Community Rallies Around Hospital Workers
"I've never seen anything like it in 30+ years," says Anthony Burchard, president of the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation.
By June 1, Arlington County had seen more than 375 hospitalizations and 116 deaths from Covid-19.
Understanding the burden being shouldered by health care workers, the community rallied around Virginia Hospital Center. Kids sent hand-painted rocks for the hospital’s Healing Garden. Families posted signs of gratitude on light posts surrounding the medical campus.
In-kind donations—fielded through a military-style command center at the hospital—included thousands of masks, gloves, gowns, caps, shoe covers, 3D-printed face shields, hand sanitizer, hand cream and more.
And there was plenty of food, thanks to an outpouring of support from more than 50 local restaurants, catering companies and meal delivery services—which, in turn, received community donations large and small to keep their kitchens operational. By the end of June, the hospital expects to have seen upward of 10,000 meals donated to its workers and their families, from grab-and-go sandwich packs in break rooms to dinners delivered to employees’ homes.
HUNGRY, a meal-delivery platform created by Arlington-based entrepreneur Jeff Grass, has provided thousands of chef-prepared meals to hospital employees and their families. The effort is funded, in part, by a $50,000 donation from Sands Capital, as well as a GoFundMe campaign launched by local business owner Sean Steele that raised more than $6,000 from more than 50 individual donors.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in 30-plus years,” says Anthony Burchard, president of the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation. “It’s been huge for morale. Working a 12-hour shift under this level of stress and anxiety is exhausting. This is keeping them going. One nurse was in tears. She said that it’s not just the meals—it’s knowing the community has her back.”
As of June 29, the hospital’s foundation, having issued an appeal to the community, had received more than $784,000 in financial contributions with a goal of $1 million. “We’ve already spent over $3 million in unbudgeted expenses related to Covid-19,” Burchard says, including additional PPE, testing, pharmaceuticals and the capital costs of reconfiguring patient rooms for infection control.
Every little bit helps. “One of my favorite stories,” he says, “was a young girl here in Arlington who did a socially distanced lemonade stand. She put it at the end of her walkway with a sign asking people to donate. She raised $60. Here’s a young lady who wanted to support the hospital where she was born. It’s just one of hundreds of ways people are doing what they can.”