LOUISVILLE — Nestled along the banks of the Little Wabash River in Clay County sits tiny Louisville. Its population of just more than 1,100 seems light-years removed from the increasing alarms sounding in the great metropolises of Chicago, New York and New Orleans.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has brought Louisville residents closer as they remain physically apart.
Village President Kim Adair and members of the village staff have been making sure every resident has what he or she needs. That includes hand-delivering village correspondence every day, bringing groceries to the elderly and homebound, and just checking in on the people they all know as friends, family, neighbors and local business owners.
“We’ve got such great people in the area,” said Adair, who has been village president for three years. “I think it’s really brought the neighbors and friends and everybody together to help one another. “The girls in this office are collecting mail and bringing it to the elderly because they know them because we have utilities with everybody. We run the water, sewer and gas for the whole village, and we have the garbage that comes out of here.”
“Myself and my daughter have went and picked up groceries and taken them to the homes of the people who are homebound or are elderly or have a weakened immune system. They can’t get out, so we’ve done that, too, to just try to make sure everybody’s taken care of. We call and check on people who we have not seen outside.”
Adair said there was much uncertainty and many questions from local businesses when the state ordered non-essential businesses to shut down and most people to stay at home. She and village staff have kept in constant communication with businesses to ensure they know their role during the pandemic – whether it’s providing an essential service or hunkering down.
Area businesses have been stepping up, Adair said. Wabash Communications Co-op has provided free broadband to the community to help students learning from home and those who are working from home.
Wabash Communications has also opened tabs at K&R Cafe and Salt and Strings Butchery for its workers to use to purchase meals. Adair said these tabs help the locally owned eateries have a solid income during the pandemic.
It’s the little things, too, that Adair said have helped Louisville residents keep the feeling of community connection, even when folks are physically separated.
“We had a lady whose husband passed away and the friends and family got together and they did a car parade for her birthday over the weekend,” Adair said. “She needed that, and it’s just things like that that make our community so special. It was just very sentimental. Stuff like that is priceless.”
Salt and Strings Butchery owner Quinn Bible said the community has supported his small business every day during the pandemic.
Bible, who opened the grocery store and butcher shop in 2016, has been proud that his business helps feed the community. Now that community has made an effort to shop locally at his store, which he said goes a long way in these uncertain times.
“Back in the day before Dollar General and things like that were in town, we had a pretty big grocery business,” Bible said. “But here, we just kind of carry the essentials, things that complement meat.
“We did sell a whole lot more groceries last week, more than I’m used to, especially this time of year.
“I’ve seen a lot of new faces in the past two weeks. It’s kind of people who are stocking up and desperate because nowhere else has ground beef or the stuff that they need to cook.
“It’s hard to say, because so many of my friends with other businesses are shut down. I’m just thankful that we haven’t had to shut the doors or go to a delivery service.”
Bible said community members are buying several meat bundles, with 25 heading out the door over the last two weeks and five more on Thursday alone. Though services like the hot food carryout bar have taken a hit, Bible said he has not had to lay off any employees because of the pandemic.
Because of the surge of buying that occurred over the past two weeks, Bible said some of his store’s stock is down a bit.
“I would say it’s been a positive as far as the influx in sales,” he said. “I think historically last week every day we broke the store record as far as volume of meat sold. Every day was through the roof, but it posed the challenge of now going into this week I guess the stock is down so there’s not as much to get and the (wholesale) price has gone up on everything.
“It didn’t really affect us in a negative way. It was just a lot of pressure on us as to the labor to get everything out and in stock and just to keep up with the demand of it all.”
Also working to feed the community, specifically the school children, is North Clay Community Unit School District No. 25. Superintendent Travis Wyatt said the schools have been distributing food for students twice a week since Illinois schools were shut down.
The district has also provided school work packets and is creating new ones to go out next week.
The district is not just focusing on filling the students’ stomachs. Wyatt said school staff are reaching out to students to personally check on them and let them know the district is there to help.
“We’ve got our staff calling all of our students,” he said. “They’re individually trying to call them (and) check on three different things. No. 1 is how are you doing and are you OK? Two, do you need anything like food or anything there that we can do. Then No. 3, what is your connectivity at home, whether you have Wi-Fi, do you have a device that you could do some online learning with.
“The main part was just to reach out and see how everybody’s doing because that’s what we’re here for. We’re here for the kids. We’re here to support them and do what’s right.”
On the school campus, the buildings have been cleaned and sanitized, and the head maintenance and transportation staff are constantly checking on the facilities. Wyatt said said for the most part, administrators are working remotely, getting to campus a few times a week.
Wyatt said the food and school work distribution could not happen without the work of staff from every part of the school. He said they are all essential to operations during the pandemic.
Wyatt said the safety of students, their families and the school staff is what’s most important.
“I know it’s a small picture, but for our little less than 600 students, it’s important. We really miss them. We’re very hopeful that we can get our kids to come back. That we can end the school year with some kind of normalcy. But we also know that this is bigger than school,” Wyatt said.
“It’s bigger than anything we’ve got going on here at school, and we want to make sure that all of our school kids, our school, our staff, our community, our society is protected from that the very best we can. We’re trying to do what’s essential and we’re trying to remember that our kids are the most important thing.”