BEVERLY, MA — A year that brought unprecedented challenges to Beverly residents and small businesses also brought out the resolve and fighting spirit of the North Shore city.
As we all look forward to the hope of a brighter 2021, here are some of the stories of how Beverly battled through the coronavirus health crisis and social justice debates with innovation, resilience and a collective eye toward a better tomorrow.
In a time when seemingly obvious messages of support for certain groups of people, and condemnations of others, can cause debate and contentiousness, Beverly Police Chief John LeLacheur wanted to make sure the department's position is crystal clear when it comes to social justice.
"We, the Beverly Police Department, stand in solidarity and support with Beverly's BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)," he posted his social media. "We wholeheartedly condemn white supremacy and will not tolerate intimidation in this city. "We are committed to protecting the rights and liberties of all our citizens; we will respect and defend the constitutional rights for all equally."
More than two months after being released from Beverly Hospital, Amanda Mazzaglia, 44, of Beverly, says she still had good days and bad days. Mazzaglia was hospitalized for nine days in late March and early April after contracting the new coronavirus.
What she first dismissed as seasonal allergy symptoms ended up being the virus.
"I didn't find out it was [COVID-19] until the day I got discharged, when my second test came back positive," Mazzaglia said. "I'm a fairly healthy person, so I just kept thinking I should be able to work through this."
Hillary Mandelbaum said she's done everything she's been told to do to make her cycling studio a safe place for her clients to stay physically and mentally healthy during what could otherwise be a devastating time amid the coronavirus health crisis.
The co-owner of Inner Cycle of Beverly believes the "vast, vast majority" of her fellow gym and fitness studio owners and managers across the state have done the same for the past four months since they were allowed to reopen to dramatically.
"It's keeping people sane," she said. "They are working out. They get to at least see other people. They need their endorphins. Depression is a real thing. They need this outlet."
Within days of losing nearly everything, Nicole Green said she gained a new appreciation for human kindness in her adopted hometown. Green moved from Salem to Beverly six years ago and rented a Cabot Street apartment with her husband and three young children.
At nearly midnight a week earlier, the walls of that apartment literally came crashing down around her family when a pipe burst and unleashed a torrent of water that soaked through the ceiling and left Green wading through a flood of calf-high brownish water.
"The whole bathroom ceiling fell on my husband," she told Patch Monday of the Nov. 21 ordeal. "All three of my kids were sleeping, and I ran to grab them, and blankets, and anything I can, and then the bedroom ceiling fell on my 2-year-old."
For Justin Negrotti, and his fellow owners of Channel Marker Brewing of Beverly, the business of operating the craft brewery and tap room has gone from month to month, to week to week, now down to day to day checking weather forecasts and gauging viability for patio seating as temperatures drop amid the coronavirus health crisis.
Negrotti told Patch that sales had actually been up seven percent for the two-year old brewery this year through November despite the pandemic as Channel Marker has nimbly hedged its new canning operation, shifted toward sour beers from its traditional New England IPAs and secured a license to serve hot dogs to fulfill the state's food-purchase requirement for on-site consumption when a catering company or other food service is not available.
"These are the cards we've been dealt," said Negrotti, who owns Channel Marker along with business partners Tim Corcoran and Jake Crandell. "We have to roll with the punches. We have as many hedges in place as we can."
Beverly High football coach Andrew Morency was ready for the challenge that awaited him this Thanksgiving.
He had a game plan all written out. He had been dutiful in his preparation. He expected to have some great assistant coaches by his side for one of the holiday's most enduring traditions.
Only this year, for the first time in five years, that challenge was not scheming up ways to beat Salem High in one of the country's oldest Thanksgiving rivalries.
Because of the coronavirus health crisis, and the postponement of the season to at least late February, the quintessential New England experience that is Thanksgiving morning high school football did not happen in Massachusetts in 2020.
The Cabot Street Cinema Theater opened nearly 100 years ago as a response to a nation in crisis.
The country was slowly recovering from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Troops were returning home from the ravages of World War I. It was a country full of pain, political division and social detachment.
"It's something I think about almost every day," Cabot Executive Director J. Casey Soward told Patch. "The timing of the Cabot's original opening was the result of the flu of 1918. They built theaters then to bring people back out in public after a war and a pandemic. We think of this as a crazy time. That was even more of a crazy time."
Heather Johnston called Beverly a diverse city with pockets of wealth and pockets where people live paycheck to paycheck.
During the coronavirus health crisis, she said people from nearly all pockets of the city have reached out to Beverly Bootstraps for help with food and other necessities.
"Our numbers have more than doubled since March," said Johnston, Beverly Bootstraps' Director of Development and External Affairs, in September. "We have seen some pretty significant growth. Even pre-COVID there was a wide variety of income levels in the community.
"What we've seen over the last couple of years is that it's not always certain pockets. It might be your neighbor."
Four weeks into the bizarre new world of the coronavirus pandemic Marco Avila thought he had found a way to make it work for Beverly's Panini Pizza Co.
"In the beginning, it was weird," Avila told Patch. "When COVID hit, everyone was trying to figure out their lives. We took a hit because everyone was just buying groceries and going crazy.
"Then we were getting really busy again. We were really cranking. Then we had a fire."
Amanda Desmond remembers how trying it could be even in more familiar times.
The Beverly High alumna recalls sitting down following a long day of school, attempting to work her way through her nightly assignments, when mom and dad would try to help.
"I have (post-traumatic stress) from my childhood sitting at my kitchen table with my parents trying to figure out my math homework," the University of Massachusetts sophomore told Patch.
Throw in the stresses of remote and hybrid learning — amid the greater disruption of a coronavirus health crisis heading into a seventh month of physical distancing and social restrictions in September — and Desmond can imagine how this year is almost certainly more difficult than ever for young Beverly students and their families.
Noontime has long been a special time for Tan Tran and his son, Aiden, at the North Beverly commuter rail station.
"This is like a positive story," he said. "With everything going on, it's tough to find a positive light out there. This gesture reminded me there is kindness out there still. You have to look at everything in a positive way. Everything is so negative these days.
"This is the positivity everyone needed."