On last New Year’s Eve, 2020 had a magical sound to it, but as the year comes to an end, a strikingly different number stands out for Theresa Watkinson, chief operating officer for Aladdin Bakers.

“I’ll tell you personally, I know 19 people who passed away from COVID,” she recalled. “Some of them family members. Some of them local business owners. Friends, parents, people I personally knew.”

Everyone at the Brooklyn, NY-based bakery was affected as the first wave as the coronavirus hit the nation. Forget the semantics on whether we’re in a second or third wave, the tragedy continues. For operations executives, safety has taken on unfathomable proportions in their minds, while frontline workers persevere in the face of uncertainty about their jobs and health.

But as is often the case, the nation’s bakeries “rolled with the punches,” as Ms. Watkinson likes to say. They adapted and reinvented ways to create a safer workplace.

Baking & Snack is proud to name Ms. Watkinson as its 2020 Operations Executive of the Year for showing grace under pressure that redefines crisis management in a time when failure is not an option. She persevered under extraordinary circumstances while representing those essential leadership qualities that make up the bulwark of the industry. As the year ends, hope shines brighter on the medical front, but tough times remain for the industry and beyond.

Let’s also hope Ms. Watkinson’s number stays at 19, and to those who have lost special ones in this tragedy-filled year, through COVID-19 or not, they will be missed and remembered. In 2021, remember that everyone’s success is your success and to keep on rolling with the punches.