By Alicia Wanek | Contributor
It is truly a time that is “unprecedented,” a word we’ve all heard so often it will forever be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is so much that feels like a broken record in our daily experience—we are tired of being stuck at home, tired of hearing so much bad news, tired of being scared, tired of homeschooling, tired of not knowing what the future looks like. One thing that never grows old, however, is the constant barrage of uplifting stories. We are nothing if not resilient, and as a society we can take comfort in knowing that there is still so much good going on in the world. The artist Pink recently said in an interview that we can all be heroes during this time, even if it just means you’re protecting others by staying home. Here we focus on some of our local heroes and the amazing ways they’re stepping up during these truly unprecedented times.
Working on the Front Line
We can all agree that healthcare workers have been at the forefront to meet the unique challenges of this pandemic. Never before have we appreciated more the work of doctors and nurses and trusted them to be there to take care of us or our loved ones. Sandy Haire, Senior Vice President/Chief Nursing Officer at Medical City Plano says, “You can find a silver lining in anything; mine is the resilience of the healthcare workers during this time… I think people go into healthcare with a servant mentality,” Haire says. “We’ve gone into this with the same attitude.” The entire healthcare team—including cleaning staff, those working in the lab, office staff, and administrators—they’re all healthcare heroes.
At Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, staff has jumped in to help wherever they can and are demonstrating extreme flexibility. Registered nurses across the hospital have oriented to the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Department to be able to help with an influx of patients if necessary. Hospital President, Josh Floren, said the overall attitude of employees at the hospital has remained “upbeat and positive” despite the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re doing our part to help protect patients and staff from possible exposure to COVID-19,” Floren said.
Our community has been working to show our appreciation through meals, supplies, and pictures from schoolchildren. Mary Jo Dean, Director of Community Relations at Texas Health Presbyterian says, “The community has been extremely generous.” Sometimes, however, it’s hard to show how much you appreciate when a doctor or nurse has gone above and beyond for you or a loved one. Good Life Family publisher, Sheryl Lilly Pidgeon, recently had the opportunity to experience the true servant’s heart of a nurse at Medical City Plano in a very personal way.
“My 80-year-old mom fell and ended up undergoing emergency brain surgery at Medical City Plano,” says Pidgeon. “It was terribly hard for us as her family to not be at her bedside following the four-and-a-half-hour surgery and during her recovery. She was confused about why we couldn’t be there, and it was heartbreaking. Fortunately, the medical staff went above and beyond to help her through her recovery, and while they virtually held our hands through the process taking our non-stop calls and teleconferencing us in with the physicians, one nurse literally held my mom’s hand for nearly 2 hours one night as I stayed on the speaker phone because she was terrified to be alone in her frail condition. That is true heroism.”
“We want to tell stories like this in our magazine especially during challenging times like these,” says Pidgeon. “There just needs to be more emphasis on what is good in our world.”
Feeding Our Community
Having enough to eat should be the least of anyone’s worries these days. The North Texas Food Bank has been on the forefront of closing the hunger gap in our area for almost four decades. In 2019, they provided 77 million meals to kids, families, and seniors, but during the Coronavirus crisis the need for their services is greater than ever. The economic impact on our community has hit some families hard, but the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB), thanks to assistance from the National Guard, has been able to step up to the increased demand.
In one month, from the start of the crisis on March 15, the food bank provided 6 million meals. That’s 1.5 million more than in the previous 2 months combined. Their mobile food distribution sites have reached 12,000 people. Normally providing for 200-300 families, one site in Plano had over 1000 for one event. They ultimately ran out of food boxes that day. “This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” says Anna Kourian, NTFB’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communication. “We’ve re-keyed our efforts to provide not only fresh produce but shelf stable foods to our community.”
Volunteers would usually be vital to the daily operations, but the food bank is most grateful for the 250 National Guard members who Governor Abbott sent while those volunteers stay safe at home. Guardsmen are working in the warehouses, running mobile food distribution, and others have been sent out to partner agencies. Right now, the organization’s biggest need is not volunteers, but funding. They don’t currently have the capability to pick up donations from food drives, but donations of food can be dropped off at their Plano facility. Anna says that even when the immediate crisis eases, they expect to have an increased need for a while. “North Texans are incredibly charitable and giving,” Anna says, and they can be assured donations are going to meet the need. On the other hand, she reminds us, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.” They’ve noticed more visitors at distribution sites saying they’ve never sought this kind of support before, but she reminds everyone, “There’s a site near you that can help.”
