Throughout the pandemic, there has been much-deserved praise for frontline essential workers in health care, education, law enforcement and more. NBC Connecticut is shining a light on some of the other critical workforces that have persevered in order to keep Connecticut moving during these difficult times.
Kelli Madigan, assistant customer service manager at Big Y supermarket in West Hartford, said she has tried to keep smiling under her mask - and under pressure – for the past year.
"You would be ringing a register and you'd look up and your line would be 15 people deep,” said Madigan. "The fear of not being able to get food or supplies. The fear of getting the virus or giving the virus,” were some of the thoughts that would go through her mind.
The work has not been easy, but Madigan realized just how important the job is when exhausted frontline health care workers would come into her store.
"They've actually come in and went through the register and thanked us for being here which I thought was really humbling. I thought 'these people are saving lives and they're thanking us,'” said Madigan, who has worked for Big Y for 33 years.
"We all came together as employees. We're all there for each other. We tried to keep our customers upbeat and smiling and assured them that they were safe and that we were going to be here,” said Madigan. "Now we realize we're kind of keeping society going in this pandemic,” she added.
Leo Glynn, a delivery driver for West Hartford-based ProCourier, Inc., has been quite busy throughout 2020 and into 2021. As of late, he has been making transports from Bridgeport to New Haven to Hartford then out-of-state. For much of the coronavirus crisis, he has been delivering some time-sensitive cargo: Connecticut COVID-19 tests that are analyzed at a specific laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"People are waiting for results,” said Glynn. “They want to know. People are nervous." With several trips each week, delivering these small packages has been a big responsibility.
"I like to think that I'm helping, in a small fashion, but helping,” Glynn said. "There are people less fortunate than me. I have a job and, as it turns out, my job is kind of important at this time."
Also on the road – and on a mission - are thousands of transit workers, like Maria Maldonado, who has been driving CTtransit buses for 15 years. None of those years has been quite like the last, she said.
"We do transport doctors, nurses and we do get them where they need to be,” said Maldonado. "We've been out here since day one, since this all started and we have not stopped at all."
She, along with many of her CTtransit coworkers, has been concerned about contracting COVID-19 with such a public-facing occupation. "It was scary for us,” she said. “It still is because it's still out there."
Maldonado said a simple “thank you” from a passenger can make a difference for her. "We have to be there every single day to help everyone out," she added.
Nearly a year ago, when it felt like everything just stopped, things shifted into high gear for rubbish driver Art Pugh, who has worked for Paine's Recycling & Rubbish Removal for the last eight years.
"Being able to continue on despite a lot of adjustments that the world had to make,” Pugh said of his work during the pandemic.
When a large segment of the population began working remotely last spring, the amount of garbage and recycling increased withing many Connecticut households. The continued collection of these materials proved to be extremely important.
"It's, in a sense what makes the world go around and even if you don't know customers personally, you're doing something kind of sort of personal,” Pugh said.
Pugh said the customers he serves have been very thankful for his work over the last year. "They're very appreciative and they show that in a lot of different ways,” he said.
Madigan, Glynn, Maldonado and Pugh – and countless other workers like them – never stopped doing their jobs during the pandemic, helping to keep all of Connecticut moving forward.