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Local Business's Role in Disabled Girl's Life

How Bell's Pharmacy in Cranford has influenced my life as a Bipolar patient and my strides towards the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Walk.

Do you remember your first job?

It was probably in high school, right?

Maybe you were sixteen-seventeen?

I was no different. My first job was at Bell’s Pharmacy down on North Union Avenue in Cranford. You’d know it by its big blue awning. You’d know it a lot better five years ago.

After eight years, I still work at Bell’s. Granted, I’ve moved up from petty clerk to Pharmacy Technician, but it has pretty much got the same cast of characters.

Owner, Stephen Lieberman does everything he can for his customers without going bust. He’s great with his employees, and it’s a great atmosphere. I’ve never found a job I liked more – and I’ve held quite a few.

Working there made me want to become a Pharmacy Technician. Actually, it initially made me want to become a PHARMACIST. But when I realized a bunch of things (namely that my disability was not going to let me finish college, college wasn’t my dream, and –oh, yeah- I’m bad at Chemistry), I changed that goal early on. I’m proud to say that as of the first week of June, my license is taped up on the wall at Bell’s.

I’ve come a long way, though. And Steve, Diane – another pharmacist- , Alice – the full-time pharmacy technician - and everyone else at the store have really been there for me.

I took on the job after I was diagnosed Bipolar. Probably not my smartest move. I thought I could handle take on the world, though. Once Steve learned about it, he was very patient with me. He gave me as much time off as I needed when I had flair ups – which really helped when I did IOPs and was hospitalized. Recently, I’ve realized that I can’t handle full-time work because of my disability. It’s just not going to happen. So now my only income is Bell’s. But Steve is working with me and giving me more hours.

The funny thing? No matter how sick I got, I tried my best to go to work. Clearly, I wasn’t going when I was in the hospital. But even when I did my IOPs, I just went in late. I LOVE my job. I’m very passionate about the people I serve and the knowledge I relay. Bell’s relaxes me. Plus, I’m not home when I’m there. When I was homeschooled my senior year? Still worked. All my college medical leaves? Still worked. I worked on break from a college an hour away. It’s my respite.     

Diane turned out to be a second mother to me. Every shift with her was like a brunch or a therapy session that I got paid for. While I would have wonderful conversations, I would take breaks and get to help other people. How is this job not perfect?! Diane and I have lunch and walks together outside of the job. I’ve never had that. An out-of-work friend. A support system in an adult. Someone with wisdom and knowledge and experience willing to pass it on to me.

I feel like everyone at Bell’s is a little family. And we often get those questions. People come in all the time and ask if Bob – the delivery guy - is Steve’s father/brother/uncle/what-have-you. That’s because my whole time here, that’s how we treat each other. And that’s how we treat our customers. I’ve always had this place to run to when home felt too unsafe and school was too overwhelming and none of my friends were available. Sometimes I go hang out at the store when I’m not scheduled. I’ve always needed Bell’s.

When I started getting my COUNTLESS medications there, I could always depend on complete discretion. It was never discussed during work unless I was refilling something. It was never shared with other employees that weren’t involved in the filling i.e. Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technician. And I was never questioned on my reasons for taking the medicines. The Pharmacists knew because I talked to them about it. But it was left up to me. There was no gossip, though. Over the years, I’ve seen them treat customers the same way. They give the utmost concern and discretion to the patients. For me, there’s a line of when I’m an employee and when I’m a patient. It’s not crossed.

I worked for CVS for a little while. I refused to get my prescriptions there. I did NOT want them knowing what I was on. I didn’t feel want them to discriminate against and look down on me. I was scared. At Bell’s I trust them. I don’t mind mixing business with personal there because I know there it’s not an issue.

It’s really hard having a disabled employee, and I know that. Steve makes every accommodation for me. He has helped me through so much throughout the years. All three Pharmacists have provided me with so much medical knowledge and counsel throughout the years and filled hundreds of prescriptions for me. I can’t imagine working for anyone else and giving my business for anyone else. This is where my life has led me.

Let me tell you something else about Bell’s Pharmacy, oh loyal Patch readers. I have met some WONDERFUL people through this job. Now…Like I’m sure most of you….I have had my share of retail jobs. And like anywhere, you have difficult people. But I love everyone that walks into my store. There are people that I can’t wait to see when I start my shifts. I’ll drive to work thinking “Oh, I hope I see this customer or that customer” or “Oh! He usually comes in Monday nights! I hope he does tonight!” I. LOVE. MY. CUSTOMERS! And I like to think they enjoy the treatment I give them.

I have a story, Readers-of-my-blog. This past weekend (as every weekend), I was working. Sitting there, one of my FAVORITE customers came in. True, that list is pretty lengthy, but this woman ranks pretty high up there. If no one else is in the store, she’ll stand there talking to me for 45 minutes - easy. She’s been through some hard things, and we relate to each other really well. But being business, I don’t divulge details of myself. I relate it being family. She walks in over the weekend, and upon seeing me shouts “I READ YOUR ARTICLE ON PATCH!” I was rather taken aback and could only muster an “Oh?” She continues with her usual enthusiasm, “Yes! Where can I send a check!?”

My eyes must have widened to pie plates. All I could think was “whoa….it worked!” I couldn’t imagine that my promoting on Patch and the Chronicle could POSSIBLY yield any results. I didn’t even think that anyone ever read my blog! Let alone someone I knew!

True, I've been seeing results from my work the past few weeks. The cans have raised over 75$!! But I guess having someone actually say "ya know that thing?" is making me realize that I'm making a difference. Because yes, I can crunch numbers all I want. It's helping. Don't get me wrong! I know that every penny I raise is fantastic!

Just having someone go "I read your blog! I'm glad you're telling the people that!" It really touched me and made me really feel like I'm making more than a financial difference.

I have lots in the works for awareness raising and fundraising campaigns. So hopefully, I'll "work my magic" on more people.

Did I mention that there a Suicide Prevention jar in Bell’s?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Christine Stolte June 18, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Thank you, Toniann. It's a great feeling. This just motivates me even more to keep the movement going forward!
Christine Stolte June 18, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Thank you very much, Don! We love providing exceptional service to all our customers. And Steve will never hesitate to run the to store off-hours in an emergency. That's why the number is posted on the door ^_^. I'm so glad you feel that way about us, and we have other loyal customers that have said that to us in the store. I know it's getting really hard with Mail-Aways trying to force people's hands, but trust me! We REALLY value you sticking it out and standing by us! My family has the same view that you do: support local business. That's what makes a town thrive! I'll definitely pass on your stellar praises to Steve and the others. I know that it'll really make their day. I'm actually leaving to go there in a few minutes, so I know this will be a welcome thing. And thank you again for your dedication. I hope we're meeting your expectations. ^_^ Your local Bell's employee, Christie
angel38 August 08, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I worked at Bell's years ago really liked it too. I was afraid to say anything about my Bipolar. (boy what a mistake!) they were always nice and I sometimes see Dianne places) I'll have to stop in sometime.
Christine Stolte August 08, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I'm glad that you enjoyed your experience! It was hard to keep my Bipolar a secret after awhile. Especially once it got worse and I was getting hospitalized. But they're great at Bell's! I love working there!
angel38 August 13, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I think Steve did have a hunch I had something going on though. But I never said anything. you are so right it is something that's hard to keep a secret I wish we had a support group in our town..don't know if we do.


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