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. 

Teachers are some of the most important members of our communities. They educate our children, volunteer their time and resources, and work to make a difference every day. This week, we will be honoring the hard work done by teachers across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One teacher steps up to help feed children in Horry County by Annette Montgomery. When Horry County Schools in South Carolina had to suspend their grab-and-go meal sites for students due to several employees testing positive for the coronavirus in April, a teacher rose to the occasion. Patricia Sylvester, a teacher in the school district, knew she had to keep her students fed while schools were closed. Pulling together resources from other teachers and assembling a group of volunteers, Sylvester turned to Facebook and several local catering companies stepped in to help. “I knew that once Horry County Schools had no other choice but to shut down the food delivery for our kids there was going to be a lot of needy families that needed someplace to feed their children,” Sylvester said.

Southwest Texas man plans to build ventilators to join fight against COVID-19 by Victoria DeLeon and Raegan Gibson. In Texas, Michael Black, who has been a science teacher for eight years, realized that he had the skills and know-how to build ventilators. When Rice University put out a call for volunteers to assist with the building of ventilators while the United States was facing a shortage of the machines, Black was one of the volunteers. Turning to GoFundMe to raise money for the necessary components, he was able to raise over $2,000 for the project. Black said, “I’m just so grateful for the support. It’s a beautiful thing. Crises like these bring out often the best in people and it’s beautiful to see.”

St. Luke’s and volunteer seamstress design clear mask for speech therapists by Jay Edwards. A retired elementary school teacher in Lower Mount Bethel Township in New Jersey has been volunteering to make masks since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Valerie Dozier made so many masks that St. Luke’s University Health Network tapped her for a special project: making clear masks for speech therapists. In order to treat patients, speech therapists need to be able to provide examples of speech patterns, and Dozier’s masks will help them do so. “I wanted to do something but I don’t have the skills to go be an essential medical worker,” Dozier said. “But I sew and I have all this fabric, so I figured this is something I could do.”

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