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. 

Littlest of kids with the biggest of hearts help feed the hungry by Ellyn Santiago. In East Haven, Connecticut, two teachers, Bethany Gambardella and Anthony Parisi, have guided their children to do the right thing. In April and May of this year, Gambardella and Parisi’s children joined together to start a drive-thru food drive to help those in need. Both families, who are next-door neighbors, are re-creating the drive-thru outside their homes this month to bring in Thanksgiving food for the East Haven Food Pantry. Gambardella commented, “We had such an amazing experience in May that we wanted to have another drive before Thanksgiving to help those in need. It was such a teachable moment for our kids. This year has been really difficult for so many, it is the least we can do.”

Looking to donate this holiday season? Stockton teacher collects thousands of dollars for Thanksgiving turkeys by Cassie Dickman. Since 2017, Stockton, California teacher Anne Swehla Garcia has been collecting donations to purchase turkeys for families in need – and this year, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t holding her back. Using social media as her megaphone, Swehla Garcia was astounded by the amount of support she received this year from Stockton residents and even out-of-state donors. According to Dickman, Swehla Garcia’s efforts have raised nearly $5,000, equating to about 500 turkeys. “Every time my little Venmo makes a little sound, it’s like a little bit of happiness. I feel privileged because they trust me to do what I say I’m going to do … and I feel a responsibility to make sure that we get it to the food bank and we do the best that we can,” commented Swehla Garcia. 

Two dads lead effort to bake, deliver thousands of cookies to frontline coronavirus workers by Morgan Smith. Cookies make everyone happy, right? In the small community of Huntington, Pennsylvania, middle school teacher Jeremy Uhrich teamed up with friend Scott McKenzie to create a group called Cookies for Caregivers. According to Smith, the Facebook group is dedicated to bringing together volunteers to make cookies for first responders and business owners. Since the pair started the group in April, over 15,100 cookies have been delivered to local hospitals, grocery stores, and first responders. “We just wanted to let these people know that we care about you, we recognize you and we aren’t forgetting about what you’re doing. This is just our small way of saying thank you and showing gratitude for what you have been doing and continue to do throughout the pandemic,” said Uhrich. 

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