A year ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, the Herald & Review reached out to community members.
Our goal was to chronicle the pandemic through the eyes of people in different professions and stages of life. In the end, our group included a teacher, a reverend, a student, a theater operator, the head of a not-for-profit, a funeral director, a radio personality and a business owner.
From the outset, even in the face of the unknown as businesses remained closed and people were encouraged to stay home, positivity ruled.
"Everything is going to be all right," Terrence "TAT" Taylor said.
We checked in with them from time to time to see how they were coping.
Like all of us, the pandemic impacted them in a variety of ways. Despite their varying backgrounds and experiences with the virus, they are united in one thing — they can't wait until the pandemic is a memory and life gets back to normal, whatever that is in the post-COVID world.
In our latest installment, they reflect on the past year and how it will be remembered.
Meet the participants:
- Rev. Wayne Dunning, pastor, Faith Fellowship Christian Church
- Ron Johnson, funeral director, Dawson & Wikoff Funeral Homes
- Julia Roundtree Livingston, executive director, Macon County CASA
- Sara Nave, teacher, Dennis School
- Addison Newbon, student/athlete, St. Teresa High School
- John Stephens, executive director, Little Theatre-On the Square
- Terrence "TAT" Taylor, community liaison, Community Foundation of Macon County
- Craig "Woody" Wilson, owner, Sliderz and BC Wings
When did the pandemic become real to you?
Wayne Dunning: The pandemic became very real to me when I had to officiate over the funeral of a COVID-19 victim. And also when they moved back the returning date for kids in school and finally decided to cancel in-person attendance for the balance of the 2019-20 academic year.
Ron Johnson: When the governor started shutting down all non-essential businesses, the reality became very apparent.
Julia Roundtree Livingston: The pandemic was real for me from the very beginning. As the stay-at-home order was created, businesses went remote, schools went remote, it all seemed very real to me. I'm not sure that there was one single moment as the changes were continuous.
Sara Nave: The pandemic became real to me when we were told that we were not going to be coming back in person for the remainder of the school year last year. We knew we would have a few weeks after spring break where they were kind of in limbo, but when they made the call in April, the pandemic became REAL.
Addison Newbon: I think I finally realized how real the pandemic was when school and sports shut down. Along with restaurants and stores all around town temporarily being closed.
John Stephens: This pandemic started getting scary for us as we were going into the closing weekend of "Icons of Music–Divas Through The Decades" on Friday March 13, 2020. We closed our offices on March 16 of 2020 after the show closed and we were able to get all of our actors back home safely.
Terrence “TAT” Taylor: The pandemic became real for me when I was let go from my job of 17 years as a radio broadcaster. The termination didn't last but for maybe a month and a half but that's when I knew things were about to get real...real hard for a lot of individuals and families. That was the exact moment when I knew everything was about to change and would never be the same. It would be the world before COVID-19 and after COVID-19.
Craig “Woody” Wilson: I think it took a while for it to really kick in that we were closed. At first I felt it would be a couple weeks and that it wasn’t the end of the world. I can get some repairs done.
Is life starting to show some signs of normalcy?
Dunning: Life is starting to show some form of "normalcy" to the effect that people are hugging their grandkids again, churches are starting to partially open, restaurants are allowing customers, and people don't jerk around and stare as much if you sneeze.
Johnson: In certain ways yes. We still are limited to the number of visitors at a given time at our business. Many are becoming less fearful than before with the vaccine being available and the case numbers dropping.
Livingston: Yes, we are starting to return to some normal things. In my personal life, my high school daughter had the chance to complete her first school sports season. That was exciting for us as a family to attend some games in person and see her compete. Professionally, my CASA staff has been shifting back to work in the office. We are still altering days of when staff comes in; and continuing our services in much the same way with the same efficiency.
Nave: What is normal anymore (haha)? I would say that life is becoming more normal. With vaccinations on the rise and COVID numbers decreasing daily, and businesses reopening with fewer restrictions, I can say that the light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. My family and I are still being cautious when it comes to leaving the state (we aren't) and attending functions, wearing masks in public and utilizing handwashing and sanitizer. I am just thankful that the schools are reopening. I finally feel like life is getting back to normal. Now to address the trauma my kids have endured.