The NTFB’s mission has always been to provide meals, but there’s another organization that has re-focused their charitable outreach to provide meals as well. The SWJC has always had a mission to build bridges throughout the community with support of programs across North Texas. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, they have made their outreach more hands-on than ever.
Working with Havin’ A Ball Catering, SWJC, a Dallas-based nonprofit whose mission is “to build bridges throughout our community,” began Phase 1 of their Building Bridges campaign with “Feeding Our Heroes,” by providing delicious and nutritious meals to one police station, one fire station, and one medical emergency personnel location each week. Now SWJC has begun phase 2, “Feeding Our Neighbors,” to help local families in need. According to Project Founder and Manager, Cindy Ray, the mission is three-fold; 1) The first responders and families are fortified with a good meal, 2) The caterer puts her staff back to work, and 3) The donor’s contribution is tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. No goods or services are received in exchange for their contribution. Ray describes it as a “win-win-win” for everyone involved. “We’ve all seen the first responders…police, fire, and medical personnel step up, at great risk to themselves and their families, and do their jobs. Most will tell you that they’re doing exactly that…just their jobs. They’ll tell you they’re not heroes. We know better,” Ray says. “And it’s time to show up and support them.”
Business (Not) As Usual
Just like other businesses that are stepping outside the box to provide services and opportunities, our local basketball team, the Texas Legends, has gotten creative to continue reaching out to the local community. Our favorite teams may not be playing right now, but the Legends are still finding ways to engage their fans.
From the beginning, the Legends have recognized the “Legends” in our midst. Owner Donnie Nelson says, “It’s a rare breed of person who puts on that uniform, whether in the Armed Forces, as a nurse, a police officer, firefighter, or teacher, especially in this day and age.”
Britney Wynn, VP of Community and Media Relations says, “Part of our mission is to honor the true Legends of our community and, in times like these, that’s even more important. We’re working to make sure that those on the front lines, working to keep the rest of us safe, feel cared for and appreciated. We’ve also been coming up with new ways to meet the needs in our community. Our staff has been providing meals for local hospitals and senior care facilities, which we will continue as long as we can. We’ve also received some questions from our family members on how to get involved, so we’re hosting a food drive at the arena with our partners at Kia to try and meet some urgent needs of Frisco Family Services. We’ll be continuing our Mission of the Month program in a similar, safe-distance fashion. We’ve also started a new Community Spotlight program to highlight our neighbors who are going the extra mile to help others. Our team and staff realize how fortunate we are to get to work in basketball and with that we feel a responsibility to use our platform to give back in any way possible.”
The Legends are also offering on-line fitness classes with their UHC Get Fit Challenge, and through the end of the month have a Design Our Court contest. (They can help with home school PE and art!) The organization is also working to ensure fans know the resources still available through the team’s fantastic partners. There might not be a game to watch right now, but fans can still support the team.
Working together as a team is how DART and Catholic Charities of Dallas are meeting the needs of seniors in our community. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has always helped get us where we need to go, but now paratransit drivers have partnered with Catholic Charities of Dallas to deliver meals to seniors that would normally have received services through the Brady Center. When the center had to close due to COVID-19, DART stepped up to help deliver the meals prepared by charity workers for up to 50 additional seniors more than the charity could have reached on its own. DART’s Brady Center food delivery is similar to other current DART initiatives supporting the distribution of goods as a response to the COVID-19 impact including: meals for Dallas students, support packages for Dallas seniors, and the pickup and delivery of groceries and medicine to paratransit customers. The company has always said, “DART is far more than just “the thing you ride.” In this time of crisis, they’re showing just how much more they mean to our community.
What we are facing may be unprecedented, but stories of good keep us hopeful. As Cindy Ray from SWJC says, “If this virus can spread like wildfire, then our love and compassion can, too.”
To support the North Texas Food Bank, go to ntfb.org.
To support the Southwest Jewish Congress (SWJC) Building Bridges campaign go to swjc.org.
For more information about the Texas Legends, visit texas.gleague.nba.com/.
For more details on how DART and Catholic Charities of Dallas are helping seniors, visit dart.org.
To learn more about the good that is happening in our community and for free expert news, and family-focused content, go to www.goodlifefamilymag.com.