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. 

What are community fridges? Inside the effort to reduce hunger amid COVID-19 by Kerry Breen. All over the country, communities are stepping up to make sure people are fed during these uncertain times. Breen reports for MSN that, as lines for food banks are getting longer and Congress is stalled on a new aid package, community fridges are popping up all over the country. The fridges can be found in public spaces and volunteers keep them stocked with food donated by the community. After seeing students struggling with hunger, Anna Flores, a teacher from Union City, New Jersey, decided it was time to act and start a community fridge. Flores said of her students, “A lot of students were going through hard times, having really difficult moments in their families with coronavirus and everything happening. I would pick up a few groceries for them or go to food drives for them … I was trying to figure out something else.” After establishing the community fridge over the summer, she realized the real need for food in her community. “It’s a lot more work than I initially thought it would be,” she said. “It can take, depending on the day and how much food we get for the day and whether I have to commute to pick up food, it can take maybe two to three hours a day.”

Dripping Springs ISD engineering program makes 3-D printed face shields for the medical community by Olivia Aldridge. Early on in the pandemic, teachers across Texas rose to the occasion to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers. At Dripping Springs High School, engineering teacher Jad Jadeja and his students utilized 3-D printers to produce face shields. Jadeja commented, “[The printers] have been running almost 24/7 for the last three or four days. We will produce as many as we can as fast as we can.” According to Aldridge, Jadeja and his students are also considering 3-D printing ventilators in the future. “When a situation like this occurs, they’re ready to go,” he said.

Community joins for ‘Cougar Closet.’ North Star Group raises funds to restock clothes for needy by David Hurst. In the small town of Boswell, Pennsylvania, North Star School District has always been a beacon of hope for students who are in need. Every year as the weather turns colder, the school district comes together to distribute winter coats to students who can’t afford them. During the pandemic, as supplies were running dry, a group of volunteers and history teacher Sal Lascari raised money to replenish their supply by holding a spaghetti dinner and a bake sale. Local businesses, the fire department, and the school all contributed in some way or another. Lascari said, “After talking with the school guidance counselors, we saw there was a real need with the winter turning colder … and the whole community really stepped up.”

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