Newbon: Yes for me it has, and I am very thankful. For example, I have been in-person learning at school and have been able to actually play school sports again. That has been great. Also, with stores and restaurants being open, it definitely makes things feel more normal.
Stephens: It really hasn’t come back to our normal yet. We are still only able to have 50 people in our theatre at a time and we can’t open with that small amount of patrons. Even when we get to the next Bridge stage it will only allow us to have 264 people in the theatre, so we are trying to figure out how that works for us. Our actors union has still not granted us the ability to produce shows either. So that hopefully will come as things start to lighten up and more people are vaccinated in our state.
Taylor: Life is starting to show signs of a new norm. From how work and school are conducted and experienced virtually. Just the massive implementation of technology and how we connect is now on whole other level. Social justice and the conversations on race, diversity, equity, inclusion are now at the forefront.
Wilson: I’d say the little bit of normalcy I see is being able to have live entertainment in Sliderz.
What are you most looking forward to?
Dunning: I'm looking forward to hugging and shaking hands again Looking at full faces and full smiles, baseball games, and full, unrestricted outdoor activities.
Johnson: Not having to wear the mask!!
Livingston: Traveling abroad again with my family. We love to travel and during this past year, we've developed quite a list of places we intend to go.
Nave: I am looking forward to spending time with my students. I tell everyone that I have 157 children and only two live with me. Not being able to see my kids has been so hard. I can 100% understand how these families who have been separated by the virus are feeling. It is devastating. Us teachers need our kids as much as they need us.
Newbon: I am mostly looking forward to not wearing masks. Even though it doesn't seem like that will be happening anytime soon.
Stephens: I am looking forward to watching a cast rehearsing and getting to know each other and then to see their final product on stage and watching our audiences enjoy the show. Honestly, just interaction with our patrons. I miss them. At this point I would be happy with a complaint if I could fix it face to face with the patron. It is our honor to be able to entertain our audiences and a year of not doing that takes its toll on performers. We are SOOOOO READY!
Taylor: I'm most looking forward to how the community comes together to address and tackle the issues of systemic racism and social injustice by policies and procedures that will be implemented and put in place to advance and enhance our community and be an example to the world of what we can accomplish when we work together for a common goal. To see more representation, diversity and inclusion in the realm of local government, organizations and institutions who are the major decision makers/plan implementers.
Wilson: I look forward to traveling again without the restrictions. And I hope people are able to get along better. This pandemic caused everyone to stand on one side of the line or the other, with no exceptions. Lots of hateful people on both sides.
How has COVID touched your life personally? Did you, a family member or friend get it? Did you experience someone close to you having died from it?
Dunning: COVID only touched my wife Tammy, who experienced symptoms and was quarantined for a week. I quarantined myself at the church for a week and just like that, it was over. My uncle and several friends had serious health complications and several died.
Johnson: I have been very fortunate to have not contracted the virus. When the COVID vaccine was made available to me in January, I made the decision for my health and the health of others to take the vaccine. Most all of us have our reasons to be vaccinated or to not too. I believe it was the right thing for me, and I hope others will become vaccinated when they can for this to end. I have firsthand experience with many friends who have died from the complications of the virus, as well as friends who seem to have some long-lasting health issues from contacting COVID. My heart aches for them and their families.
Livingston: Fortunately, my family has been safe from COVID. We have taken precautions and tried to act safely. I have had community friends contract COVID and suffer, as well as community friends who have family members passing away from COVID. As in any other situation, my heart breaks for these families and their loss. I understand that family hospital stays, funerals, etc. are considerably different and more difficult during this time with COVID in restricting visitors, etc.
Newbon: I personally did experience having COVID. Thankfully I did not have any severe symptoms, I would say it was a mild case. The majority of the people I know and friends that did have it, seemed to suffer from it. I think COVID touched my life by just teaching me things that I might not have ever realized. For example, not taking small things around me for granted because the basic things like school and sports can just be taken away so fast.
Nave: My family and I have been very fortunate. I had a few family members contract the virus, but all of them had minor symptoms and no lasting effects. However, this community is my family as well. I saw how sick some of my coworkers, their families, and the families of my students got. I saw post after post asking for prayers, sharing diagnoses and ultimately memorial posts about their loved ones. My heart is broken for those who lost someone they loved to this virus.
