With healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Georgia Health System is enjoying an outpouring of support from the communities it serves.
Donations have been coming in at both campuses, including Camden, during the past few weeks. The health system has publicly acknowledged the following local donations:
Personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages are a growing concern for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Through a joint venture coordinated by Dr. Thomas Whitesell, chief of staff for Camden Campus, Lil Seabag in St. Marys put their expertise to work by creating N95 masks with repurposed surgical equipment materials.
The following businesses and institutions donated these supplies to the Camden Campus:
• Sugarmill Elementary — disinfectant wipes, spray, tissues and hand sanitizer
• Keith Higgins, P.C. — surgical masks
• St. Marys Middle School — gloves
• Camden County High School — safety glasses and N95 masks
• Dr. Joe Lassiter, Kingsland dentist — donated masks.
When it became apparent that obtaining PPE would be increasingly difficult, the health system issued an appeal to the community for homemade masks to augment their supplies.
“That call did not go unanswered,” said a written release from the health system. “Since March 30, when they began accepting cloth mask donations, the health system has received more than 1,400 masks.”
Donations came from Beyond Fabric, Satilla Quilters and Scrappy Rooster Quilt Shop in Camden, but a great deal of the handmade masks were given anonymously.
Volunteer services director Kristin Doll coordinates the donations.
“I’m so touched every time I collect the masks from our donation bins. To read the notes of gratitude and encouragement included with the donations and to think about the generosity of the donors — their time and contribution of materials for the project — is really heartwarming,” she said. “Life has been extremely difficult for many people in recent weeks, yet seeing our community come together to help one another in a time of need is something very special that we can all be grateful for.”
Masks must be made of a tightly woven cotton fabric. They are laundered in high heat with bleach, so elastic straps or cloth ties are preferred. Rubber bands or other improvised materials that cannot withstand the laundering process should be avoided. The mask must be large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth, and pre-washing the fabric is recommended due to shrinkage.
“We have received some masks with elastic and some with ties as well as varying design styles,” says Doll. “Different people have different preferences; it’s been nice to have a variety for our team members to choose what fits best for them.”
Cloth mask drop-off bin locations at both campuses are open weekdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. At Camden Campus, 2000 Dan Proctor Drive, St. Marys, the bin is located just inside the lobby doors. The health system asks that donations include the name of the sewer, name of group or businesses that sewed/donated the masks and a contact phone number or email.
For more information, call volunteer services at (912) 466-1071 or email Doll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acts of kindness
There have been so many acts of kindness and support over the last several weeks, some identified and some anonymous, like messages of support written in chalk on the sidewalks outside the hospitals.
The Sign Gypsies of St. Marys donated a sign at Camden Campus that said, “Our Heroes Wear Scrubs.”
Winn-Dixie donated flowers to bring smiles to patients who were spending Easter alone due to the restricted visitation policy under COVID-19.
“We certainly understand that the no-visitor policy is not easy on our patients or their loved ones. Our hope is that these flowers will provide a small bit of happiness,” said SGHS in a written statement.
To help nourish the bodies and buoy the morale of personnel on the front lines of the medical response, several businesses and individuals have brought food to Camden Campus by boxes and platters:
• Camden Campus’ mail carrier, Cindy Gardell — cookies and cupcakes from her bakery.
• Mary Root, a former member of the hospital board, and her husband, Craig — chicken meals and salads.
• Yara Valenzuela and Kathryn Figueroa — doughnuts
• Arbonne consultants — Arbonne Essentials protein snack kits
• Ameris Bank — lunch
• Bobby Blake — several cases of Blakestar energy drinks
• Ops Pizza — pizzas
• Skinny Pete’s — assorted food
• Sherwood Cooke of Royalty Auto Service — cookies and muffins
• Kingsland Starbucks — coffee
Senior care centers
For those who are looking for additional ways to help support the health system, administrators point to the needs of the patients under their care at the senior care centers.
How can you help them? Old-fashioned correspondence matters greatly to seniors, SGHS advises.
“We encourage families, friends, volunteers and churches to send cards and letters,” said Rhondia Grant, administrator at the Senior Care Center-St. Marys. “We cannot release residents’ names, but families can share their relative’s contact information with their acquaintances and ask them to write to our residents. Including photographs and children’s artwork can really brighten their day.”
Staff members will assist recipients by removing the envelopes. For now, Grant ask that family members do not send “care packages” to minimize the spread of germs.
“If the public wishes to donate items, the residents are asking for potting soil, seeds, watering pitchers and plant pots. Please seal new items tightly in plastic bags to protect against the weather and leave them at our facilities’ front doors. Our staff will disinfect the items before sharing with residents,” she said.