– by Ellis Anderson and Wendy Sullivan
Comments coming in last week from front-line health care workers tell a story of severe fatigue and unrelenting stress:
One comment – recognizing the anger health care workers can face as patients wait longer times than usual in understaffed, overloaded hospitals – is especially telling:
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As front-line health care workers are daily challenged by staff shortages and rising numbers of people needing care, burnout is running rampant. One local group has re-mobilized to show support and offer good cheer and gratitude to help assuage the hardships.
Informally calling themselves the Care Packages to COVID Providers Project, several local Bay St. Louis women, including Kay Kell, Wendy McDonald, Nikki Moon and Elise Deano, joined together during the surge last August with the goal of making life a little easier for local health care workers (the Shoofly Magazine story can be read in our archives).
Four teams collected and purchased items for gift baskets, made them up and delivered twice a week across the coast to facilities hardest hit by the pandemic. As the crisis eased, the project wound down.
But the latest surge has reactivated the original team, this time with help from the Hancock County Community Development Foundation (HCCDF), an offshoot of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce.
HCCDF is offering matching funds of up to $1,000 for donations received for the relief effort. People can easily donate on the Chamber’s site (through this link), or they can drop off checks at the Hancock Chamber (100 South Beach Blvd. Suite A).
Yuki Northington, president of the Old Town Merchants Association and owner of Social Chair, a local gift shop, donated 200 bracelets valued at $1,600 to give a smile to the workers. The Helen Marie brand bracelets are created by local artists Danita Favre and Nancy Wilcox and Northington said the jewelry is "a favorite of the nurses." Social Chair has also donated nurse car coasters, badge clips and snacks.
Organizer Elise Deano, who has donated office space to store and pack donations for distribution, summed up the effort.
“The main thing is they’re overwhelmed, we love them, and we appreciate what they’re doing,” she said in a recent WXXV interview. “This is just a tiny thing that we can do to let them know the community cares about them.”
Rushing to and from work with long hours on their units, staff members also are appreciative of gift cards to places like Smoothie King, Starbucks, or PJ’s. They can pick up their meals in transit to and from work sites with limited contact.
Community members and students are also writing heartfelt messages of appreciation and compassion to include in the care packages. These replicate the campaign for first responders after 9/11, which were well received.
The Care Packages to COVID Providers Project teams are looking for community assistance in the following ways:
- Donations of funds to be used to purchase items
- Donations of small bottles of drinks:
- Iced coffee or tea
- Healthy energy drinks
- Protein bars
- Small bags of snacks like trail mix
- Gift cards
- Notes of appreciation
- Additional designated drop off sites
- Volunteers to do any of the following for a week, one time or when available:
- Additional team members or another team
- Assistance with
- Obtaining donations
- Organizing and packing boxes
- Writing notes
- Identifying and supporting additional facilities in need
Items listed above, gift cards, checks and thank-you notes can be dropped off at these locations:
Hancock County Chamber of Commerce
100 South Beach Blvd., Suite A
Bay St. Louis (Main St entrance near the ATM machine)
M–F 9 am – 5 pm
Bay Town Inn
208 N. Beach Blvd.
Bay St. Louis
Items may be left during normal business hours on screened porch (on the DeMontluzin Street side of the front building).
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