Safe embrace: Montreal man builds hugging station to hold his parents

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WATCH: A man in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood who was desperate to hug his elderly parents took matters in to his own hands on the weekend. Alex Montagano built a simple "hugging station" that protects both the hugger and the “huggee.” Global News video journalist Jonah Aspler has more – May 19, 2020

A man in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood has put his construction skills to good use by building what he has dubbed a “hugging station.”

Alex Montagano put it together with the materials he had on hand.

“I’m in the asbestos removal business so I had these things,” Montagano explained. “They’re part of the standard equipment I already have.”

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The hugging station is made up of a wooden frame with a thick plastic stretched over it and two plastic sleeves with heavy-duty gloves attached with silicone.

Montagano said got the idea online, but it was a desire to hug his parents — without putting them at risk of infection — that pushed him to get building.

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“I hadn’t hugged my parents in about eight months cause they had gone down to Mexico for the winter,” he said, adding they came back when the coronavirus pandemic broke out and were in isolation after that.

“I think having the physical act of touching is extremely important,” Montagano said.

The lack of contact is something Montagano’s mother also complained about, according to neighbour Sharon Pearce.

“His mother was over the other week and lamenting: ‘Aren’t you going to give me a hug?’ and he says, ‘no I can’t.’ and this way he can.”

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Even through thick plastic, the first hug was a special moment — and not just for him.

“It felt fantastic, it was great,” Montagano said. “I hadn’t had that contact with my parents and I think it was good for them. My mom said she was going to cry.”

So far, Montagano has also used the station to hug two of his neighbours as well.

One works in healthcare at the McGill University Health Centre and he received a thank-you hug of sorts, while Pearce was the recipient of a birthday hug on Tuesday.

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“It was very nice to get a hug from somebody other than my husband,” joked Pearce. “Since we can’t see anybody these days, it’s kind of nice.”

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Montagano said he uses a bleach solution, as per World Health Organization guidelines, to disinfect the station between each hug.

As to whether or not the hugging station will catch on, Montagano said it wasn’t his goal.

“I think it’s a symbol or a way for us to understand the importance of how we’re connected together and how we’re social animals,” he said. “Yeah, there’s the hugging but we can connect in different ways.”

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