Collage of 8 photos. Each photo shows a staff member wearing a face mask. Below the collage, the words

COVID-19 - May 5, 2020

Redefining Heroes: COVID-19 Shifted Our Focus

By Amanda Ranowsky

These past few months COVID-19 has spread around the globe, shutting down everyday life and putting many essential workers on the front lines. Media headlines that previously touted celebrities now honor the many employees who have braved COVID-19 to serve their residents and patients in senior living, other healthcare organizations and hospitals.

Almost overnight, our national focus has shifted from celebrities to heroes.

As a mission-based non-for-profit senior living and health care services organization, we welcome the shift. Since we opened our first Life Plan Community in 1967, we have known that the men and women who support, honor and uplift older adults are heroes.

Since the pandemic began, Goodwin House has been making a special effort to honor the essential workers on our front lines: our nurses, care partners, cleaners, maintenance staff, dining servers, cooks and many more who make the brave choice every day to provide services and care for the residents we serve.

We’ve placed banners and posters all over our life plan communities – Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA) and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) – thanking staff for being our heroes. As staff walk in to work, yard signs greet them with the words “Thanks Hero!” in several of the many languages our wonderfully diverse staff speak. Cookies have been delivered, thank you bonuses have been deposited and messages of thanks from residents and their families have been shared among all staff members.

30+ Years of Supporting Staff: The Goodwin House Foundation

Goodwin House has long believed in supporting our staff. Indeed, our mission statement affirms our commitment to support, honor and uplift the lives of older adults and the people who care for them.

Even before the pandemic began, Goodwin House was committed to pursuing a living wage for our employees and supporting our staff members both inside and outside of the workplace.

The Goodwin House Foundation, the charitable arm of Goodwin House Incorporated, oversees several programs that support older adults across our region and that support staff. Started more than 30 years ago, the Foundation furthers the mission of Goodwin House by celebrating philanthropy and generosity. The Staff Support Fund specifically provides financial benefits such as tuition support and grants to cover unexpected emergencies and the costs of applying for U.S. citizenship. Today, the Foundation is led by Goodwin House Chief Philanthropy Officer Valerie Burke.

Heroes Need PPE – and More

As the rate of unemployment continues to rise across all 50 states in the wake of COVID-19, global shutdowns have caused widespread economic instability. Many of the people experiencing financial hardship right now are those who are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, including some of the very staff members who are so essential to our organization.

Valerie shared the story of one staff member: every adult in their local extended family had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Faced with this loss, three families were combined into one household. The Goodwin House staff member suddenly became the sole provider for everyone.

Another staff member sacrificed their second job to avoid bringing COVID-19 exposure from their other workplace into Goodwin House. As a single parent of three children, this Goodwin House employee faced potential homelessness.

Supporting Our Goodwin House Heroes

Seeing such needs arise among our own staff, the Goodwin House Foundation dedicated its efforts to raise funds that would help ensure the needs of staff members like these are being met. This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation has committed to raising $400,000 for the Staff Support Fund in order to help Goodwin House staff members through this crisis. Since the campaign began in early March 2020, the Foundation has raised $203,000.

Included in this total is a $5,000 grant from Act for Alexandria, an Alexandria-based community foundation with a mission “to improve the lives of Alexandrians by turning ideas into action and resources into results”. ACT works to coordinate local philanthropic giving and engagement, and support local nonprofit organizations whose work aids the community. This spring, ACT launched a special effort–the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund.

The ACT Now Fund provides grants to nonprofit organizations that provide critical services to Alexandrians during a “significant community crisis”. The COVID-19 fund is its latest iteration, and as of April 30, 2020, had enabled more than $619,000 in grants to local nonprofits. The ACT Now donation to Goodwin House, in addition to its contribution to the Staff Support Fund, has helped to raise more awareness of the Foundation’s important efforts.

Financial and Food Assistance

The Foundation’s Staff Support Fund is being used in part to provide individual Emergency Assistance Grants of up to $500. Staff members who have lost overall household income, possibly at a time when costs of childcare and food have increased, can apply for these grants. To date, 222 staff members have received grants for a total of $106,201.

The Foundation has also offered assistance in the form of food pantry staples and basic household supplies. By the end of June, the Foundation anticipates it will have invested more than $50,000 on this type of assistance for staff members.

The Difference It Makes

For the staff member who gave up a second job, securing an Emergency Assistance Grant and taking advantage of the groceries provided by the Foundation has contributed to their sense of security. With these supports and an emergency loan, they have now moved into a place that feels safe, and they are grateful for the Goodwin House family that helped them get there.

As for the staff member now living in a multifamily house, the $500 grant and the groceries are not only helping them, they are feeding everyone else who is now living with them. “The grant charges me up and gives me hope that my family will be able to get through this,” the staff member shared.

The Work Continues 

As she thought about launching these efforts, Valerie knew that residents and their family members were looking for a special way to say thank you to the staff members caring for them.

“I can tell you that residents and family members alike have been effusive in their praise for our staff,” said Valerie. “One family member was in tears talking about the sacrifices that our staff make not just to come to work every day, leaving their families behind, but to go to work with a passion and love for their job, a respect for the people they care for and knowing that they are facing the potential risk of getting sick.”

Through the Staff Support Fund, residents and their families have an outlet to show their gratitude. Many Goodwin House residents and their loved ones have already contributed to the cause.

As the Goodwin House community comes together to support its own, we are mindful of the many essential and frontline workers risking their health every day to keep us supplied, healthy and safe. We join the global salute to all of these frontline heroes, both at Goodwin House and beyond.

If you would like to support the heroes of Goodwin House – our staff – we invite you to view the Goodwin House Foundation webpage.

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As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin House to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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