For most of us, the COVID-19 shutdown and quarantine period was one of seclusion, boredom and anxiety. Days blended together and the outside world became a fantasy. Time slowly ebbed away as we waited in the comfort of our homes for the invisible enemy to disappear. Sequestered and relatively safe from harm, we were lucky. For some however, the quarantine was much different. Some men and women were deemed “essential workers” and had to face the responsibility of keeping the world moving along. Our postal workers, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, delivery services, truckers, social services, food preparers and others braved the uncertain world. They put themselves at risk, shouldering the weight of our collective futures.
At the end of May, MCM asked our followers to nominate pandemic heroes and submit messages of thanks. Greater Flint acknowledged our request. On the following pages, we highlight just some of the organizations and individuals who went above and beyond for the community during an anxious and unprecedented time.
MCM wishes to acknowledge all of the selfless and amazing people who pulled us through the pandemic. Your bravery, sacrifice, determination, compassion and patience will be cherished and remembered. It is uplifting to know that there are reliable and capable people on this increasingly chaotic planet. THANK YOU for all you did and continue to do.
Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties
“During the months of the COVID-19 shutdown, we were very busy doing what we have always done – helping the less fortunate in Genesee, Lapeer and Shiawassee counties. Our thanks go out to them and to all of the volunteers who helped them serve!
For those of us working at Catholic Charities, the past several months have been a challenge and a joy. We have seen the best in people as they came to our aid as we continued to serve those in need. During this time, much of our staff has been laid off or forced to work from home, but a core group of staff and volunteers have stepped up, either with their service, their sewing machines or their prayers to ensure our ability to provide essential programs and services to the families and individuals who count on us for survival.
At great risk to themselves and covered in masks and gloves, frontline staff at the Center for Hope, North End Soup Kitchen and in the Owosso office never stop welcoming those in need. Hot meals and sack lunches are made and handed out, groceries are given away, personal needs and diapers are distributed at the front door, mail is sorted and delivered to those with no permanent home. Even while the Community Closet has remained closed, emergency clothing, shoes and basic needs are provided to families who have been burned out of their homes, the chronically homeless, or to those who come to Catholic Charities directly from incarceration.
Our greatest gift has been the amazing volunteers who have come from far and wide to prepare meals, assist with food giveaways, sort donations, make masks, provide hygiene and personal items – all without expecting anything in return. Patty and Scott Barr of Swartz Creek have been at the North End Soup Kitchen every day – yes, every day; the tireless Kitty Kelly of Flint made it her mission to make the Personal Needs Room function; Dave and Lorraine Pettit created countless masks for us to give those in need, as have Tracey Brown and her family including her sister, Celest; Jean Fredell shared her sewing skills as she delivered handmade quilts.
Volunteers have answered our call for personal needs donations from St. John Vianney in Flint, St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Flint, St. John the Evangelist in Fenton, Mt. Hope Church in Grand Blanc, St. Mary Parish in Mt. Morris, Holy Rosary Parish in Flint, the Knights of Columbus in Fenton and Flushing, and Frank Salvati, and the Pizza People from St. Mark the Evangelist in Goodrich. Thanks to Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service, we received packages of much-needed items from friends like Tom and Eileen Landry of Highland who were quarantined in other parts of the country, unable to make it to our doors. And we are thankful for the prayers of all of our volunteers and friends, including those from St. John the Baptist in Howell, Holy Spirit in Brighton and Montrose United Methodist Church.”
Vicky Schultz, CEO
Catholic Charities of Shiawassee & Genesee Counties
Carriage Town Ministries
“With our face masks on, cleaning supplies in one hand and a thermometer in the other, we are managing through this pandemic. Like other agencies that shelter vulnerable neighbors, Carriage Town Ministries has continued to serve nightly meals and welcome homeless men, women and children who, now more than ever, need a place to call home.
To meet the needs of those who are ill but have no place to go, CTM, with the help of Hurley Medical Center, established a 20-bed triage unit for the various levels of care needed. We are especially thankful for our wonderful volunteers who lovingly cared for sick residents! CTM Physicians’ Assistant, Dennis Wallace, was in constant communication with Hurley, assuring that anyone who was homeless had a place to go to recover.
One patient who spent 30 days in our COVID-positive triage room was very appreciative, saying that if not for CTM, he would not have had any place to go. Our residents wore masks, practiced social distancing, assisted with cleaning and stayed on our campus. We are so thankful to report that everyone is healthy and the demand did not exceed the capacity. Daily, we gathered for prayer to thank God and ask for wisdom and protection for our city. We are also very thankful for the community and the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund for their generous support!”
