Letters from around the world buoy Fredericton chamber CEO worried about local businesses

·3 min read

When Krista Ross's teenage daughter started to accompany her to the mailbox at the end of their street every day, she didn't think anything of it.

Then handwritten letters started to trickle in to their community mailbox, old-fashioned letters from all over the world.

"I'm sure the mailman must've wondered what was happening," said the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.

"I was getting 10 to 20 letters every single day for five or six weeks."

How it all started

At the height of the pandemic, Ross's daughter Rachel Ross-Hamilton noticed her mom spending 18-hour days in her home office.

She would answer phone calls from business owners worried about the future of their business or about how to follow the new COVID-19 protocols.

Krista Ross/Facebook
Krista Ross/Facebook

Sometimes, Rachel would sit and hang out in her mom's office as she responded to 300 urgent emails in the run of a day.

"I would overhear her talking about things that I just couldn't begin to wrap my head around — what she was going through at work everyday," Rachel said.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

That's when Rachel came up with an idea.

The Fredericton teen has been writing to pen pals in different countries as a way to keep busy since the pandemic started.

She is also part of an international group called, the World Needs More Love Letters, an organization that writes encouraging letters to people nominated every month.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

The Grade 10 student decided to nominate her mom to receive letters of encouragement from people across the globe.

She wrote an email about her mom's job as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, her role as a "super mom" and what it's been like having to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.

"I just thought it would be something that she'd really appreciate," Rachel said from their home in Fredericton.

Letters of love

Ross received more than 500 letters from around the world. They came from the United States, China, Hong Kong, England and Australia.

"I didn't know about it until the letters started rolling in," Ross said.

After a few weeks, the mother-daughter duo finally decided to open and read every single one.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

Some of them were postcards, greeting cards that said "you're doing a great job, keep it up," while others were three-page "heartfelt" letters about family and friends owning a business.

People thanked her for giving back to her community and being an inspiration. Others included teabags with notes reminding her to take a break.

"What she [Rachel] did for me was so amazing, and so special," Ross said. "It meant so much to me."

'It kept me going'

For months, Ross didn't tell anyone about the box of letters sitting in her mud room.

She knew she wasn't the only one who took on extra hours because of the pandemic.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

Ross said she felt guilty receiving so much love and support — especially given all the people working on the front lines against the virus.

"At the same time, it kept me going."

Local businesses continue to struggle

As New Brunswick moved back into the orange phase this month, Fredericton businesses are still trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses hit hardest are restaurants, hotels and bars. The Fredericton CEO said sales are down as much as 80 per cent for some of these businesses, which have already been fighting to stay open since March.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

"It's a huge hit for those businesses who are already struggling."

But like the letters of encouragement she received from complete strangers, Ross is reminding business owners to keep going.

Krista Ross/Submitted
Krista Ross/Submitted

She said everyone has been affected by the pandemic in some way and it's important for New Brunswickers to look out for one another.

"It's been hard for everybody and we need to support and encourage each other."

As for her letters, Ross plans to keep them in her home office and read them when days get tough — especially during this latest phase of the pandemic.

"I'll keep them forever."