August 24, 2020

Weekly Column: Highlighting Idaho's Pandemic Heroes

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Idahoans have met the challenges of the pandemic with thoughtful, determined efforts to help others.  Instead of being overwhelmed by circumstances, Idahoans were busy assisting others and shining bright lights of hope through these difficult times.  Since the threat became apparent, individual Idahoans have worked together to help meet the needs of vulnerable residents.  Here are just a few examples: 

  • Families across the Treasure Valley who opened their homes to foster veterans with medical issues to prevent them from needing to go to long-term care facilities.
  • Bonneville Joint School District 93 and Idaho Falls School District 91, as well as many other districts throughout Idaho, have offered free breakfast and lunch for students of all ages.
  • Early on, student athletes from Jerome helped a local grocery store restock shelves and handed out food at a local foodbank.
  • Similarly, Ucon firefighters helped eastern Idaho residents run errands, delivering much-needed items such as groceries and medications.
  • The Pocatello Senior Activity Center organized curbside pickup for free meals for those over 65 years old.

Public health providers and first responders have worked tirelessly to adapt responses. 

  • Heather Alfred, a wife, mother, nurse and graduate student serving as Emergency Services Director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, has worked 12- to 16-hour days organizing the hospital’s COVID-19 response.  For a time, she self-isolated from her family by parking an RV at the hospital.  Her actions are reflected and repeated by many of her colleagues throughout Idaho’s health care system. 
  • Moscow’s Fire Chief Brian Nickerson’s early planning was instrumental in implementing emergency operations plans for the City.  He collaborated with Latah County, the University of Idaho, Gritman Medical Center, area nursing homes and many other entities providing information to keep the community and county safe. 
  • Lorrie Panzerie and Brandie Thomson supported Homecare and Hospice residents and staff by organizing and participating in parades for Ada County assisted living communities, dressing up in various costumes, creating chalk art and bringing miniature horses to visit residents to share cheer and comfort during this isolating and lonely time.

 Additionally, local small businesses have stepped in to meet the challenges of the pandemic. 

  •  Salli’s Back Porch Fabrics in Shoshone served as headquarters for the “Masked Bandits.”  This group makes hundreds of cloth masks for folks throughout Lincoln County.  Members of the team also delivered “cookie bombs” to frontline/essential workers throughout the pandemic.
  • Gus Georgilakis and his family, owners of Romios Greek and Italian Restaurant in Boise, kept his business running and everyone on his staff earning their usual wages by pivoting his business to takeout and delivery.  Gus bonused his employees for staying with him and working through the difficult disruptions.  He invested in technology, training and prevention to ensure his staff and his patrons stay healthy.  He hired additional staff, including people who had been laid off by other restaurants.  Other restaurants throughout the state worked to accomplish the same.
  • In March, Interfaith Sanctuary and the Riverside Hotel worked together with the City of Boise and Ada County to provide vulnerable people with a place to stay.  

There are many, many more examples of Idahoans meeting the challenges we face.  The determination to tackle them head on and extend a helping hand is so abundant throughout our great state; it is an inherent Idaho trait.  These efforts are inspirational as work continues in Congress to provide needed resources to health care providers, advance vaccine development, and provide for other response efforts.  Thank you to all those who are helping others throughout the pandemic response.  All of you propelling our recovery shape our communities for the better. 

# # #

Word Count: 600