No matter what, Mike and Bev Carter weren’t about to let their small community down during a global pandemic.
The Carters are the co-owners of Milverton Food Town, the only grocery store servicing Milverton, a small, tight-knit community located in Southwestern Ontario. Not only is their store an essential service for the local community, it is also a big part of Milverton's overall social fabric, with friends and neighbours using the store as a place to meet up and say hello.
So when Bev, who also works at the regional hospital, was exposed to the virus and eventually tested positive for COVID-19, despite the challenges, the Carters never thought twice about keeping the store open and doing whatever it took to help keep their community safe and fed.
“Looking back, it's a little bit surreal," Mike said. “But at the time, it just was what it was. We didn't see another option."
Keeping the doors open, no matter what
At the outset of the pandemic, Mike lost a close friend to COVID-19 who had operated a grocery store in a neighbouring town. At that point, Mike and Bev quickly realized they would need to make some serious decisions about how to keep their employees and customers safe while continuing to operate their own high-contact, high-risk business, ensuring it stayed open to help their community.
The Carters knew they had to keep the doors open — their grocery store serves between 2,000 and 3,000 customers a week and provides an essential service to the community.
After Bev tested positive for COVID-19, Mike made the decision to move out of the family home and into a borrowed camping trailer behind the store, so that he could stay close to the shop and ensure that everyone who relied on Milverton Food Town could safely get the essentials they needed.
While Mike worked 18-hour days, Bev isolated at home. Thankfully, Bev's symptoms were mild, and she recovered. Mike slept in the trailer and showered at a local fire hall. Every day, he was in the store helping employees restock shelves, disinfect surfaces, and manage supply chain issues, while doing his best to maintain employee well-being.
Inspiring a community to help one another
Even though they could only wave at one another through a window, Mike and Bev continued to work together.
While in isolation, Bev worked the phones, taking grocery orders and managing staffing and scheduling issues for Milverton Food Town. Even after she had been given the green light that she was safe to go back to work at the hospital, she still took grocery orders on her coffee break at the hospital.
At the same time, Mike came up with a new system at the store to help deliver food to more seniors and vulnerable individuals in the community.
The Carters' efforts inspired action around town and the community soon rallied to show their appreciation and pay forward the goodwill. Volunteers stepped in to shop and deliver groceries for seniors in the community, and local businesses donated hand sanitizer.
Others dropped off meals, baked treats and brought flowers for the store's employees, with some even donating money to sponsor staff luncheons in celebration of getting through each week.
“When someone does a good job, it inspires other people," said Bev. “It's a ripple effect, and the support for each other just becomes bigger and bigger."
TD Thanks You campaign gives thanks to small-town heroes
In light of Mike and Bev's outstanding bravery and dedication to their community, their local TD representative, Kevin Reesor, nominated them for this year's TD Thanks You campaign.
This annual TD North American campaign offers thanks and appreciation to those customers and employees who go above and beyond to help support their communities, by recognizing them with unique and personalized surprises of appreciation.
The focus of the 2020 TD Thanks You campaign is those unsung heroes who've stepped up for their communities and shown courage, ingenuity and optimism in the face of the COVID-19 crisis across the Bank's Canadian and U.S. footprint.
On August 7, Mike and Bev were surprised at their store and presented with a personal TD Thanks You surprise, which included a weekend getaway for two.
“Honestly we were blown away," Mike said. “We're pretty humble small-town people and I don't know that I've ever had anybody give us something like this before."
“There probably hasn't been a time that we've been more in need of a weekend away than right now," said Bev, adding that she and Mike haven't had a day away from home or their store since January.
From coast-to-coast, TD will be recognizing the impacts of our customers and colleagues on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Be sure to follow #TDThanksYou to learn more about the many inspiring heroes being recognized by this year's TD Thanks You campaign and the difference they have made.