Published in The Town Common by Stewart Lytle, Reporter (October 14, 2020)
REGIONAL: When jars were placed last June near the registers at Cape Ann Cannabis in Rowley, customers mistakenly thought they were employee tip jars like those found at bars.
As important as compensating their employees at the marijuana and CBD shop is, Spencer Kalker and Jamie Klopotoski, who own and manage the shop, had a different use in mind for the change that customers dropped into the jars.
With the Covid-19 Pandemic raging, Cape Ann wanted its first Charity of the Month to help front-line workers, nurses, doctors and other staff facing patients who had the virus. The donations from Cape Ann Cannabis customers were for the Health Care Heroes fund at Anna Jaques Hospital.
"When we told the customers their change was going to our charity of the month, the Health Care Heroes Fund, they stopped just putting in quarters and dimes and dropped in 10s and 20s," said Klopotoski, the manager of the shop in Rowley.
Starting in June, shortly after the store opened at 300 Newburyport Turnpike, the customers contributed $2,254 through September for the Heroes Fund. The shop delivered a check to the Anna Jaques Foundation last week for the fund.
"We were very excited to get the Cape Ann check," said Mary Williamson, the vice president of development and executive director of the Anna Jaques Foundation.
The Health Care Heroes fund was created to supplement the purchase of PPE and other safety equipment needed to cope with the Pandemic, Williamson said. "It hit us out of the blue in the middle of the budget year," she said. None of the extra safety equipment to keep front line nurses and doctors safe as they treat patients was budgeted.
Anna Jaques' 1,100 employees go through 2,000 masks a day, plus other gowns and safety equipment, Williamson said.
With little fanfare the foundation launched the Heroes fund. Since it was founded last spring, donors have contributed $153,000 to the fund. "The community has been so generous. We are so grateful," Williamson said.
Kalker, who owns the Cape Ann shop in Rowley and Cape Ann Botanicals, a CBD shop, in Ipswich and Newburyport, said the funds to the Health Care Heroes fund came only from the customers in the Rowley shop.
Next month, he plans to add change from customers of his CBD scores in Ipswich and Newburyport. This month the shops will raise money for Action, Inc. in Gloucester, which helps people change their lives, empowering individuals and building a stronger, more productive community. It offers affordable housing and homelessness prevention, fuel assistance and energy conservation programs, plus education and job training.
"Our business since its inception has been focused on the community,'' Kalker said. "This is just one way we give back."
At the cannabis shop, customers can select from 125 different products, including flowers and concentrates, edibles, infused oils and balms and vapes. Most pay in cash, which often leaves them with coins they can contribute to the charity of the month.
Cape Ann has its own registered nurse, who offers consultations for customers. Kurt Kalker, a member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, meets daily with customers to discuss their medical needs and history as they develop together a personalized plan for using CBD to ease their pain and conditions.
Kurt Kalker has been working for two years with customers in the CBD stores on issues from pet health to Parkinson’s.