Heroes on the Front Lines: Thanking our Safety Net Service Providers
By Russell Johnson, President and CEO
The pandemic has been with us for months now and the anticipated moment to think about ‘recovery’ continues to allude us. Here in Montgomery County, I have witnessed an amazing response by safety net providers to the myriad of challenges presented by COVID-19. Curiously, the state declared some safety net providers “non-essential”. This did not necessarily mean that services to some of our community’s most vulnerable residents stopped. Indeed, with offices closed, stifled access to resources and networks, both essential and non-essential safety net providers have stepped up in countless ways to support their clients. Commitment, ingenuity, flexibility, resourcefulness, compassion, and accountability characterize their efforts.
Many of us have curtailed our travels and venture into the community only when necessary. Some of our safety net providers have found new ways to support their clients using technology yet some, wearing face masks, gloves, and other forms of protective equipment, have maintained day-to-day, face-to-face contact with their clients. Regardless of the form of client engagement, these front-line workers are our heroes.
You’ve likely seen signs or heard public service announcements about our heroes. Hospital and nursing home staff, police, fire, ambulance, and grocery store workers have not missed a day in helping us through this pandemic. Rightfully, some have acknowledged the important roles of waste management and maintenance workers, plumbers, electricians, and others keeping us safe and responding to urgent circumstances.
But we haven’t talked enough about the front-line safety net workers! These are the social workers, counselors, volunteers, and community workers keeping our food pantries stocked, making daily calls to seniors, serving the homeless in our communities. Without these workers continuing to do their jobs in the face of the pandemic, our communities would be in much greater need than they already are. Many of our front-line staff live with families and friends. The contagious nature of COVID-19 puts all these people at risk. Again, the trauma, guilt, uncertainty, and other challenges confront the front-line workers each day as they report for work. This is tough work and not terribly recognized or appreciated except by those who benefit from this commitment to service and mission.
Earlier this week I drove by an electronic shopping center sign on Route 309. It displayed a “thank you front-line workers” message. It’s the first time in these many months that I’ve seen or heard this expression of appreciation directed to these hard-working people. I applaud the efforts to bring greater awareness to our front-line safety net workers and encourage all of us to expand our acknowledgement and appreciation for the efforts, and the risks and personal sacrifices our front-line workers are making each day. Thank you front-line workers!
Photo is a still of a recent Zoom meeting with Montgomery County service providers- our heroes!