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.

Special Olympics Oklahoma hosts online celebration by Storme Jones. Last May, at the pandemic’s onset, the Oklahoma Special Olympics held its first-ever virtual summer games. For years, the Oklahoma Special Olympics has taken place in Stillwater every May, and organizers did not want to cancel. The virtual games consisted of an opening ceremony and a play-by-play of the events that would have taken place to keep athletes in shape and keep them in touch with the Special Olympics community. Yukon Special Olympics coach and teacher Renee Shoaf commented, “The state has done an amazing job of trying to make it as fun as possible from a virtual platform.”

Animals add fun, comfort to Southern California online lessons by Allyson Escobar. It’s no secret that we here at the National Public Pension Coalition (NPPC) are animal lovers, and this week, we wanted to showcase an article in the Press-Enterprise about furry friends showing up during teachers’ lessons and other virtual programs. One of those stories involves “Professor Ginger” from Emerson Elementary School in Riverside, California. Kindergarten students from the school have come to know “Professor Ginger,” teacher Jessie Bekkedahl’s dog, as a fun-loving teachers’ aide. “Professor Ginger” has shown up in over 50 videos to students about learning to read, count, and identifying shapes. Bekkedahl commented, “When we first shut down, I was like, ‘What in the world, how am I going to stay connected? And then I had the idea of making fun little videos with my dog and sharing them with the kids. And they loved it.”

Kearney firefighter leaves hospital in style after battling COVID-19 by Kim Schmidt. First responders around the country have put themselves in harm’s way during this pandemic. When Kearney Volunteer Firefighter Kent Hergott contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized, firefighters and EMS personnel were there when he was discharged after battling the disease. As nurses wheeled him out of the hospital, close to 30 people were there to greet him with applause and a ride home in a ladder truck. Hergott commented, “It was a little touching. I didn’t know they were going to do something that big.” Schmidt reports that although other Kearney firefighters and administrative staff have contracted COVID-19, Hergott is the only one who has been hospitalized. 

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