The pandemic has put added pressure on just about everyone, but for those caring for children, spouses, or parents with special needs, it has been especially hard.

A nonprofit designed to give much-needed rest and relaxation to caregivers partnered recently with Dawn and Cassidy Gintz, owners of the Captain Nickels Inn, to provide a carefree weekend for nine women serving in those roles.

The Republican Journal sat down with two women taking part in the ”A Mother’s Rest” program at the inn May 1.

Kimberly Ferguson and Laura Paul, both from Massachusetts, said they have been best friends for about 10 years and drove up together. “We get each other,” Ferguson said, “because we’re caregivers.”

Ferguson has been a caregiver for 30 years, caring for her son who has Asperger's syndrome, and more recently her mother, who is legally blind and has diabetes. She is also homeschooling her 11-year-old grandson, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who she said is argumentative.

“It’s hard to go away,” she said. “You have to do so much before you leave — coordinating with several people to take your place.

“Most caregivers don’t know how much they do until they write it down,” she said.

Paul said she is taking care of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Eight years ago, she said, her 19-year-old son suffered a brain injury after a crash involving an impaired driver, and he now has short-term memory and impulse control issues. “He’s been on disability since the accident,” she said. “It’s been a tough year for him — he’s so isolated. Friends tend to leave you behind,” she said. “He relies on me to fill the gap.”

He started a job and would volunteer at a hospital, she said, but that all ended with COVID-19 and now he “feels he doesn’t have a lot. He’s feeling very lonely. It’s tough, because he knows what he had before, but doesn’t have now.”

Paul said she has also added homeschooling to her life, teaching her 8-year-old grandson who has ADHD. “He was really struggling with remote learning,” she said. Paul said she could not imagine having him stay in front of a computer all day.

For her mother, Paul said, the pandemic has made it more difficult to have any social experiences. “She can’t go anywhere,” she said.

The best part of getting together with other caregivers, Paul said, is “they all get it.” They understand what you are going through.

Ferguson said the group assembled at the inn all came from different backgrounds, and were dealing with different disabilities and needs, but when they came together, they encouraged each other.

“One woman has not been away for 10 years,” Ferguson said, “She was struggling with how it would work out. This morning she was walking on cloud nine.”

Ferguson said it is wonderful to see the moms laughing. “It’s been so nice.”

From the moment the two friends pulled into the inn, they said, the Gintzes made them feel welcome. Gifts from community businesses and residents were also touching, Ferguson said. “I was blown away. This is above and beyond what I was expecting.”

Cassidy Gintz said they reached out to the community and were bowled over by the response they received. Local businesses, including Katwalk, Delvino's, Stone Fox Farm Creamery, and Jenni Blue, have all offered either discounts or one of their products on the house for guests participating in the Mother’s Rest program.

“Private citizens Maylinda Boynton and Jerri Finch have also offered to help,” she said, “Maylinda with gift baskets and Jerri Finch with a donation in her late mother’s name. We’re so touched by the outpouring of support from our community and know that the mothers who stay with us will feel so welcomed and embraced when they visit our local towns.”

Gintz said they heard about A Mother’s Rest through an innkeepers' Facebook group and immediately knew they wanted to be involved.

“We feel very lucky to be in a position to help others, and being a mother-daughter team, this organization spoke to us personally,” Gintz said. “Since purchasing Captain Nickels Inn, we have tried to lend a helping hand to our community members whenever we are able.

“Though these women may not be our neighbors, their stories have touched us and so many others here in Waldo County so deeply, I know we will all be championing A Mother’s Rest in whatever ways we are able.”