First responders and health care workers who are making personal sacrifices during the pandemic are hailed as front-line heroes, and rightly so.
But what about other individuals who cannot simply work from home and must venture out to their places of employment armed with face masks and hopes and prayers that they won’t contract the coronavirus?
One of those people is Rachel Jourdain, a Pikesville resident and customer service clerk at Eddie’s of Roland Park, which has been owned and operated by the Cohen family for more than 75 years.
Jourdain, 30, has worked at the gourmet grocery store’s North Charles Street location since January of 2018.
To show their gratitude to workers at Eddie’s of Roland Park for their efforts during the pandemic, the store’s customers recently contributed $11,000 to a special GoFundMe page. Each employee at the North Charles Street and Roland Avenue locations received a $50 cash gift from the fund, in addition to a $2 hourly bonus provided by the company to its staff during the pandemic.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who moved to Baltimore in 2013, Jourdain and her husband, Charlson “CJ” Jourdain, are the parents of two children, Nevaeh, 12, and Leniah, 4.
Jmore recently spoke to Jourdain about her work at Eddie’s of Roland Park during the pandemic. She is currently working toward a degree in practical nursing at the Community College of Baltimore County.
Jmore: What’s your job like as a customer service clerk?
RJ: I personally shop for customers. Before the pandemic, I would call them and develop personal relationships with them. I’d call everyday just to get their orders.
How’s that all changed with the pandemic?
A lot. I don’t get to talk to some of my favorite regular customers for a long time, and I miss that part of it all. Now, we’re just trying to get all the orders out, and being on the phone just slows things down.
So now I have other people helping me out because we have so many more customers. Orders are already stacking up by the time I walk in the door, so I’m pretty swamped. We used to have five to 10 orders a day. Now, we have 50 to 60 a day per store.
But at least we know that people are at home and staying safe and taking care of themselves.
Does wearing a face mask during work hours get frustrating?
I’ve actually gotten used to it. I figure if I want to be a nurse someday, I’ve got to wear a mask every day. It’s hard sometimes, but you get used to it. It’s almost like a fashion statement. [Laughs]
I sometimes go outside and get some air, and that helps. But the most important thing is keeping each other safe.
When do you think things will return to normal and we can shop in groceries without masks?
I think it will be quite a while before we get back to that kind of normal.
Are customers wearing masks at all times as well?
Yes. We give them an option to get one from us if they don’t come in with a mask. No one has said no, and everyone has been very good about it
That’s good to hear, but do customers ever get irritable in this current situation?
Everybody is stressed. The world is a scary place right now. But so many people are grateful and say thank you to us for making their day a little better. People just seem so much more appreciative now.
I’m finding that people are more conversational now, even on the phone. They want that kind of interaction. We’re all on the front-lines right now and just getting through this, but there are a lot of positives.
Do you ever have your own personal ups and downs?
For me, just making sure that my family is safe is all that matters. That’s really it. If I get stressed, I just read a book or listen to music or take a bubble bath. [Laughs]
How did you feel about the GoFundMe page created for you and your colleagues by loyal customers?
It was a shock to all of us that so many people are so grateful to us and what we do. And we’re so grateful to them. It’s definitely a blessing.
You recently experienced a personal loss in the pandemic when your father-in-law died from COVID-19.
Yes. My father-in-law, Emanoix Piton, lived in New York and had a fever for three days and went to a hospital and tested positive. Two weeks later, he passed away. It was very emotional for us, and the hardest thing was not being able to say goodbye.
He was a pastor, so there were a lot of people who wanted to come to his funeral. But he only had a small funeral with 10 people.
So now my mother-in-law has moved in with us, and we all had to quarantine for two weeks, including her and my husband and our children.
Was it taxing to quarantine with all of your family?
It was a little stressful, but we were there for each other and staying safe. I always try to see the good in things, so I looked at it as a little vacation. [Laughs]
There’s a lot of talk these days about heroes. Do you personally consider yourself a hero?
I do, and it’s nice to have that title. But all of us are heroes right now. This is touching us in so many ways, so I think the whole world is all heroes. And I think it will make us stronger in the long run. If you see someone, help them out. We need to be there for each other.
Why do you want to become a nurse?
When I had my children, I found out that I really like to take care of people. I’m like, ‘That lady over there could be my grandmother, let me get that meal she ordered right away.’
I like making sure that people are OK and healthy. My aunt is a nurse and loves her work. She’s a real inspiration to me. I’m hoping to finish my nursing studies in about a year-and-a-half.
Will you miss Eddie’s when you go off to be a nurse?
Of course. We’re all a family here and we help each other. We’ve all got our hands in the pot, and I hope I’ll always have a home here. It’s a great place to work and not very stressful at all. It’s really a community kind of place.
I’m just grateful to the people here for helping us take care of ourselves by providing masks and gloves and hand sanitizer, so we can go home to our families and be safe. I’m very grateful.
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