Stephens: I have been very lucky to not have any close family members or friends get COVID or die from the disease. MANY, MANY friends of friends or family members of friends have been very sick and died from this disease. I consider myself very lucky, but my family has been very safe during this entire time and worked to stay healthy.
Taylor: We have been immensely blessed and extremely favored to that no one in my immediate family tested positive for COVID. Though I have had some friends, uncles, aunts and cousins who have had COVID, but they have healed and recovered, which is a blessing! We have been extremely blessed not to have anyone lose their lives due to COVID.
Wilson: I didn’t lose any immediate friends, but I did lose a friend. He was part of a social group I’m involved with. I had really got to know him more over the previous year. I can remember giving him a ride one time and he said, “I’m not gonna sit at home. I’m 84 years old, I’ve lived four years more then planned, so I’m gonna do what I want to do”
In 10 years, when you are asked about the pandemic, what will you remember the most about the past year?
Dunning: In 10 years, I'll remember and brag about walking into a bank, sheriff's office, or financial institution with a mask on and not getting arrested.
Johnson: The difficulties that so many had to endure, the loss of loved ones and friends, the economic hardship that some had to endure, and the division it sowed in so much of our population.
Livingston: I will remember the time of shutdown — spending a lot of quality time with my husband and kids. I will remember all of the new things that we did to occupy our time. I will remember getting the opportunity to see my kids' day to day education live from home. I will remember our three kids starting their own businesses because the pandemic gave them not only the time to think, but the time to execute. I will remember increasing our carry-out orders as a family to help support our small, locally-owned businesses which we wanted to help survive. I will remember my CASA staff and volunteers shifting our work to do anything we needed to in order to ensure our assigned foster children were safe and had all that they needed to thrive. So many positive things I will honestly remember.
Nave: That like 9/11, this was an opportunity that tested our country's ability to come together and work toward a common goal — and we fell short due to the disunity that the administration fueled, and the media ran with. This pandemic was financially and emotionally draining, but what I will remember most are those that chose to stand up for what is right and fight alongside those who needed our collective voices more than ever.
Newbon: I think I will remember wearing the masks and being stuck at home with my family and just wanting to be able to interact with people.
Stephens: This was the first time I have not worked 24/7/365 in my entire adult life. I have a hard time sitting still. I made up projects to keep me busy and I am very happy I was able to get these projects done, but I know I am not a good one to sit and do nothing. I will remember time spent with my family that I have never had before and I will work once life is back to normal to be able to spend more time with my family and friends. I miss seeing so many of my friends and Facetime and Zoom just don’t cut it when you really just need to see people and hug them.
Taylor: I will remember how the world as we knew it came to an end. How a virus shut everything down and forced us as not only a country, but internationally, how we need to combat and address major gaps, situations, disparities, and injustices. Injustices that are and have always been the real pandemic. Viruses that have gone on long enough.
Wilson: I think a memorable part will be how at first, when we would get a couple cases every day and how people would freak out clear shelves at the store. Six months later the news would say 200 cases in Macon County yesterday and people wouldn’t think much about it!
What four words best describe the past year?
Dunning: Appreciate, Focus, Hug, Believe
Johnson: Glad it is over.
Livingston: Unpredictable, Different, Exposing, Opportunistic.
Nave: Uncertainty, Chaos, Heartbreak, Hope.
Newbon: Sad, Lonely, Crazy, Unexpected.
Stephens: If you know me very well you will know that these words can’t be published! So the PC version will have to be two different versions. The work version of “Dumpster Fire Train Wreck” and my personal version of “Family, Love, Patience, Peace.” It was a motto I had to create for myself to get through things.
Taylor: Devastating, Dramatic, Transformative, Transcending
Wilson: Everyone is a Doctor!
Read previous COVID experience stories from our panel of residents
How we're doing in July: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories
The Herald and Review has been profiling the same community members as they adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. As the state enters Phase 4, we ask them about life, summer and what comes next.
Bands playing in the parking lot. Hungry people eating meals inside. The excitement of a winning spin on a video gaming machine. And a full staff ready to cater to the needs of the customers.
For many, grieving the loss of a loved one is a family, and sometimes, a community process.
Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pand…
While discussions about issues facing Black communities have been in the national spotlight recently, Julia Roundtree Livingston said conversations about race started for each of her three children at an early age.
Four canvas portraits with vibrant blues, yellows and oranges serve as the backdrop for Terrence ‘TAT’ Taylor’s online video forum where he addresses issues within the community, including the current national discussion surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sullivan’s Little Theatre On The Square executive director, John Stephens, has been busy planning for next summer
How we're doing in November: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories
Every few months, Herald & Review reporters check in with the same group of community members about how they're dealing with COVID.
“I think you're definitely going to lose some businesses this time,” Craig "Woody" Wilson said.
Missing out on her final season of high school basketball is one of the last wishes Addison Newbon would make.
While you can’t be there in person, Ron Johnson encourages people to keep those families who have experienced a loss in mind and to reach out in other ways.
Compared to others, Terrence “Tat” Taylor has had a good year
Julia Livingston, executive director of Macon County CASA, is looking at the positives this season
“My high school coach used to say, three words I live by, 'Find a way.' So right now I gotta find a way.”
In spite of the challenges the pandemic has presented, COVID-19 has not changed the things that Sara Nave, a teacher at Dennis School, is grateful for.
Little Theatre-On the Square co-workers and theater patrons step up to help during the pandemic.
How we're doing: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories
Gayle Bowman: For Clinton High School teacher, biggest challenge is the unknown
Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic.
Gayle Bowman teaches Home Economics and Consumer Education at Clinton High School.
Since schools closed in March, she has been watching the news incessantly.
“As if somebody is going to have the answer,” she said. “The unknowing is one of the hardest parts of this.”
Like many, Bowman is unsure of the future.
“One of the hard things is wondering when we’re going to go back to school,” Bowman said. “Or what that will look like.”
Her method of instructing cooking and other hands-on projects has changed since the students haven’t been able to be in the classroom. However, the children are able to email Bowman photos of dishes they have prepared.
Bowman continues to rise early to prepare the day’s lesson. “Which is different than when I’m in the classroom,” she said. “It’s challenging.”
While in the classroom, students are given supplies to make recipes. Now, Bowman cannot expect her students to have the ingredients available for each dish.
"Instead my assignments are, ‘Look at the ingredients in your kitchen and what would you be preparing,’” she said. “I don’t want to send anybody to the grocery store during the pandemic, so I have them working with what they’ve got.”
Her online class hours are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. She grades papers and answers emails during the day.
“I’m also taking sewing lessons,” Bowman said. “Because that is one of the classes I teach, and I feel like I could be better at it than I am.”
Bowman misses the contact with the students. “You can, to some degree, communicate with them,” she said. “But it’s not the same as actually talking to them in person and getting a check on how they’re feeling or how they’re coping with the pandemic.”
The students and teachers have participated in video conferencing. This can also be frustrating for the teacher.
“You don’t get to see their body language or posture or those little details,” Bowman said.
Bowman expects the teaching techniques will change as time goes on.
“I think there will be an evolution of the process,” she said. “We’ll find a way to provide social distancing in the school."
Wayne Dunning: Decatur pastor, teacher is 'grounded and rooted in Christ'
Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic.
The coronavirus has affected three areas of Wayne Dunning’s life: his roles as a preacher, teacher and parent.
As a pastor at Faith Fellowship Christian Church, his job is to communicate with those in need. “I’m a relationship-type person,” he said. “Facebook Live is nice, but I’d rather talk to you face to face.”
Those who are struggling spiritually are not affected by the resources the church has to offer, according to Dunning. “Some of them are not as strong because of the absence of getting together,” he said. “I’m grounded and rooted in Christ.”
He has had similar struggles with his job as a teacher. His interactions with the students has been limited.
“I’ve had a relationship with them all year,” Dunning said. “For that to be totally just cut short, it's hard on them.”
The teacher worries about his students, but tries to keep in touch with each one. E-learning has helped with the education process, since the testing standards are similar to Dunning’s.
As a parent, Dunning is enjoying his time with his family. “I’m just being Daddy,” he said. “She is getting more spoiled. I’m more of a cupcake.”
