ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — Local businesses, merchants and community leaders are meeting the challenge to fill the needs of the community during these uncertain times.

The entrepreneurial spirit is still strong here, as small shops, watering holes and food joints transition to a new way of business with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the quaint town of Madison, where community ranks as important as the bottom line, local business leaders are in the downtown district are trying to help others.

On Murphy Street, Bake Me Happy owner Krystle Destafino drew up a plan from scratch to help the community she loves.

The master cake maker shifted focus, perfecting the science of French bread in her baking lab.

After two days of tinkering, the master dough puncher began sharing her bread with the public on Tuesday.

Bake Me Happy went from never having offered bread, to pumping out 64 loaves daily to fill local demand.

Beginning this week, Destafino will offer loaves daily beginning at 9 a.m. for cash donations.

She has set a limit of two loaves per person to help the largest number of people possible during the community’s time of need.

The baker said that while she can’t make toilet paper or hand sanitizer — she made an easy decision to produce a precious commodity in short supply and unaffordable to many right now.

For Destafino, the decision to distribute French bread was born of a desire to help out and make thinks just a little bit brighter.

“Downtown Madison definitely pulls together through hard times,” said Destafino, acknowledging contributions from other downtown businesses. The Mad Bean and Bob’s Restaurant provide food curbside, while Salem and Charlie’s Boutique has adapted to serve several happy customers with curbside monogram embroidery projects.

“I love the community of Madison, and I want be able to be here for as many people as possible,” Destafino said. “ … We have extra time and it feels good to give back.”

Several local meat markets are also showing community pride, working around the clock to stock and service customers.

In Stokesdale, longtime meat seller Bi-Rite Super Market has continued to meet high demands. On Monday, the store opened one hour early for senior citizens, having closed on Sunday for employees to grab some much-deserved rest.

Through a Facebook post on Saturday evening, owners of the company, founded in 1965, shared their gratitude for employees who have worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks.

Their dedication also has hit home with locals, who shared the post nearly 550 times on Facebook and flooded the comment section with over 300 shout-outs filled with love, thankfulness and encouragement.

“Thank you for helping my sister out today,” Facebook user Barbara Fulp wrote on the post. “She wasn’t able to stand in line because she recently had a stroke and someone let her get in front of the long line. Caring people (are) still around.”

Like Bi-Rite, Richard’s Meats & Things in Reidsville has seen its employees give their all.

The Scales Street shop has done everything in its power to meet high demand for chicken, beef and pork.

Adhering to social distancing protocol, patrons have formed long lines outside the store almost daily.

Yet, customers, rather than complaining, have shown their appreciation — both in-person and on social media — for the efforts put forth by the business that opened in 1983.

As the community learns more about the virus and its impact, individuals are stepping up online.

Growth continues at the Stokes-Rock-Caswell COVID-19 Relief Network site — a Facebook group chock-full of information about folks providing random acts of kindness.

For one man, that means simmering chicken noodle soup for eight hours in the crock pot, portioning it out, and delivering it to those who are without.

For others, it’s helping out fellow mothers looking for baby products or delivering free locally-sourced eggs and bread to the elderly.

While COVID-19 restrictions and health guidelines change by the minute, one certainty stands out: Uncertain times bring out the best in the community that calls Rockingham County home.

Joe Dexter is a staff writer for RockinghamNow. He can be reached at 336-349-4331 ext. 6139 or @JoeDexter_RCN on Twitter.

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