Welcome to our new feature, celebrating great Kiwis going the extra distance in lockdown. Do you have a Lockdown Hero? We want to hear heart-warming stories about businesses or individuals going above and beyond to get us through lockdown. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Usher. Stand-up comic. Crowd control operative. Morale lifter. Flatterer of ladies.
Those and more are the roles of Russell Beaumont, who can be found every day of lockdown outside Kerikeri Pharmacy bringing order and a generous dose of humour to what could otherwise be a stressful situation.
The Waipapa man is tasked with greeting arrivals at the pharmacy, checking they're wearing face masks, taking contact details if they don't have a phone for QR code scanning, and directing them to the first available window — from a suitably masked two-metre distance of course.
Beaumont, however, prefers to describe his role as ''director of entertainment''.
''I come down to help out, to keep everybody cheerful and safe on the pavement, and make sure everybody gets taken care of in a kind and speedy manner. Ushering people, cracking jokes, begging for cake, and generally having a giggle.''
Visiting the pharmacy during lockdown was a jarring experience for some older customers because they had to wait outside to be served at a window while inside staff dealt with a tsunami of prescriptions.
''So we're just trying to make people comfortable. I'm having a lot of fun and finding it really fulfilling. And why shouldn't we have a laugh at it — it's a dystopian nightmare we're going through really, isn't it?''
Beaumont, a lawn-mowing contractor in normal life, said he was just doing a job he enjoyed but the staff inside the pharmacy were genuine lockdown heroes.
''I'm in awe of them,'' he said.
With two local pharmacies closed during lockdown — plus the extra demand that comes when people are nervous about their health — Kerikeri Pharmacy had been swamped with thousands of prescriptions.
Staff had been divided into two shifts working in separate bubbles, with one shift starting before dawn and working until lunchtime. Then the pharmacy was cleaned and the next shift came in and worked until evening.
''They're working really hard and staying in their bubbles. Some of them are separated from their families — we've got young mums who don't have childcare so kiddies have been farmed out to grandparents. They're going home at night without their kids, just to help keep the town ticking over.''
Pharmacy staff were too busy to be interviewed but when the Advocate asked readers to nominate people who had gone beyond the call of duty during lockdown, Beaumont and the staff at Kerikeri Pharmacy topped the list in the Bay of Islands.
Lisa Williams, for example, wrote: ''I'd love to make a shout out to the team at Kerikeri Pharmacy. They are run off their feet doing 14-hour days and yet they are putting everyone's safety first. They have a great system set up, they're so efficient, friendly and professional and are covering for three pharmacies within Kerikeri. Russell, the fab concierge directing customers at the door, is happy and very humorous. I live on my own so going down there was the highlight of my day.''