Testing lunch

North Shore Deli’s Ron Mosholder with Janice Guishard, Zula Battiste, Annellie Gumbs, and Debra McDonald, who enjoyed lunch courtesy of the restaurant yesterday before performing COVID-19 testing for the St. John community.

The nursing staff who travel to St. John each week to test residents for the novel coronavirus have recently been treated to a true Love City welcome.

Starting last week, the all-female team, which comes over to St. John every Wednesday to provide COVID testing to residents, has been transported upon arrival to Mongoose Junction, where four restaurants have pledged to provide lunch for the nurses free of charge.

Last week, the women enjoyed a Sun Dog Cafe lunch, and yesterday they were treated to a meal — and four boxes of latex gloves, which have been hard to come by — courtesy of North Shore Deli owners DJ and Nikki Ahladis.

“We really appreciate all the hard work from those on the front lines providing coronavirus testing, so we felt the need to go out of our way to help them,” said the restaurant’s manager, Ron Mosholder.

The generous effort began when longtime resident Cid Hamling noted how busy those involved in the territory’s coronavirus response were.

“On St. John, we take care of those who take care of us,” said Hamling. “These ladies are taking care of us. We need to take care of them.”

Hamling initially approached several restaurants offering to buy lunch for the nurses using money from the St. John Revolving Fund. One by one, each restaurant turned down the payment and said they’d provide the meals free of charge.

“It’s a communitywide effort,” said Sun Dog Cafe owner Michael Barry. “St. John is a small place and we all have to pull together. That’s always been the spirit of how we do things, and we’re more than glad to do this.”

Medical assistant Debra McDonald shared her gratitude for the kindness shown to her and her co-workers by St. John residents and businesses.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to help people, and it’s nice when we’re appreciated,” said McDonald. “This is a beautiful community, very resourceful and generous.”

Each member of the four-person team who conducted yesterday’s testing on St. John spoke enthusiastically about their important role as a front line responder in the battle against the coronavirus.

“We’re seeing more and more people coming out to get tested, which is a great achievement, because it means the people here trust us,” said Annellie Gumbs, who’s studying to become an RN.

The medical team said they made a pact that they would forego their COVID vaccines for the time being, preferring instead to give those vaccines to elderly members of the community.

Janice Guishard, a hemodialysis technician, noted that not many elders are being tested on St. John, and said she hopes to see more people over age 65 come out for the free testing.

“We’re ecstatic coming to St. John every Wednesday,” said Guishard. “This is one of our highlights that we normally look forward to. We’re trying to give the elderly a chance to get ahead with the vaccine. I’ll give up my chance for an elderly person to get the vaccine before me.”

The four women listed numerous island residents and businesses that have shown them generosity including the office of St. John Administrator Shikima Jones-Sprauve, which has arranged for transportation to the donated lunches.

“I would do anything I have to do to make sure they continue to come here and do proper testing, even if I have to take the shirt off my back,” said Jones-Sprauve.

“Whatever they need, I’ll do my best to comply.”

The testing team also lauded Winifred Powell, who assists with transportation and testing; Steve DeBlasio, who provided testing supplies; Gallows Point Resort, which provides tents to shield medical staff from the sun as they provide testing; High Tide, where the nurses have eaten numerous lunches and also stored their equipment; St. John Catering, which has provided food and water; and countless others who have shown their gratitude with simple gestures like bringing cookies to the testing staff.

“It’s incredibly helpful to have them come and do the free pop-up testing, and it’s been incredibly efficient,” said Creagh Spallino of 18 64, which will treat the medical staff to lunch next Wednesday.

“We’re happy to bring them in, give them a little sushi, and show our thanks for the hard work they’re doing.”