The Fort Smith community is often called a giving community, quick to help out when the need arises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the community has stepped up again, working to make life a little easier for healthcare workers enduring long hours.
“We have had several local businesses and citizens donate hot meals, cookies, chocolates, homemade (personal protective equipment) for non-clinical staff, as well as headbands for those wearing masks… We live in such a wonderful community,” said Alicia Agent, director of marketing and communications for Baptist Health-Fort Smith.
Over the past few weeks, Moka Joes Coffee & Café donated coffee, Encompass Health donated snacks and Arbonne donated supplements to hospital staff, Agent said. Local crafters made headbands with buttons on each side that relieve some of the tension of elastic bands on facemasks on ears, she said.
Cozy Quilts and Things in Mulberry donated handmade cloth facemasks for visitors and non-clinical staff, Morrison Healthcare treated the hospital’s food service staff with lunch from El Lorito Mexican Restaurant, and What’s Poppin’ in Van Buren has made more than one surprise visit with bags of popcorn for different departments.
The week it started its annual chocolate-covered strawberry production, Kopper Kettle Candies brought their tasty treats to Baptist ICU and medical imaging staff. And April 6, Arvest Bank and 21 West End provided lunch and dinner for the laboratory staff. These are just some of the examples of area businesses and individuals reaching out to brighten the day of healthcare workers at Baptist.
“This is a challenging time for healthcare providers across the world, but we are fortunate to live and work in a community that is quick to wrap its arms around each other to show love and support. This outpouring of support is just one of the wonderful characteristics of the residents of the River Valley,” said Stephanie Walker, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer with Baptist Health-Fort Smith & Van Buren. “We appreciate everyone who has donated supplies, handcrafted items, and provided meals for our employees on the front lines. We feel the love, support and prayers sent to us daily and it helps us continue to do what we are called to do.”
Mercy-Fort Smith has received their share of the love too.
Dunkin Donuts provided hot chocolate and donuts at Mercy’s test collection site Monday (April 13), and Heart of Hospice has provided lunch at the site. Sebastian County Emergency Management provides food and drinks at the site regularly. The Salvation Army regularly provides meals at the Mercy collection site and the call center set up by both Mercy and Baptist for Fort Smith area residents concerned about the COVID-19 virus, said Mardi Taylor, senior media relations and communications specialist at Mercy-Fort Smith. Harvest Moon Artisan Bakery has provided donuts to the call center.
Since the pandemic began in the Fort Smith area, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith has brought cake and face masks to the test collection site, and the Lavaca High School science department donated goggles, Taylor said. Hideaway Pizza recently donated lunch and dinner to the labor and delivery department and Airport Road Express Lube in Ozark and Ridgeline Church in Alma has provided lunch to Mercy healthcare workers.
“Other businesses have offered discounts to our staff members, including Randall Ford, Jim Grizzle Tire, Cheddar’s, Hampton Inn and Residence Inn,” Taylor said.
Students from Trinity Junior High also have sent notes of thanks and encouragement to the hospital that are shared with Mercy-Fort Smith staff, and Fort Smith Public Schools is working on a similar project with their students, Taylor said.
“We are overwhelmed by the community’s generosity during this time. Businesses and individuals are facing tough times, yet so many in our area are reaching out to Mercy to make sure our co-workers are getting food, drinks and other items they need while they continue helping patients around the clock. We’re seeing support from throughout the region, and we’re extremely grateful for it,” said Ryan Gehrig, Mercy-Fort Smith hospital president.