Troy Kingsbury, owner of the Village Grocery in Waitsfield has created a Community Mask Station at the entrance to his Waitsfield Village store. Right by the door now hang masks in ziplock bags, some with people’s name written on them in Sharpies and some waiting for a customer to make a mask their own. On the deck near the mask station are some disposable flip flops for those who ran over to the store from the river and forgot their shoes.

Masks at VG"The reason that I am creating a Community Mask Station is because far too often I see local kids running around that do not have them or forgot them. I see customers who typically wear them come in embarrassed because they forgot their mask, but they need to purchase something," said Kingsbury who was the subject of a lot of back and forth on social media and an electronic community bulletin board about mask wearing in his store. On the community bulletin board Kingsbury pointed out that absent from town-level action on mask wearing, business owners are left on their own with no support. The Waitsfield Select Board again rejected a mask mandate at a July 20 meeting this week.

Kingsbury, who many people praised on social medial and the bulletin board last week for his community mindedness, said his new mask project, launched on July 21, was also an effort to help travelers and others be respectful of his employees in the store.

I put the mask station outside our store not to raise the questions of someone’s beliefs, but to offer folks a sign of support should they choose to wear one out of respect for their neighbors who may be scared to death if they get sick because they have an underlying health condition," he added.

Kingsbury said that this is about the immediate need for people to protect each other, but also because down the road, particularly during the winter, if more people get sick it will further harm the local economy.

"This winter a lot of people may get sick, people will not ski, restaurants may not reopen, the economy will falter as we cannot continue on our present path and our Valley will be in tight economic hardship. I worry about my employees and for my community. Fall and winter are our slowest months and we work hard all summer to save money to survive the winter. That is the reason why we still welcome all into our store whether you wear a mask or not, but if we can all practice respect and social distance, encourage and support each other, we will all come out on the better side of things, regardless," he said.

Bottom line? "If you need a mask, please feel to take one, if your here often please feel free to write your name on the bag and leave it here so that you can use it next time too," Kingsbury said.