During the past few weeks, Dunning has taken the time to study the quality of his life as well as the relationships of those close to him.
“I’m excited to see what’s next, because I want to see how we react after this,” he said. “I hope we can become closer.”
Learning about the coronavirus deaths has been a struggle for Dunning. The spread of the virus has been concerning for the family man. “I’m appreciating life a whole lot more,” he said.
Dunning has had to keep his distance from his elderly mother, but they have been able to keep in contact. They each leave a package of needed items on her doorstep.
“I can see her through the window,” he said. “I’m her errand boy right now.”
Another concern for Dunning is the people who fall away from Christ. “People who really need to be around good people, they are going to go back and do what they ran away from,” he said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in your old habits.”
Ron Johnson: 'Even how we mourn must change'
Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic.
Ron Johnson has spent his professional life helping families navigate the challenges and emotions following the death of a loved one.
He has arranged and overseen hundreds of services as a funeral director for Dawson & Wikoff Funeral Homes in Mount Zion.
While every service is different, there are some constants from which to draw upon. That was, until the coronavirus.
"When a virus such as COVID-19 enters our lives, even how we mourn must change," Johnson said.
Ten people. That's the maximum number of people who can attend a service in person.
That means no gatherings of friends and family at the funeral home or cemetery to offer condolences. And, yes, it means some family members are prohibited from taking part and saying their good-byes during graveside services.
"Social distancing is a horrible thing for all of us when it comes to comforting someone through a loss. Yet, in the strange times we as a community are experiencing, this is the solution and mandate we have been given to halt the spread of this awful pandemic," he said. "Why it may be the correct course of action to keep us healthy, it’s devastating not to be able to hold the hand of a grieving widow."
Faced with these unexpected hurdles, funeral homes are embracing technology and recording services and streaming them online through their websites.
"A month ago I couldn't tell you how to video a service on an iPad and load it to YouTube," Johnson said. That isn't the case any longer.
"It’s a modern solution," Johnson said of the videos and sending letters or sympathy cards through the funeral home's website. "But nothing is as comforting as a hug or by taking the time to personally share your thoughts and prayers with those that mourn."
Johnson said some families already have discussed plans to hold more extensive memorial and celebration of life services once many of the restrictions are lifted.
Julia Roundtree Livingston: 'New normal' as family adjusts to life in pandemic
Julia Roundtree Livingston starts her day off with a 5 a.m. workout.
But these days, instead of bringing her three children to school later in the morning, they set up shop at their home in Forsyth to begin e-learning for the day. Her daughter is 13, and the boys are 7 and 6.
Livingston, executive director of Macon County CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates, said her family is trying to operate under their "new normal" while Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order is in effect through April 30.
"My oldest daughter is a big help and she will help the younger boys," Livingston said. "But after that first week, my husband and I looked at each other 'after work' at 5 and we were both like 'I am so exhausted.'"
The family enjoys time on the weekends in- and outside while practicing social distancing from others. "We are really into board games," Livingston said. "My husband will research and research and eventually purchase games and everyone is excited to try it."
They also enjoy fresh air while playing games of soccer. "It is important to stay active and its a nice break from work," Livingston said. Her daughter, Joella, combines her creative side with her love for sports by making soccer video training lessons for herself.
"I don't think we've veered too much from our day-to-day but there are changes elsewhere," Livingston said, adding that the orders to stay home can sometimes interfere with the nature of Macon County CASA's work. CASA employees work with the community's abused and neglected children and serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for the juvenile advocacy judge to ensure that the child is in a safe foster home where they can thrive and to make recommendations as to the child’s best possible future.
"Normally, our job is to see children face-to-face at least twice a month. We've had to make adjustments, but I'm grateful we are still able to pay our employees," she said.
The employees are now communicating with families often over phone call, text, video chats and other means. Families who do not have access to specific technologies may still receive visits but from a distance, Livingston said.
"We will either be across the street or somewhere so that we can see the child through the glass door and talk with them," she said.
Sara Nave: Dennis School teacher adjusts to educating at a distance
Sara Nave is a middle school teacher at Dennis School as well as a parent of a kindergartner and a preschooler.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom for the first time in my life,” she said.
