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.  

This year, the holiday season changed for most of us as we were unable to see our families, friends, and loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, public employees still devoted their holidays to helping members of their communities. Here are stories of public employees in service over the holiday season.

It’s holiday meal time at Durango School District 9-R by Patrick Armijo. For years, students of Escalante Middle School have helped assemble meals for those in need during the holiday season. Due to the pandemic, with students at home, staff members of the school have stepped up to help out. In prior years, students would be responsible for bringing food donations to school which could be used for meal bags. Since students are remote learning, staff members took to social media to get assistance for the program, raising over $1,000 and receiving 52 turkeys from a Manna soup kitchen. Eva Duce, a physical education teacher, Lu Boren, an agricultural teacher, and several staff members from Escalante, assembled the meal bags before the holidays. Commenting on the large donation from Manna, Boren said, “It’s such an expensive part of the dinner. When Manna said they’d donate the turkeys, it made everything manageable.”

Police, communities make Christmas brighter for children by Jeff Jones. Throughout the state of Kansas, local police and sheriff departments helped their communities during the holiday season. In Jones’ article for KPC News, he details the great lengths police officers went to in order to ensure children had gifts during the holidays. In years past, the Angola Police Department has raised tens of thousands of dollars for their ‘Cops for Kids’ event, but this year, they raised $50,000 in donations. Mike Wood, a police officer for the department, commented on the program’s success, saying, “We ended up helping 70 families and 140 kids.”

Locals launch mutual aid project in Gowanus by Kevin Duggan. Ana Cotlowitz, an elementary school teacher in Gowanus, Brooklyn, helped found a mutual aid group that aims to help her community cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. As she saw several community programs such as her school’s toy drive and coat drive not occur due to remote learning, she and her organization stepped in to help out. “I kept seeing that there was this gap for families who weren’t getting what they needed,” said Cotlowitz. Since she helped found the project, her organization has helped with grocery and personal protective equipment (PPE) deliveries, connected community members in need with housing rights organizations, helped them fill out job applications, and navigate social services. “The motto of it is give what you can and take what you need,” said Cotlowitz.

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