The Slow Bell Cafe has been hard-hit by repercussions caused by the pandemic and owner May Hall is hoping the community will help her keep the popular local restaurant on Chebeague Island in business. Contributed / May Hall

CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — As the full-time director of nursing at Falmouth by Sea and a small business owner, Chebeague Island native May Hall has seen the negative impacts of the pandemic in more ways than one.

Hall witnessed one of the earliest outbreaks in the state of COVID-19, the disease that causes the novel coronavirus, at Falmouth by the Sea in Falmouth. The first case was reported the week of April 15, 2020, and by May 21, 42 residents and 28 staff members had tested positive, with three deaths. 

Hall tested positive May 5 and was cleared to return to work June 1 despite lingering symptoms known as post-COVID-19 syndrome, which she continues to experience. To combat her consistent cough and shortness of breath, Hall is on oxygen every night.

“I feel fatigued all the time,” Hall said. “I see a pulmonologist and I’m working to try to figure out strategies to make it easier, but there’s no real answers for me right now.” 

All staff and residents at Falmouth by the Sea have now received the first batch of the vaccine and are scheduled to get the booster in late January, according to Hall, who said there has not been a positive COVID-19 case at the facility since spring 2020.

While coping with the health issues brought on by the coronavirus and continuing to work full time, she’s also been investing time and money into her business, The Slow Bell Cafe, which has seen a decrease of over $100,000 in gross revenue over the last year.

Hall has asked for community support to keep The Slow Bell Cafe up and running, with a GoFundMe that has raised over $6,000 in just two weeks as of Jan. 18. She’s hopeful the cafe will have enough resources to open for the full season from April to October. For now, the restaurant is open sporadically on weekends for takeout services.

Hall worked as a server at the Chebeague Island Inn for 11 seasons starting when she was 14. Although Hall has always enjoyed cooking and baking, her real passion lies in helping her community.

Slow Bell owner May Hall, shown in the back, and Cheryl Hillicoss bake pies to donate to Island Commons and a local food pantry on Chebeague Island. Contributed / Cheryl Hillicoss

“The restaurant is a business and it employs people on the island, but it also is a way that we can do some giving back too, which is important to me,” Hall said.

Hall supports local businesses and community members as much as she can, buying lobster from local lobstermen and getting seasonal produce from Second Wind Farm on the island. Hall used the cafe to house a fundraiser for local librarian Deborah Bowman when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2019, and found herself buried in medical bills.

Bowman said she’s known Hall almost her whole life, having babysat for Hall and her siblings on the island when she was a teenager.

“It was like going to a party at your house; you know every single person that’s in there,” Bowman said of the fundraiser.

The GoFundMe for Bowman, created in October 2019, has raised $26,641. Bowman, who underwent a mastectomy, says her prognosis is excellent. 

“Chebeague is enormously generous,” Bowman said. “Anytime there’s a crisis – personal or institutional – people totally step up. I’m very thankful for living here and the support and May and her staff are part of that.”

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