As a teacher, Nave is learning to use her buoyant personality, typically saved for the classroom setting, and project into online learning. “While still trying to be a mom,” she added. “I have to be helping my kids with their e-learning as well.”
The day can be hectic. Adding to the challenge, Nave has not seen her students for a month.
The students were able to communicate with their teachers through Zoom, a video conferencing option. They now have a Google option available through the school.
“I’ve been checking in with them, making sure they’re okay,” Nave said.
The e-learning is a way for the teacher to communicate, but not as personally as Nave would like. She is, however, able to provide assignments and direction. “It is very formal,” Nave said.
The students are receiving credit for the work they do. “We are making sure they are set up for next year,” Nave said. “We are teaching them so they are not as far behind.”
But the lack of interaction with her students concerns Nave. “I am not seeing them every day to make sure they are physically, emotionally, mentally okay,” she said.
As time passes, Nave said, the relationship between schools and parents may change through this experience.
“I see an opportunity for parents to maybe home school their kids,” she said.
Parents are also struggling while assisting their children with homework and have contacted the teachers for help. “There may be better parent communication next year,” Nave said.
Nave is concerned with students falling behind. Students who go months without reading, writing or practicing math facts will struggle, she said.
“When you stop doing that, especially in middle school, that can set you back so far, that we’re all going to be playing catch-up,” she said.
Addison Newbon: St. Teresa athlete using quarantine to train, spend time with family
Under normal circumstances, Addison Newbon would be several weeks into her summer basketball season.
This year is the 16-year-old's last season playing with the Illinois Valley Warriors, a travel basketball program for girls in North Central and Central Illinois. The St. Teresa High School junior basketball star joined the travel team her sophomore year and has been competing in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) since 5th grade.
Now, it's up in the air if her final season will continue, having been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Newbon said she especially anticipates whether or not she'll get a chance to play in the last two tournaments of the season, a chance for college coaches to come and watch her play.
“It's a little disappointing, but I understand there's really nothing anybody can do," Newbon said. "I'm just making sure I still contact coaches by emailing them and sending them my highlights so I can stay on their radars.”
That hasn't stopped her from seizing the moment. Rather than worrying each day, she takes time to sharpen her game at home, while also working out to stay in shape and contacting colleges to play basketball and pursue a degree in business. The junior said a chunk of her day is dedicated to schoolwork, too.
"When I'm at home, I have a little basketball court in my backyard so I go and work on ball handling, shooting and making sure I'm working out in case my summer season is able to go back in,” she said.
Extra free time in quarantine has led to her discovering new hobbies like painting and learning to play the piano, activities she otherwise wouldn't have had much time to learn while juggling year-round sports and homework. Spending time with her parents and siblings has made for some competitive games of plenty of cookies baked as a family.
"That's kind of a positive I see with the quarantine," Newbon said. "I think I could say I'm making up for lost time. I realized after next year I'll be gone for college and won't be able to spend everyday with them."
Newbon said the experience has taught her to appreciate social interaction with friends and teammates, hoping the same is true for others.
"I think overall people might stop taking little things for granted," she said. "Just talking to people during the day, little things like that."
John Stephens: 'A very scary time' for those working in theater
The Little Theatre on the Square Executive Director John Stephens has been keeping himself busy during the Illinois stay-at-home orders.
But he is always busy this time of year.
“This is gearing up for our biggest time of the year,” he said about the spring season.
The theater, established in Sullivan in 1957, draws professionals from around the country to perform on its stages each season. Now, it is closed to the public, with minimal staff.
Three events have been postponed so far. Decisions about the summer season will be made in May. The theater, which began operating as a not-for-profit corporation in 1981, has had a few donations to help with its survival.
The closing of the theater affects not only the staff, but the actors as well. “It’s a very scary time for our profession,” Stephens said
Stephens has communicated with many of the upcoming season’s actors and knows they are all OK. “Many left New York City to go to their parents’ homes,” he said. “Which made me very happy to know they are safe.”
Stephens admits he is unable to predict the theater’s future.
“Just when we think we know what to do, we get new information,” he said.
The board and staff will make their decisions in early May as to what the future will hold. Stephens predicts some changes to the regularly scheduled programming.
Little Theatre has had positive responses from patrons as well as support from the actors. “It’s a good feeling to have during this scary time,” Stephens said. “Our city leaders have also been wonderful to work with and always checking in on us.”
