The Value of a Community

What is value? If we Google the word, it is regarded as something that holds importance, worth and a usefulness for something. When taken in the contents of a person’s principles or standards, some see it as one’s judgement of what is important in life in general. Myself, as a traditional artist, like to describe value as giving something back to the people you interact with daily. Value comes from creating value for others. Whether it is simply smiling and saying hello to someone who looks like they’re having a rough day, or sharing half your sandwich with a coworker because they forgot to bring their own, the little things in life make all the difference to people who aren’t expecting much.

Yet how do we continue to share value with others when it seems like so many people are only looking out for themselves? When the COVID-19 virus struck in March 2020, the impact was so strong and fierce that some can say the ripple effect has shaken the foundation of values to their core. Yet for two small local business owners in Portales, New Mexico, their groundwork has always been reinforced with the strong love and admiration for their community. Mary Newell and Julie Rooney are the owners of the Courthouse Café and The Happy Place, a hobby and craft store located right in the heart of the town. Despite all the new business restrictions and mandated orders by the state government, to these two strong local businesswomen, their community’s well-being was always a priority in the early stages of the pandemic.

“We were lucky in the beginning, business did drop a little bit, but we had an easy transition from dine-in to carry out, so we were able to keep a steady flow of business. We were also lucky to be able to keep all of our staff on and just adjusted our sales with the way things were going,” said Newell. “The first initial weeks of the pandemic were extremely scary and hard, and when other local businesses started closing, my husband and I sat down and discussed what action to take with our own business. We decided to stay open and just keep showing up to work.”

Newell went on to explain how actually going through a world-wide pandemic and enduring the adversity had a positive outlook to the whole situation.

“Our community did a great job of supporting each other. Some of the bigger local companies around town would place huge orders for their whole staff and that would help keep the economic flow of the community going. Our community has been amazing,” said Newell.

At the same time, other non-restaurant businesses were not as lucky in the earlier stages of the pandemic. Many of these local businesses were closed three to four weeks at a time. The Happy Place, a symbiotic collaboration with The Courthouse Café, was one of those businesses.

“When the full lockdown was enacted my business was dead in the water for roughly four to six weeks. It was a roller coaster of optimism and frustration that I believe has brought out the best in people, but also the worst in people all rolled into one,” said Rooney. “However, a big positive outlook to this whole experience was my business transitioning to an online ordering platform, as well as starting how-to tutorial videos online.”

When asked if she thinks businesses will ever go back to a sense of normalcy after the pandemic is neutralized, Rooney said, “I think we have to, as a human species we are social, and we desire connection. There will be a long-term effect due to the pandemic for sure, but there is always a silver lining. Maybe we won’t see the full extent of it right away, but I believe we are more awake to what our daily lives need to be and what we truly value in life”.

The heart of any community has always and will always be the local mom and pop businesses. The personal love and care they put into them tend to overflow and washes onto their communities, thus creating a counter ripple to the detrimental effects brought on by COVID-19. It is without question that the importance and worth of this community holds up to the definition of its value.

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