Community shares support for pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement

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The impact of recent world events, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement is being remembered by local residents thanks to the creativity of one Spruce Grove business.

Century Convenience, owned and operated by Sandeep Kaleka and his wife Jaskiran, has been part of the community for the past 26 years. When the pandemic began last spring, the convenience store owners installed a wooden platform that was used to provide proper space between the customer and cashier at the counter.

“(People) asked us if we want them to sign it so we can keep it as a souvenir later on when everything goes back to normal,” said Kaleka. While not everyone signs the piece of wood, most of the store’s regular customers have.  “They really like it. They think it’s a good idea because it’s for serving two purposes. For distance plus the memory (of the pandemic and Black Live Matter movement).”

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The platform sits about three to four feet tall and was made by one of the stores regular customers. It was installed at the convenience store last spring at the start of the pandemic.

“I think it was in the first week of April, so it’s almost a year,” he said. “We polished the table so (the writing) would stay on.”

Over the past year more than 100 customers, both new visitors and those who frequent the store have signed the wooden platform to commemorate the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, another event that had an impact in 2020. Many customers have signed their names and a short message of hope and support for the worldwide events that have taken place in recent months.

Kaleka said that local residents and visitors have appreciated the opportunity to remember the events of 2020, and have provided positive feedback about the creative way the store and the community has come together to commemorate such an historic time in our history.

In addition, several regular customers have shared memories of the store over the years. They grew up going to the store as children and are now returning with their own children.

“Some of our regular customers have been here for 30 years and they come here now with their kids,” said Kaleka.

He noted the support of one long-time customer who often visited the store as a 10 year old. Last year, he shared about the store on social media through a positive Facebook post. That post quickly turned into increased business and a show of support for the convenience store, as local residents turned out to help the struggling business during the pandemic.

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“That article (on Facebook) helped us and the people helped us really, explained Kaleka. “We are thankful to all the people in Spruce Grove. During the pandemic, if they didn’t support us I don’t think we would be here.”

That post on Facebook brought in visitors from outside the city as well. Kaleka and his wife are thankful for the support from the local community during a time when it was needed most.

“Some people even came who are not in Spruce Grove. They came all the way because they said they read an article and said we are here to support you,” said Kaleka.

Once the pandemic is over, the Kaleka’s have plans to frame the signed wooden platform, hang it up and have it on display at the store, as a way to remember the historic events of 2020.

kjean@postmedia.com

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