| Heroes Project

ERIN FLANAGAN STASHKO

From a young age, Erin discovered her love of writing in school assignments such as short stories, creative writing, songwriting, poems and more. When she was in grade 9, she won an Edmonton Journal essay contest and as a result, when in Gr. 10, she experienced a once in a lifetime personal meet and greet with Pope John Paul II, along with her dad.

Getting to know people is a pleasure for Erin. She found her niche in a high school work experience class, where she began employment as a Merle Norman Cosmetics Beauty Advisor. She quickly became studio manager and enjoyed the field so much she stayed with it for 16 years.

Erin dabbled in a variety of part time entrepreneurial endeavors over the years with businesses pertaining to personalized Ukrainian Eggs that she designed, Wedding Consultations, hand-crafted roses and dried flower arrangements and even new home sales (joyfully following in her dad’s footsteps.) Her city licensed, home based business, ‘Eyebrows by Erin’, was one of the longest running entrepreneurial gigs that she thoroughly enjoyed, choosing to leave it to focus on her writing.

Never straying far from writing, Erin’s work has been published in articles for popular websites such as Red Flag Deals and Bargain Moose and she was a freelance writer for Writer Bay.

Volunteering time to help preserve history in Grande Prairie, AB, where Erin resides, means a lot to Erin as she feels it is of the utmost importance to keep history alive. She can often be seen at the Grande Prairie Public Library, reviewing historical microfilms of the Daily Herald Tribune newspaper and posting her finds on a popular local Facebook Group, ‘Grande Prairie – Back in the Day’, where she is a moderator. Volunteer Work at Frontier College, helping young students to improve reading skills has been a truly enjoyable experience for her.

Upon spending much time writing in her community Starbucks café, Erin realized she wanted to be a barista – she saw the immense/intense connections that were made with customers and she realized she would enjoy sharing her spark with others and encouraging them to do the same. During her barista role for the past 2 and half years, she quickly realized her rapport with First Responders – and she wanted to nourish their souls as much as possible. Here are excerpts from a blog she wrote, (https://flanagansfables.weebly.com/blogs/much-respect-to-first-responders) that describe her utmost respect for the sacrifices they make, and the dedication they display:

“When I first began my employment at Starbucks, I recall sometimes serving a multitude of RCMP officers at once. Initially, I had been very anxious. I‘d never been in trouble with the law before, but all of my life when I saw a police car I would freeze and get nervous that they might catch me somehow for some infraction that I was unaware of. So, when I would see police officers in uniform at Starbucks, looking formal in their attire, I admit I was initially serving in a formal manner to match. I didn’t know how else to respond, (and I was still new to the POS system on the till and was learning about the various beverages and customization buttons on the order screen. )

But then something happened.

I began to get to know each of the RCMP officers as people first, but with an understanding that an RCMP career is a dynamic part of who they are. There were several who stand out to me as being empaths, too – they are the ones who ask how our shifts are going, whether we have had a busy shift with customers, and other considerate talk, showing us that they also see us as people. Many are very kind and appreciative of the customer service we provide, (as well as the hot sandwiches, bakery items and hot and cold caffeinated beverages), which are important when working long shifts with horrendous shifts in shift times, switching from days to nights, then back again. I don’t know how they do it. They do it in a jovial manner, too. When they are able to have a break together – it is a time of bonding between colleagues that I am sure helps to refresh them as they carry on through their long shifts. Their camaraderie always lends a pleasant and welcoming vibe to the cafe. 

When the RCMP officers come into the cafe or go through the drive thru, I feel honored to serve noble people such as them, who always put others ahead of them. Every RCMP officer is a hero. They are someone who would sacrifice self if necessary, and those who are employed as an RCMP officer is willing to do so. 

When the RCMP officers leave the cafe when they get a call, my heart lurches a bit and I hope they come home safe. I prefer to say, ‘Have a good shift’ when they walk out the door, rather than ‘Have a good day/evening’, because I want to impart that I recognize that they are on call, and are putting themselves out there, in the line of duty.

One time, there were around 10 police officers who were in the cafe on a well-deserved break – they got an urgent call, so they jumped up, ran out to their police vehicles and peeled out of the parking lot with sirens blaring and lights flashing. I remember that the noise of the sudden upset of chairs being pulled back when they got up in such a hurry was almost deafening all at once.

Every person in the café sat in complete silence for a moment afterwards. You could hear a pin drop. You could tell they were wondering where the RCMP officers were going, and whether they would be safe.

I see the similarities between who my late father (a United Church minister) was, and who RCMP officers are, largely through career choices. Both careers involve a person who is widely available/present and very helpful in the community and both careers involve an element where people can lose themselves as people – as in, who they really are, depending on how others perceive and view them, due to their calling, or, career choice. I understand how hard our RCMP officers work. The integrity and level of professionalism that they possess and display are apparent to me.

This is an important blog to me to write because I want to convey the message that definitely, if you are an RCMP officer, or other First Responder, that you are still seen. I see the uniform first as you enter the cafe, and as you approach the counter, I see ‘you’ as a person. It’s important to me to also recognize you when out of uniform. Because whether in uniform or in regular attire, you are still you. And you are respected for who you are, as a person. 

Much Respect to those who put themselves out there, for others. Thank You to all First Responders. Your work is greatly appreciated.”

Erin plans to write reflective articles for ‘The Heroes Project ‘website that will shed light on First Responders’ stories, and she encourages feedback from our audience. Throughout this process of writing – always straight from the heart –  she hopes to make positive changes in the world through small steps in a big journey.

You can read more of her work on her personal blog: https://flanagansfables.weebly.com or for more up to date reflective content and  daily live piano feeds played by ear, she welcomes you to look her up on Facebook, her main social media avenue.

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