For Stephens, one of the more challenging aspects of the theater’s closing is the lack of co-workers and patrons the executive director interacts with every day. However, Stephens is able to continue working.
“I need a schedule,” he said.
Every work day, Stephens has been posting videos on his Facebook page showing him playing piano and singing a variety of songs. Recent features have included Elton John's "Your Song," Dolly Parton's "High and Mighty" and Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up."
“It’s been fun to just take a minute to do my passion, singing,” he said.
Stephens also worked on a new CD and a concert that he posted for his recent birthday.
“I’m happy to be able to be creative still,” he said. “I’m not used to having any downtime.”
Terrence Taylor: 'TAT' takes an optimistic approach to pandemic's challenges
Terrence "TAT" Taylor is making the most of stay-at-home orders by working on improvements to his house, taking up online classes and continuing some work from home.
Taylor said he is sympathetic to the fact that families worldwide are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I am blessed for my family's health," he said. "And having all of this time at home is allowing me to pursue new adventures and pull the trigger on projects I've been wanting to accomplish."
Taylor's family closed on a house in Decatur in late March. He has since been working on some home improvement projects while managing life skills courses he teaches in Decatur Public Schools. He was temporarily laid off from a position with Neuhoff Media but said he is using extra time to take online real estate classes and expand his mind.
"I want to come out of this with a whole new set of skills," he said. His fiancee, Amber Cruz, is also working from home.
Taylor said the family has been creating new traditions. The couple and their children, Branden, 9, Terrianah, 15, and Amaiyah, 17, have been watching movies together multiple times a week.
He said they explained the pandemic, and how they can cope, to their children in a straightforward manner.
"There are so many things to celebrate in my life that there was no way that i was going to be down and depressed or anything like that," he said. "We told them what was happening and that we all needed to be safe."
Taylor said one challenge has been dealing with how this impacts their oldest daughter, Amaiyah, who is a senior at MacArthur High School. Not only has the virus caused plans for milestone events, like graduation and prom, to be thrown up in the air but also what would have been a major competition for the show choir group she is involved in.
"It's sad to see that happened, but we explained it from a point of view of safety," Taylor said.
His general outlook right now is optimistic and he said he will try to keep it that way.
"Just because things are changing — everything is going to be all right," Taylor said.
Craig Wilson: Loss of 'busy season' creates issues for Decatur restaurant, bar owner
At first glance, Craig "Woody" Wilson’s business portfolio is pretty diverse.
With a mix of bars, restaurants and a video gaming parlor, one would think he has all the bases covered and is in a good position to withstand any storm.
Then the coronavirus and state-imposed mandates came along, leaving just one business — BC Wings at 3790 E. William Street Road — operational.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the businesses that had to close — Woody's Bar, Sliderz Bar & Grill and Pass The Buck gaming parlor in Decatur and a new BC Wings location in Bloomington.
“This was our busy season,” Wilson said, referring to the the influx of cash from tax refunds flowing to people anxious to get out after a long winter season and enjoy events like the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
And with less than three weeks under its belt to build a clientele at the new BC Wings in Bloomington, it was decided it wouldn't be money-wise to try and keep it open through the government-imposed shutdown.
Wilson said he employs 25 workers. All but five were laid off.
Although the businesses are closed, many of the bills, like rent, insurance, power and cable, continue. This past week he paid more than $5,000 in state sales and payroll taxes.
Some of the pressure has been eased by his landlords, whom he described as "great" for their willingness to work with him during this stressful period.
Wilson will be facing another big payout in a couple months — more than $15,000 in city liquor license fees. He's hopeful the city will be "willing to work with all the bars and restaurants" in light of the recent situation.
Compounding the problem will be the timing of the reopening. He said June, July and August are traditionally slow months. And he's sure there will be some state-imposed limitation in place once doors are allowed to reopen, coupled with tight budgets for people who remain concerned about their employment situation and personal finances.
Looking on the bright side, Wilson has used the down time to do some extensive cleaning and painting at Pass the Buck and Sliderz.
"They will notice big time when they enter Sliderz," he said of the new paint scheme.
Wilson is hopeful customers will get to see the changes sooner rather than later.