Franklin County healthcare workers felt the love this past week as various businesses showed their support as a way to spread the community’s gratitude to healthcare workers who have battled COVID-19 on the front lines.

Health Care Heroes Appreciation Week was presented by F&M Trust and hosted by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce as a community-wide event that took place from March 23 to 30.

On March 23, during a virtual Health Care Heroes Awards Ceremony sponsored by M&T Bank, the Chambersburg Chamber honored eight healthcare workers for their outstanding care and service to the community.

Some of those healthcare workers shared just how special this recognition means to them, as well as their experiences in the healthcare field during the pandemic.

Ashli Yoder, Clinical Services Director at Norland Avenue Pharmacy, LLC, won the Rising Star Award.

“I felt extremely honored to be recognized with the Rising Star Award!,” she wrote in an email to The News-Chronicle. “I know there are so many hard-working and deserving healthcare workers out there, and I am so thankful to be part of the team at Norland Avenue Pharmacy.”

“Being a healthcare worker has meant a lot, especially this year,” said Yoder. “It’s been challenging, but has been so rewarding to be able to help and serve our patients in new ways. I truly enjoy being able to find solutions to medication problems for our patients, and we feel thankful we are now offering the vaccine. I decided to become a pharmacist because I really enjoyed learning about medications and how they affect the body, and I really like being an accessible healthcare provider in the community and having a lot of face-to-face time with patients.”

“This past year has been challenging with the pandemic, I think for everyone, but I think for us at Norland, it brought our team closer together and gave us an opportunity to be innovative and creative in coming up with solutions to help our patients,” she said. “The hardest part of the pandemic has seen loved ones, patients, and friends suffer from loss or economic hardship. My heart aches for people that have lost someone to COVID. Having a vaccine that is showing to be effective and has provided some hope to the end of this is really driving us forward during this time!”

Tammy Maclay, Clinical Nurse Specialist at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital was awarded the Exceptional Dedication Award during the ceremony.

“I’m very honored and humbled by this,” she said in a telephone interview. “The cool thing is, I saw one of the letters from someone who nominated me. I love being a nurse. It’s not just a job, it’s an extension of who I am as a person. I’ve been in healthcare for a long time. I went straight from high school to a four-year BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). I was not 100 percent sure about it when I did it, but when I got started, I knew it was a good fit. I’m a people person and I like connecting with people and helping them out. I have a lot of compassion and empathy for people.”

“I try to do the best I can, and it’s been tough for all of us,” Maclay added. “We’ve never experienced something like this before. In the beginning, I didn’t think of how severe it was, and I never thought it would still be going a year later. It’s a new routine even though it’s not one that we love.”

“Within our community, if you’re not here seeing what we see, you don’t see how it is,” she said. “It takes a lot of teamwork. All across the board of healthcare has been affected, but so has the community. WellSpan has a dashboard to see how many COVID patients are in the hospital, and back during winter, it was 100 patients a day. The hard thing, too, is the period of times our patients couldn’t have their family with them. We were the only connection between them and their families. It’s been more than physically demanding; it’s been emotionally demanding. Another thing that was draining was not only seeing one patient from a family, we’d see multiple family members in the hospital at the same time. A good thing that has helped is that we have been able to loosen up the visiting hours.”

“My biggest fear was taking it home to my family,” Maclay added. “I was more worried about them than myself. Our critical care unit is where you see the most deaths. We saw more deaths in our units than some people see in their whole careers. But, we have a lot of teamwork and support from everybody here. From mid-October to the end of February, it has been a full board every day. At the beginning of March, the numbers started going back up again. So, get the vaccine and wear masks because we’re so close. Let’s not go backwards, let’s get through this! The more that get the vaccine, the better. If we don’t get enough people, we’re going to see that variance again.”

Dr. Raghavendra Tirupathi, Infectious Disease Physician and Medical Director at Keystone Health was given the Outstanding COVID Resource Award.

In an email to The News-Chronicle, he wrote, “Thank you to the Chamber of Commerce for this recognition. I am very humbled by their consideration. It is always a special feeling to be honored by your community. It was a bit of a surprise when I heard about it. Very grateful to be part of this very loving and giving community.”

“There has never been a prouder time to be a healthcare worker,” Tirupathi added. “I have always wanted to be a physician as far as I can remember. My mother is a physician who worked and strived to provide affordable and quality care to underprivileged patients in the hinterlands of India. She led the path to medicine for me and my brother. She was my earliest role model growing up. She continues to challenge and inspire me to be a better physician and human being every day.”

