More than 1,400 hand-folded origami cranes adorn the front windows of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Centre to honour essential workers and those who helped everyone during the pandemic.
“Today marks the two-year anniversary of the closure of Ontario due to COVID,” Pumphouse Arts Centre chair Lise Andreana said at the community centre on Thursday. “Little did we know how our lives would unfold in these two years,”
The Pumphouse organized the display.
“Throughout the pandemic essential workers endured public exposure to ensure our community’s health and safety. They put their own well-being on the line so that critical services and operations continued,” Andreana said.
“This art installation, featuring colourful origami cranes, honours these unsung heroes.”
A large crowd gathered in front of Sweets & Swirls Cafe to view the art project.
The idea to use cranes was inspired by a piece of Japanese folklore, which says folding 1,000 paper cranes will grant someone a wish from a god, or gift health and safety to the person they were made for, Andreana said.
She thanked the 45 or more volunteers who helped make all the cranes.
She recalled a heartwarming story about four grandparents who got together for their wedded children who are expecting a child. Together they folded 200 cranes for the unborn baby.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero folded many cranes herself and was on hand to provide remarks on the installation.
“There were a lot of people that were afraid (when the pandemic started). There were a lot of unknowns and uncertainty about what they could do going forward,” Disero told the crowd.
“But there was a group of people that worked and put the community ahead of themselves and those are front-line workers, our health care workers and our emergency services.”
“We owe them a great deal of gratitude.”
Disero reminded people the pandemic is not over and we need to put patience ahead of personal frustration.
“I want to just say to people, when you see the front-line workers — a firefighter or a doctor or a nurse or an EMS or any front-line worker, a pharmacist or a grocery store attendant — please tell them ‘thank you’ and please be kind to them when you speak with them,” she said.
“They really need our support and I feel that their work, at some point, as we all got frustrated and angry, maybe wasn’t appreciated as much as it should be.”
After the installation the cranes will be donated to essential workers. Residents who want to recommend an essential worker who inspired them during the pandemic can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disero said there were three people who helped her manage the turbulent waters of the pandemic.
One of them is outgoing director of operations Sheldon Randall. He is retiring on April 1 after 25 years with the town.
He was acting chief administrative officer when the pandemic started and worked closely with the mayor and other town officials.
She also thanked current chief administration officer Marnie Cluckie.
“Marnie’s been really helpful. She’s really taken a lot off my plate,” Disero said.
She said the other important person is her husband, Dan.
“He picked up the pace when I was running around doing everything else,” she said.
Andreana said there was one essential worker she wanted to honour.
Her mother-in-law lives at Millennium Trail Manor in Niagara Falls and long-term care worker Cherry Sandos has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to take care of residents at the home.
“Cherry is so upbeat and happy and beautiful. When I talked to her at the end of February she had not had a day off since Christmas,” Andreana said.
“I said to her, ‘I call in the morning and you’re here, Cherry. I call in the evening and you’re here.’ ”
Andreana’s mother-in-law has dementia.
“But they do her hair, they paint her nails, they make her feel whole and alive,” she said.
“You can’t pay people to do that stuff. So, I’m definitely taking a string (of cranes) over to her.”