Maine-ly Elderberry owner Daisy Cunningham of Wiscasset has given the town’s police, fire and emergency services some teas and diffusers and about a case and a half of syrup.
The donated products probably totaled about $300-$350, but Cunningham wasn’t thinking about that. She just gave them what she had. “I figured, they keep us safe,” she said about the responders. “Every little bit helps. They’re out there facing even more challenges right now.” In an interview, Cunningham was clear: The business is licensed with Maine Department of Agriculture as a food product. She said elderberries can help support a healthy immune system, but she is making no medical claims they could help fight COVID-19 or other ailment.
Cunningham, 36, said demand has surged during the pandemic. So right now, she wants to focus on filling orders from her regulars and not cash in on people’s fears about the virus, she said. Someone recently told Cunningham she picked a good time to go into elderberries. But Cunningham has been in the business a year and a half.
She gets the elderberries from the Midwest or, when she can, locally. And she is starting to grow her own. “But it takes a few years for them to fully mature ... I’ve never had a green thumb, so we’ll see how it goes.”
How, then, did the Pittsfield native get into making elderberry products? She started just for her, her fiancé Alex Echevarria and their son Alex Jr., now 10. She and Alex Jr. have asthma and he has been previously hospitalized with the flu, so she wanted to help their immune systems, she recalled. She said it went well and someone said she should start making things to sell. Now she has products at Nathan's Wellness Pharmacy and Apothecary in Boothbay Harbor, Rising Tide in Damariscotta, Pure Vita in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Fresh Off the Farm in Rockport, Center Street Bakery in Bath and Tiller and Rye in Brewer, and on Facebook and at mainelyelderberry.com
Wiscasset’s agencies who got the donated products have been thanking Cunningham on their Facebook pages. “Thank you so much, Daisy,” the fire department wrote April 7. An April 7 post on the police department’s page read in part, “Your generosity and support is greatly appreciated!”
And a Wiscasset Ambulance Service post April 8 thanked her and her business for the items “to help keep the public safeties’ immune systems firing on all cylinders in this time of stress.” The same post expresses thanks for other “random acts of kindness” from the community, like people buying the crews coffee or meals, or donating cloth face masks. And it thanks businesses staying open “so we can still eat and get fuel ... This pandemic has shown that we are all still human and that the people are what makes this community great.”
Cunningham also got a message from one of the responders, who was having the tea right then. That and the Facebook posts made her feel good, she said. “It put a smile on my face to know that it was appreciated. We’re such a small community, I think we all just try to do our part in this crazy time we’re in.”