Tirupathi explained the challenges he has faced during the pandemic.

“It has been a tough year for the community at large, and our health institutions in particular,” he said. “I personally saw all the sacrifices my colleagues and peers made on a day-to-day basis, risking their own lives and health and that of their families in order to serve others. A few of them got very sick along the way. All of us in the early days felt that fear of what will happen to our families or loved ones if we got sick or worse, die, from this disease. The constant vigil of being extra careful while donning and doffing PPE as we walked in and out of patient rooms was draining. Our staff spent countless hours caring for very sick patients who were not able to tend to themselves. They held hands of patients to console them when family was not able to be around. Watching otherwise healthy folks getting extremely sick in a matter of days was scary. All of this has taken an emotional toll on all of us.”

“Coping from and through these types of situations is hard,” Tirupathi added. “The best thing that works for me was spending time with family and reminding myself that they are the most important thing in life. Reading, practicing mindfulness and working in my vegetable garden in my backyard are other stress busters for me. It has been gratifying and fulfilling to play a small role in helping them and the community understand this disease better so that they could be better equipped to fight it. I was glad to work and collaborate with so many governmental and non-governmental organizations through all of this to help our community fight this pandemic. I learned so much from them in the process.”

Stephanie Strickler, Director of Purchasing at Keystone Health won the Health Care Heroes Leadership Award.

She noted in an email to The News-Chronicle that being a healthcare worker means being true to Keystone’s mission statement: Being able to provide all patients with the quality care they need, when they need it and regardless of their ability to pay.

“I appreciate the recognition from my peers and leadership team,” she said. “I got into healthcare to help others. That provides me with more satisfaction than anything.”

Strickler explained how she has pushed through the pandemic.

“It has been an exceptional year for everyone,” she said. “I am driven by pressure and getting the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible. There have been many long days, evenings and weekends this year to make sure the job gets done. My husband was always there to listen and provide support. Keystone leadership, coworkers and my purchasing team were all there to support me during the journey. On a personal level, I miss seeing my friends, family and going to events. I was just recently able to see my brother for the first time in over a year and I have vaccinations to thank for that opportunity. Once vaccinations become available to others outside of the 1A group, I can’t wait to hug my niece and nephew. Professionally, the supply chain problems were very difficult. PPE and testing kit shortages was a very difficult task. However, it was and continues to be our goal to make sure every employee and patient has the necessary PPE to protect themselves and others while providing care. I’m glad to have been a part of making sure that goal was met.”

Strickler noted that virtual visits were a helpful way to move forward.

“But it is definitely not a substitute,” she added. “The team at Keystone has been very supportive of each other. We’ve all stepped outside of our normal job duties to make sure the necessary tasks were completed.”

Other healthcare workers who were honored are:

-- Rachel Sanders, Physician Assistant in the Critical Care Unit at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, received the Outstanding COVID Care Award

-- Vicky Brechbiel, CNA at Menno Haven, received the Client Impact Award

-- Lisa Keefer, CNA/On-Call Specialist at Myers Home Healthcare, LLC, received the Above & Beyond Award

-- Monica Diehl, Director of Patient Education and Development at Keystone Health, received the Health Care Worker of the Year Award.

Fifty local businesses provided their support during Health Care Heroes Appreciation Week with discounts for healthcare workers.

A coffee giveaway was presented by Gabler Trucking Inc. Each morning during Appreciation Week, healthcare workers were able to kick-start their morning by claiming their free coffee at designated coffee shops in Franklin County including Sweet Rollers in Chambersburg, the bean & biscuit in Greencastle, One North Coffee & Bake Shop in Mercersburg, The Wheel House Café in Shippensburg and Etter’s Roxbury Store in Roxbury.

Lunch giveaways were held on March 24 at Waynesboro Hospital Parking Lot, March 25 at Blaise Alexander Parking Lot in Greencastle and March 26 at AMVETS Post 224 Parking Lot in Chambersburg.

Food provided from Chick-fil-A in Chambersburg, ice cream, raffles, prizes and more were gifted to healthcare workers by Bartlett Tree Experts; Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc. (HRG); Jennings Chevrolet, Buick, GMC; LB Water; SEK, CPAs & Advisors; Stouffer Mechanical Contractor LLC; Tommy’s Express Car Wash and Valley Agency Co.

A blood drive with the American Red Cross was held on March 30 at the Franklin County Visitors Bureau. The Blood Drive was presented by Menno Haven.

Communications Manager Lark Kennedy of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce explained the idea behind this year’s event.