Cindy Johns, Director of Community Engagement
Carriage Town Ministries
“In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, mid-Michigan suffered a natural disaster: flooding. Despite concerns about the coronavirus, volunteers from all over the state lent a helping hand. Since the flooding occurred, Grumlaw Church has been sending teams daily to help with the flood relief efforts. But two people in particular, Dan and Katryn Johnson, have been leading those efforts and have even temporarily relocated to Midland to be of greater assistance to the residents there.
As a church, we’ve logged over 400 volunteer hours in Midland, and Dan and Katryn have been present for just about all of them. They’ve gathered supplies, coordinated volunteer efforts, recruited homes that need assistance, and of course, have been involved in the cleanup efforts, themselves.”
Pastor Shea Prisk
BUECHE’S Food World
“Bueche’s Food World is a third-generation, conventional supermarket and has served the Flushing community for 106 years. We also have had a second location in Ortonville since 1992. We have always been known as the Friendly Hometown Grocer, but on March 11, we received an ALL NEW designation: Essential Business. The new designation drastically changed nearly every aspect of our business for the next several weeks.
Singling out the heroic actions of any one individual is impossible. Each and every one of our employees gave everything he or she had and together, as a team, we got the job done. Our community counted on us and our employees provided the essential service. There were countless hours when it seemed the line of customers would never end. Everyone knows that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest time of year in the grocery business; we simply plan for it. During the COVID-19 Crisis, each day and each hour created new challenges, and every one of our employees met those challenges. There was no planning, just keep moving, do as much as you can and on to the next customer and the next task.
Some of the challenges our associates conquered: daily health screening, increased sanitation (personal and surrounding) face masks, gloves, plastic shields, social distancing, elimination of self-serve, out-of-stock toilet tissue, paper towel, soup, peanut butter. Even the use of the employee break room was suspended, and the ability to socialize for a short time was on hold. Although many of the demands were unpleasant, each of them was taken in stride to become just a new part of the culture for our team.
The biggest and most obvious challenge for each of our employees was the fear of contracting COVID-19, while being exposed to an increased number of customers. Amid all the adjustments, this was the hardest and most critical for our workers to overcome. Each employee learned the importance of personal protection, hygiene and sanitation of their entire work environment. Bueche’s employees have succeeded in this, the most crucial test. Today, as we seem to be moving out of the COVID-19 changes, our employees are healthy and they are all certainly heroes – and essential – in our eyes!”
Denny Bueche, Owner
“I would like to recognize Genesee County Jail Head Chaplain, Ken Hovis. Chaplain Hovis assumed his role in January, 2020. From the beginning, Chaplain Hovis has shown tremendous leadership through religious volunteer policy reform and program enhancement. When COVID-19 hit, Chaplain Hovis stepped up to lead the Community Care Task Force, partnering with the Sheriff’s Office and multiple faith-based community leaders to launch food distribution sites and volunteers to respond to the needs of the community in this time of crisis. Chaplain Hovis has become a very friendly and familiar face to everyone at the Sheriff’s Office, and we are indebted to the example of selflessness he has displayed.”
Sheriff Christopher Swanson, Office of Genesee County Sheriff
“Factory Two is Flint’s community makerspace. In late March, the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) available to local hospitals, first responders and caregivers was a great concern for many people in the community. We realized that Factory Two had the resources required to address this need until the national supply chain could catch up to the demand. We began making face shields and distributing them to nurses, doctors, paramedics and anyone else that needed them. We went on to leverage our network of 3D-printing enthusiasts and sewists to make two kinds of face masks, as well. Demand remains high for PPE in Flint and we are doing what we can to help the community in these difficult times.”
Craig Farrington, Floor Manager
Flint Township Police & Genesee County Sheriff’s Office
“A BIG thank you to the Flint Township Police & Genesee County Sheriff’s Office!
On May 17, our mother, Florence Vorce, turned 100 years old! As a family, we were at our wits’ end to know how to conform to the COVID-19 guidelines and still have something really meaningful and fun for a LONG-awaited birthday party. We decided to have a Zoom contact with family across the country, traditional cake, candles, gifts, DVDs with birthday greetings, a drive-by; and, what turned out to be the grand finale: a visit from the police!
A Flint Township Police vehicle and a Genesee County Sheriff’s vehicle drove to mom’s driveway. The officers turned on the flashing lights, sounded the sirens, stood outside their vehicles and, via their bullhorns, sang “Happy Birthday Dear Nana!” She was thrilled beyond belief!
