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HERMITAGE – When the medical marijuana dispensary Rise Hermitage opened last year, one of the plans for spring and summertime was for the staff to volunteer throughout the community – something that was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have training and webinars in the winter, but usually the spring and the summer is when we can really go out and do things like cleaning up rivers or cleaning up roads,” said Tim Hawkins, market president of Green Thumb Industries Pennsylvania, the company which owns Rise Hermitage.

But even with the restrictions caused by the pandemic, Green Thumb Industries is finding a different way to help the communities that host their Rise dispensaries.

Instead of time, GTI donated money to various food warehouses throughout Pennsylvania, with the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County in Sharon receiving $2,500, according to a press release.

“Our thanks go out to these wonderful organizations that are ensuring our communities have ongoing access to their vital services,” said Linda Marsicano, vice president of corporate communications with GTI. “These nonprofits are among the heroes during these trying circumstances.”

Other donations include $2,500 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Western Pennsylvania, in Erie; $5,000 to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank in Duquesne, which serves of New Castle and Cranberry; $2,500 to the Westmoreland County Food Bank in Delmont; $2,500 to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Williamsport; $12,500 to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg, which serves Steelton, Carlisle, York, Mechanicsburg and Chambersburg; and $2,500 to Philabundance in Philadelphia, the release states.

“These food banks are an essential part of what’s going to keep our communities alive for the next few months, if not longer,” Hawkins said.

Though the Rise dispensaries were already spacious inside and kept contact to a minimum, Hawkins said the pandemic has still affected the dispensaries’ operations. These include curbside service at locations such as Rise Hermitage, where clients can choose their products online, then present the necessary medical information to a staff member when they arrive at the location, who brings the products to the client’s car.

Other measures are in place for when the dispensaries open to inside service, such as footprints on the floor to help guide clients and ensure social distancing, while staff members will have to wear masks, Hawkins said.

But despite these changes, business seems to be about the same as before for GTI, as the pandemic has not caused a noticeable change in the number of new clients compared to the usual increase before the pandemic. Regular clients also seem to be changing their normal pick-up routines to practice social distancing, but the amount overall that people are purchasing is roughly equal to before the pandemic, Hawkins said.

“Where someone used to come in once a week and spend, say, $100, we’re seeing those people might instead make a trip once the third week of every month and spend $300,” Hawkins said.

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