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Community Rallies to Support Hospital

Calvert County is a special place where friends, families and neighbors care about one another. This has never been more evident than during the recent COVID crisis. “From very early on, businesses and individuals were asking what they could do to help. Even now, months later, the swell of donations has continued to grow,” said Director of Patient Experience and Volunteer Services Susan Stevens.

Patient Advocate Liz Chandlee joined with Stevens to coordinate the response and work with the community on what items were most needed. Hundreds of individuals and families, nonprofits and businesses have shown incredible resourcefulness and generosity during these times. Here are a few of their stories. And there was a ripple effect that continued well beyond her initial team.

“A community with the spirit to meet a challenge”

Marianne Harms, of Huntingtown, watched the news and saw nurses at hospitals in New York City in need of masks and other protective equipment, and knew she wanted to do something to help organize her own community prepare for whatever might happen. With a maxim of “Go Big” for every project she tackles, she spoke with hospital administrators in late March about her idea for a 5,000 mask challenge.

When she first came to Calvert more than 30 years ago, Harms didn’t know many people, “but as soon as I started joining clubs and fundraising efforts, I started to build a wonderful network of friends.” That network jumped into action when Harms told them about the challenge.

“I thought with the talent and community spirit here in the county, we could help meet the need for masks until the normal supply chain could catch up,” said Harms. She wasn’t wrong. Like a ripple effect, each sewing volunteer brought in more friends from their own network to help. Through the efforts of Harms and many others, the hospital has received 5,400 masks.

“It’s all about loving, caring and serving”

“When we learned we would be blessed to be able to stay open, and when we saw the numbers [of those affected by COVID-19] trend upward, we knew we might be in a position to help keep supplies moving to the hospital if they needed them,” said Ben Banyasz of Sneade’s Ace Home Center.

“They were the first call asking what we needed,” said Stevens, adding, that the hospital received N95 masks and protective eyewear. “When we were low on hospital gowns, Ben came up with the idea to donate Tyvek coverall suits,” Stevens said.

“It’s important to let them know we are thinking of them”

Linda and Frank Smith, of Huntingtown, who have been longtime supporters of the hospital after attending a gala almost 15 years ago, challenged friends to donate to the COVID Community Emergency Impact Fund and they would match those donations up to $1,000--which they quickly reached.

“For the people working in the hospital so many hours a day, we feel it’s important to let them know we are thinking of them, even though we can’t come into the hospital to help,” she said.

“We really want the staff to know how much we appreciate them. They are really on the front lines of a dangerous enemy right now and it is just amazing what they do,” said Foundation Board member Frank Smith.

“A tug at our hearts to do something”

Longtime Calvert County residents and high school sweethearts Cindy and Tim Parlett said they wanted to join their friends in a $1,000 matching fundraising challenge when they realized the hospital was going to need supplies. “We felt a tug at our hearts to do something,” said Cindy Parlett, who is vice chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees.

With a daughter in the healthcare field, the Parletts are aware of how challenging these times are for hospital workers.

“We feel we always have a friend looking out for us”

“I think we’ve kept the sewing machines humming,” said Andrea Cooper, of Owings, of the many volunteers in Calvert County who have been sewing masks and isolation gowns for hospital staff.

Cooper learned early on of the desperate need for reusable isolation gowns from her daughter, who is a family nurse practitioner working outside of the county. Soon, Cooper began researching patterns and the best fabrics to use.

After making a few for her daughter and still wanting to do more to help, Cooper reached out to CalvertHealth. “It was truly a family effort,” Cooper said of her son-in-law making a how-to video, her husband working on ways to share the video to the largest audience and her daughter making masks.

“When you make a donation to CalvertHealth it stays in the community”

Northern High School junior, Robert Martin, of Huntingtown, is a lifelong Calvert County resident—and with his father on the CalvertHealth Foundation Board of Trustees, no stranger to the importance of a community hospital. “I know how much of an impact CalvertHealth has on our community,” Martin said.

Realizing during these times the hospital could be at its capacity of patients, Martin felt the need to help. Inspired by the EndHunger fundraiser area high school students were involved with, Martin challenged friends and family to help him reach a goal of $3,000 for the Community Emergency Impact Support Fund.

“We have never forgotten how you made us feel”

A northern Calvert County family and former residents of the Safe Harbor Shelter, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the staff of CalvertHealth was there to help at a time of need. What could have been a Christmas without gifts to give, was instead made joyful when the family’s name was picked from an “Angel Tree.”

“Not only was the CalvertHealth staff wonderful by giving toys, but they also thought to provide a gift for me. In all these years, I have never forgotten their generosity.” Now, many years later, and in a position to give back, this family provided meals to the CalvertHealth staff. “To know that someone out there was thinking of us, and cared— our family wants every person that works at the hospital to know that someone cares for you as well; your community cares deeply.”

“It’s never too late to show hospital staff what they mean to you”

Ashley Ehrmantraut launched the One Hundred Heroes fundraising campaign to support CalvertHealth staff. A business major at the University of South Carolina, Ashley used her passion for art to design a mixed media watercolor greeting card to be used to thank a healthcare professional. Supporters purchase the card and provide a custom message that will be delivered to a CalvertHealth doctor, nurse or support staff member. The daughter of a CalvertHealth physician and hospital administrator, Ehrmantraut has seen firsthand the uncertainty, anxiety and pressure that COVID-19 brings to families of those working on the front lines.

“I was inspired by my dad’s hard work to make a difference,” said Ehrmantraut. “The hospital has been a big part of my life. I decided to turn my painting into cards so the community, who I consider family, could show their love and support during such a hard time.”

“Our family can’t imagine going anywhere else”

The COVID-19 crisis became very personal when Sylvia Luckett’s nephew was rushed to the hospital with difficulty breathing. Luckett, of Huntingtown, is a lifelong resident of the county and remembers when the community hospital was very small. “It has grown in size and reputation, and now our family can’t imagine going anywhere else,” she said.

While her nephew was in the ICU, Luckett looked for ways to help the nurses who were caring for him. She learned many people caring for COVID-19 patients are concerned about bringing the virus into their homes. “What I do not want any healthcare worker to worry about is: what taking care of my family member could possibly do to their family member,” said Luckett. She created kits with items for ICU nurses to change into after coming off of a shift and before entering their home. In addition to the kits, Luckett worked with Stevens to relay information on how to sign up for delivery of meals for hospital staff through her nephew’s Facebook Prayer Page followed by more than 1,700 people.

A Sense of Community

One thing all the donors had in common was a spirit and sense of community that drove them to jump in and help when they saw a need. “We have received an outpouring of food donations, including weekly Chick-fil-A delivery beginning April 7 and continued by Love Friendship Community Baptist Church with Grace Brethren Church,” said Chandlee, adding, “Every day we have some type of food delivery—another sign of the generosity from this community.”

From the donation of N95 masks, from local construction companies, landscapers and their suppliers, to cases of gloves from dental offices and restaurants, to surgical masks and hand sanitizer from organizations outside of the county, to meals and bottled water from individuals, CalvertHealth has felt ‘the love’ from the community it serves. It’s never too late, and nothing is too little, to show the hospital staff what they mean to you.
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