Thank you so much for offering such a wonderful gift to Genesee County residents. We so appreciate your time and graciousness to our mother. We want you to know that our family appreciates all the police do to maintain law and order in our communities. You are definitely essential to our wellbeing.”
Gratefully, The Family of Florence Vorce
103.9 THE Fox Morning Show with Johnny Burke & Amie
“These two never stopped! They reported all the most important happenings the entire time and worked hard to keep us all informed while also entertaining us all as listeners.”
“Johnny Burke and Amy kept us updated daily on COVID-19 and they rocked! It’s the only live morning show in the Flint area and they give great info every day.”
Community Relations/Events Manager, SERVPRO
“Lauren is such a hard worker and champion for our community normally, but she went above and beyond during the coronavirus outbreak. SERVPRO handles preventative and reactive cleaning services which is helpful on its own, but Lauren (along with one of her colleagues) used her knowledge and resources to work her way through Genesee, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties, sanitizing and disinfecting the fleet vehicles for first responders. They were able to service 50+ police and fire departments and ambulance companies, for a grand total of more than 650 vehicles. When many of us were (rightfully) scared and not sure how to react, Lauren sprang into action in such a fearless and compassionate way that will never cease to inspire me.”
Sanitation Worker, Curbco
“Year-round, while citizens are sleeping, Tyler and his Curbco co-workers grind until the sun comes up, keeping parking lots and roadways clean. In all types of weather, every night, these folks who most people don’t know exist, are picking up trash.
Since COVID-19, their jobs have continued to be considered essential for the health of the planet and the people. Now, an added layer of discarded gloves, masks and wipes have made their jobs more complicated. When someone litters, they never consider who will be the one picking that up or if that waste is dangerous.
Tyler works so hard, usually six nights per week, all over Michigan. He’s done this job for seven years, and I know he feels a real sense of obligation and community to do his part despite being nervous about handling garbage during a pandemic. That makes him a hero in my eyes.”
Bendle Community Schools
“If anyone deserves recognition during these past few months, it has to be our food service team. Despite risks of contracting COVID-19 themselves, team members led the way in efforts to continue providing meals for students. Rain or shine and yes, at times sleet and snow, these dedicated parents and community members went beyond the call of duty. As other districts and organizations discontinued services, our team doubled down and extended their efforts to assist those students, as well. It was a great example to support our district statement: ‘A Community with Kids at Heart!’”
John Krolewski, Bendle Community Schools
Fenton Area Public Schools
“During the time of crisis, Jill Smigelski and Maria McFarland, both teachers at Fenton Area Public Schools, took on an initiative that brought our community together.
Jill and Maria have been feeding first responders and medical personnel since the March shutdown. They collected over $7,000 through their GoFundMe page and other donations. Local restaurants have been thrilled to prepare food for our heroes throughout the county. Jill and Maria are truly heroic teachers and citizens!”
Adam Hartley, Superintendent, Fenton Area Public Schools
Grand Blanc Community Schools
“I could go on for hours about those who went above and beyond during this crisis, but it is with great pride that I recognize our GBCS Dining Services crew for their work to feed children.
Knowing that over 35% of our students qualify for the “Free and Reduced” program, an immediate concern was expressed by our staff in all departments across the district: ‘Will there be children who will go without food if they aren’t coming to school every day?’
In less than a week, our food service workers, led by Karen Smith, Director of Dining Services, completely switched gears when schools were shut down. They packed and distributed well over 110,000 nutritious meals since mid-March. We know it wasn’t easy to process. The situation completely changed the way they operated, conforming to the ever-changing safety procedures during a global pandemic. Every week, they put together delicious, pre-packed meals that met governmental nutrition standards AND with a positive attitude, delivered them to our families.
It is my pleasure to commend Karen and her staff for their adaptability, determination and hard work during this time. They stepped up, masked up and safely found a way to continue to feed our students, and we appreciate that more than words can convey.”
Clarence Garner, Superintendent, Grand Blanc Community Schools
Lake Fenton Community Schools
“We are very fortunate to have an amazing technology department led by Brad Reichert. At the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, this department worked tirelessly to make certain all students in grades Pre-K-12 had access to technology and internet connectivity in their homes. We have approximately 2,050 Chromebooks deployed to students throughout our district. In addition, these individuals continued to provide support to students, parents and staff in order to ensure continued access to learning. We are grateful for their efforts and the impact they had on keeping our students and teachers connected.” #LFLeads.
Julie Williams, Superintendent, Lake Fenton Community Schools