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A time like no other deserves coverage like no other. Welcome to Project 2021.

We are following five sets of couples and others as they navigate the pandemic. They are a true cross-section of the Piedmont Triad, from different parts of it, with different backgrounds and professions. The one thing they share is this sentiment by one of the participants, Randy Smith: “I never thought – never thought – we’d be going through what we’re going through now.”

It’s fair to say that few industries have been hit harder than the restaurant world. Algenon Cash grew up on the east side of Winston-Salem and was an investor, when in 2017 he decided to recreate part of his childhood and open, “Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream,” a restaurant that was there on the east side when he was growing up. It’s back again, but like other restaurants, is doing takeout and curbside service, at a time when Algenon thought it would really be taking off.

So, Algenon was fairly pessimistic, midway through 2020.

“At one point, I felt like so much was being taken from me,” Algenon says. “And I think that’s probably the feeling of so many business owners in 2020.”

For Evan Tanner, an associate pastor at a church and his wife, Katie, who is a hairstylist in Reidsville, it was particularly hard because, being still in their 20s, they hadn’t developed enough savings to weather much of a storm.

“It has been tough, to say the least,” says Katie. “I was out of work for two months and I didn’t know when we were coming back.”

In this first Project 2021 report, you’ll meet all of your neighbors who are part of it. We think we’ll all see parts of ourselves and our own lives in their stories.