During the COVID-19 pandemic, public employees across the nation have given back to their communities in extraordinary ways. From donating to food banks to helping their neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have been on the front lines.  

Here are stories of public employees in service to their communities.

Unsung heroes: Behind the scenes, school staff brace for the COVID-19 semester by Evelynn Coffie. For the last few weeks, we have been reporting on the incredible work educators have been doing around the country to help their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone that has gone to school knows that, behind the educators and students, are staff members that are dedicated to their jobs. Reporting for the Gambit and NOLA.com, Coffie tells the stories of several of these workers in schools around Louisiana. One of these unsung heroes is Andrea Boland, the cafeteria manager at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. On returning to school, Boland commented, “I didn’t hesitate to want to go and serve them (students) during this ordeal. I did what I had to do. I threw my mask on and my gloves on.” 

Responding to the pandemic: Glenwood’s first responders continue to protect and serve despite budget cuts by Matthew Bennett. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many cities and towns are facing budget cuts because of lost tax revenue. Glenwood, Colorado is no exception to this. Despite their strained budget, Glenwood’s first responders still have to be on the job to protect their community. Although the fire department is having to furlough firefighters, others have stepped in to fill the gaps. Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson commented, “They’re keeping their chin up, doing their jobs and they’re just really dedicated people. They obviously got into this profession because they wanted to help people and they continue to want to help.” 

Public health detectives: Quad-City ‘contact tracers’ are on the front lines via phone lines by Barb Ickes. Health departments across the country have risen to the occasion to trace cases of the coronavirus and stop community spread. These contact tracers are often the first contact a coronavirus patient will speak to. If a person tests positive for the virus, contact tracers reach out to them, alert them to their positive test results, and begin tracing their steps to determine who they’ve been in contact with. After their initial contact with the individual who tested positive, contact tracers will reach out to individuals who may have come in contact with them to let them know of possible exposure. Due to the need for more contact tracers, retired nurses have jumped into the action to volunteer. Debbie Freiburg, a retired nurse, is a volunteer contact tracer for the Rock Island County Health Department in Iowa. She said, “A couple people have been a little skeptical of what we’re going to do with the information, and I tell them we need to track this disease.” 

Be sure to check back next week for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!