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.

Chesterfield Twp. school donates toys in memory of first Michigan child to die of COVID-19 by Nicole Tuttle. When Detroit police officer LaVondria Herbert lost her 5-year old daughter, Skylar, to COVID-19, the Detroit Police Department, Green Elementary School, and a local radio station stepped in to hold a toy drive in her child’s memory. Herbert’s daughter was the first Michigan child to pass away from COVID-19 in March of last year. The toys, which were purchased after the Green Elementary’s student council raised over $700, were donated to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. At the donation event, Green Elementary School teacher Katherine Nebel, one of the organizers of the event, said, “Skylar’s mom showed up clenching the bear that her daughter had in the hospital. It brought tears to all of our eyes.” Paired with toys donated for another fundraiser, Bear Hugs Detroit, every child in the hospital was able to receive a toy. 

Greenville firefighters climb building to surprise children in hospital by Kristen Cheatam. The Greenville Fire Department in South Carolina brought some joy to children at Shriners Hospital last August. Using their trucks, the firefighters propped their ladders on the side of the hospital building and delivered toy firefighter hats to the children through the windows. Trana Pittam, the director of marketing and communications at the hospital, commented on the children’s reactions, “They were very excited. They’re used to having visitors often and it’s really been a change of pace in this new environment where we really have to watch out for safety, particularly the patients that have been with us for weeks.”

These Rhode Islanders got creative amid COVID-19 by Ellen Liberman. In an article for the Rhode Island Monthly in June, Liberman highlighted the efforts of community members who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those stories was of Amy Almada, a fifth-grade social studies and English language teacher at Emma Whiteknact Elementary School in East Providence. When Almada’s school went virtual in March of last year, she would not only delight her students with random visits from her cat Zoe, but she also shared tips for other teachers on YouTube on how best to teach children virtually. After two weeks, she had garnered half a million views and 4,630 subscribers to her YouTube Channel. Almada commented, “It’s crazy how popular that first video is! It has been shared around the world. I have teachers reaching out to me for help from different states and countries. Zoe hasn’t made an appearance in them yet.”

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