being there for them during this unprecedented time. Knowing the importance of our role in the community is rewarding.

“It makes me smile when someone says to me that we’re heroes. Honestly, I don’t feel like a hero. I’m here to do what I love. Our store associates are heroes. Countless associates have stayed late, worked extra, and come in on days off to do what was needed to get us through the most challenging weeks.”