Showing support for essential workers, one joyful noise at a time
— Created April 15, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kacie Jo Voeller
Each evening at 8 p.m. through the month of April, residents of Island County and beyond can listen for the whistles of the Washington State Ferries (WSF) underway as they join the joyful noise movement. The movement is a community and worldwide initiative encouraging people to make a joyful noise each night to show support for essential workers. As Island County and beyond continues to face the challenges presented by COVID-19, essential workers have played a key role in providing the community with everything from weekly groceries and supplies to healthcare.
Patricia Duff, public relations manager at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, said there are a number of ways to stand with healthcare workers as they continue to serve the community. Duff said support has been shown through places like Facebook and emails and said those who wish to send messages of support can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who wish to donate to the current efforts can do so by visiting the WhidbeyHealth Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund online at www.whidbeyhealth.org/giving.
“Coronavirus continues to make extreme demands on WhidbeyHealth’s facility and supplies, and most of all, our dedicated staff,” she said. “These are extraordinary times, and our community responds with extraordinary generosity.”
Duff said the community has contributed greatly and can continue to support efforts with donations of food to healthcare workers (www.whidbeyhealth.org/news/food-donation-and-delivery-guidelines) as well as personal protection equipment (PPE) ranging from masks to face shields (www.whidbeyhealth.org/news/mask-makers-instructions). In addition, Duff said WhidbeyHealth is dedicated to providing extensive employee resources at this time, ranging from ongoing training, free counseling services, and work from home options for non-essential employees.
“It is of the utmost importance to us that our employees are well-supported during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Duff said while healthcare workers may not think of themselves as heroes, the community and beyond has expressed appreciation for the work being done by essential employees.
“Healthcare workers tend to be humble and would never describe themselves as heroes, even though the rest of us believe that they are,” she said. “In my humble opinion, healthcare workers, first responders and essential employees are most definitely the heroes of our time. What could be more heroic than courageous workers risking their own lives to save ours?”
Other businesses are also working to provide the community with essential resources at this time. Cheryl Wieldraayer, general manager of Ace Hardware in Oak Harbor, said the store has had to make adjustments to hours and has made a commitment to protecting both staff and customers through adhering to guidelines and implementing options such as curbside pickup.
“It has definitely been a challenge, I mean, none of us has ever really had to deal with something like this and try to figure daily business out,” she said. “It is interesting right now.”
Wieldraayer said the team at Ace Hardware has worked to continue assisting people in the community in the face of the pandemic. She said she feels it is vital for everyone in the community to play their part in combating the virus, from those working at essential functions to those committing to following CDC and social distancing guidelines.
“It is definitely different, we are not dealing with life and death like the police and rescue and the nurses and doctors,” she said. “It is kind of a different thing that we do, but we do it and we do it well. It is different, but we still are here to serve our community in different ways and if we all pull together, that is what makes it beautiful and when everybody steps up to do it, that is what makes life easier.”
Wieldraayer said she feels essential workers may not feel like heroes, but are dedicated to serving their community and continuing their work.
“In the moment, people just do what is necessary to take care of their community or take care of a person in need, and then I do not think the person ever actually looks at themselves as a hero, which is actually pretty humbling to realize,” she said.
Wieldraayer said the team at the store and the community at large has worked to follow guidelines and play a part in fighting the effects of COVID-19.
“Everybody has risen to the occasion and stepped up to do what they need to do and the customers are great,” she said. “Everyone is learning this social distancing.”
Sara Osborne, director of external affairs for Safeway, said stores have been continually updating their safety policies to help protect both employees and customers, and will be providing masks for employees, as well as starting screenings and temperature checks prior to each shift.
“Safeway and Albertsons have further enhanced safety measures in all their stores in Washington state,” she said. “First, the stores are limiting the number of customers who can be inside the store at one time to roughly 30 percent of the stores’ capacity. Next, the stores implemented a one-way movement policy in the aisles, which will be marked to provide direction.”
Osborne said the new measures are in addition to several steps already being taken by stores in Washington, which include Plexiglass barriers at checkout lanes and dedicated shopping hours for at-risk populations. Osborne said Safeway is thankful for the dedication and work of essential employees in stores.
“We cannot express enough gratitude for our associates’ dedication and commitment during this unprecedented time as they work to support their neighbors and provide essential service to communities across the country,” she said.