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For the troops: Group seeks donations to help healthcare workers during COVID-19 crisis

Not all heroes wear capes, but some do wear masks.

Last week, two women who wanted to support Miss-Lou healthcare workers created a Facebook page called “Heroes Helpers — Supporting the Frontline.”

Within a week, the page had accumulated more than 100 followers and just over $1,700 in donations to the cause.

Christy Anderson and her longtime friend, Jenny Townsend, said the idea to support healthcare workers began with placing a banner in front of Merit Health Natchez thanking the hospital employees for being heroes.

Anderson, who worked in Natchez as a nurse before moving to Houston in 2015, said she reached out to her mutual connections in Natchez to put up the sign and Townsend, a marketing manager for AmeriCare Home Health, was the first to respond.

“I’m a nurse and work in Houston now but started my career in Natchez and Natchez is home to me,” Anderson said. “Jenny and I have been friends through mutual connections and known each other for 15 years. … The morning that I was trying to get signs put out in front of the hospitals, she was the one who messaged me back to help. … Our minds are just very much alike and we started messaging back and forth, bouncing ideas off of one another and had the idea to create a Facebook group. Overnight we had almost $1,000 in donations.”

The donations go to creating gift baskets that Townsend, who lives in Natchez, pieces together and arranges to deliver to people who work in various healthcare capacities from doctors and nurses, ambulance teams, to home healthcare and nursing home workers.

Merit Health is home not only to many of Anderson’s friends and former coworkers, but also to people who are on the frontlines of the war against COVID-19, Anderson said.

Townsend said when Anderson messaged her, she thought of the many other arms of healthcare that are also the marines against the pandemic.

“(Anderson) texted me about the banner for Merit and I said this should be for everybody, hospitals, nursing homes, AMR, metro and every aspect of healthcare,” Townsend said. “We know that everyone wants to help in some way and this is just one of the ways they can.”

Heroes Helpers has provided gifts to several small hospitals and nursing centers throughout the Miss Lou. So far, their reach as extended as far on either side of the Mississippi River as Winnsboro and Jefferson County, Anderson said.

Townsend said the baskets not only helped people in healthcare but also local businesses that have suffered fiscally during the pandemic through their purchase of gift items like food, snacks and other goodies.

Some of the baskets also contain facemasks that were sewn by Kathleen Taunton and Ann Gaude or surgical masks and hand sanitizers that were donated, Townsend said.

Townsend said AmeriCare also provided $500 donation toward T-shirts and Threads in Natchez graciously designed and printed them for delivery later this week.

Mary Margaret Edwards, with Encompass Hospice, joined the group within a day of it getting started and pitched in with putting together the baskets, Townsend said.

Edwards also started a joint outreach by going to different healthcare facilities and nursing homes with a bucket of sidewalk chalk and leaving inspirational messages on the concrete for the heroes to find as they are leaving and going to work, Townsend said.

“If anyone would like to help — if they have new ideas or time to put some baskets together or send some food — they could call or message me,” Townsend said.

Anderson said others can continue supporting the outreach by leaving a donation through the Facebook group.
“This pandemic is not something that is going to end tomorrow or next week,” Anderson said. “For a while at least, this is going to become somewhat of a new normal. As long as we continue to have support, we’ll continue to keep doing what we’re doing for as long as it takes. … Having people to constantly lift you up and remind you that you’re cared for and appreciated — there is never enough of that.”

For more information or to contribute to Heroes Helpers, search for “Heroes Helpers — Supporting the Frontline,” on Facebook or call Anderson at 601-807-5844 or Townsend at 601-870-3463.