“Normally, every year we have a Chamber Awards Breakfast and that’s whenever we give awards to various businesses,” she said. “This year, we just felt it was more appropriate with COVID that we should really recognize our healthcare workers, so that’s where this concept was born. Once we started to see all of the support we were getting, we expanded it to a county-wide scope. It’s been our opportunity to give back to our healthcare workers because they’ve sacrificed so much for all of us over the last year.”

Meghan Heebner, Community Office Manager and Assistant Vice President of F&M Trust, spoke about why this event is important to them.

“F&M Trust is always proud to be in its community,” she said. “We believe in the community we work and serve. We are elated to be the sponsor for this event. We hope that each of the healthcare workers feel thanked and they leave here knowing that they’re appreciated.”

During the lunch giveaway at AMVETS Post 224 in Chambersburg last Friday, many healthcare workers expressed their gratitude for all of the support, as well as the challenges they have faced during COVID-19.

Angie Ott, medical assistant at WellSpan Nephrology said, “It’s nice to be appreciated after this year, and it’s nice to see people appreciate what we do.”

“The appreciation for being on the front lines doesn’t go unnoticed,” said Faith Barnes, supervisor at Keystone Dental.

Barnes noted the challenges she has faced during the pandemic.

“Managing to get extra equipment and proper PPE was time consuming,” she said. “We’ve had a loss of patient care and we’re just looking forward to this being over.”

Tara Chronister, buyer at Keystone Health, said, “This is awesome because our boss, Stephanie Strickler, was the recipient of the Leadership Award.”

Sherah Harney, medical assistant with Keystone Pediatrics said, “I’ve always wanted to work with kids. The biggest challenge has been trying to get everyone to follow our recommendations.”

Jess Shearer, a technician, began her journey at Keystone Pharmacy last September.

“At the end of the day, it’s about taking care of patients and getting them what they need,” she said. “The challenge has definitely been people who have COVID. I know we were shut down at some point, so people couldn’t come in and we did have curbside.”

Pharmacist Erin Brennan of Keystone Pharmacy said, “This was wonderful. I didn’t expect this much of the community to be behind us and to support us this much.”

Bartlett Tree Experts also handed out Norway Spruce seedlings to healthcare workers during the event.

Local Manager Brad Evans said, “We’re so happy for the healthcare workers and happy to give back in a safe way. We’ve given out 300 Norway Spruce, so the turnout is fantastic.”

Adam Donius, owner of Chick-fil-A in Chambersburg, handed out food, as well as gift certificates.

He said, “We’re honored to be included and to give back to the community of healthcare workers who have given so much.”

Tommy’s Express Car Wash handed out glass cleaner and T-shirts to the workers.

Franchise Managing Partner John Gay said, “We’re very happy to be here today to show our thanks and appreciation.”

SEK, CPAs & Advisors handed out car phone clips, hand sanitizers, pens and highlighters during the event.

Marketing Manager Kristina Tucker noted, “The turnout has been amazing. We’re honored to be a part of an event that thanks the people that keep us safe.”

New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc. showed their support for healthcare workers with a raffle to sign up to win prizes such as an LG 50-inch flat screen TV, iRobot Roomba, Keurig coffee machine, Skullcandy wireless earbuds, Oral-B Pro 500 toothbrush, deluxe outdoor rocking chair, YMCA three-month adult membership, $100 BJ’s gift card, $50 Roy-Pitz gift card and a one-hour massage with Daniela Crawford who is a Licensed Massage Therapist and owner of Coalescence Massage.

Darwin Meyers, owner of Meyers Bus Lines Inc., showed his support in a unique way.

“It’s a great way to say thanks by donating money so they can have a meal to eat,” he said. “It’s acts like this that make a difference. We bought 40 yard signs and zip tied them to the front of the buses as a rolling sign saying thanks to the workers.”

For more information, visit: https://www.chambersburg.org/2021/03/23/health-care-workers-honored-at-virtual-awards-ceremony/?fbclid=IwAR32gz6VeOWIMJzUvcUhzDI0c6Q83cUXgtPERX7Jw6tUIBwocWnq017f83k.

For list of supporting businesses, visit: https://www.chambersburg.org/heroessave/?fbclid=IwAR0LIxmvWvpWTAkmU1Ai_XXAy7REVUoDMyYI-4IA02BFKZET8wPN0J9YUjI.

To buy a yard sign to show your support for Health Care Heroes, visit: https://business.chambersburg.org/events/details/buy-your-yard-sign-to-support-our-health-care-heroes-32491.

You can view the Franklin County Health Care Heroes Tribute Video at: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=274107814170648.

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