Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Crisis shows us at our best

The following op-ed appeared in the April 16 edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

While no one needs a reminder that our nation is under extreme duress due to COVID-19, I do think we all need a reminder that the best of America is on display right here at home in northeast Indiana.

In the last month, as my team and I have made nearly 3000 phone calls, I have seen TNT Floral Shop in Columbia City deliver flowers to nursing home residents who are currently isolated. I’ve seen restaurants including Lucille’s BBQ and Umi Seafood and Sushi deliver hundreds of meals to people who can’t afford food on the table. I’ve seen Redwood Inn donate perishable food to healthcare workers at Parkview. I’ve seen Fort Wayne Bands put on a virtual fundraiser to raise money for service industry workers out of a job. I’ve seen Portland firefighters bringing food to hundreds of families in need. I’ve seen people lining up to donate blood to the American Red Cross headquarters in Fort Wayne.

As key supplies become scarce, Vera Bradley and Cinda B have retrofit their facilities to sew masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for those serving us on the frontlines. Heinz Manufacturing, which makes Cinda B products, aims to produce 100,000 gowns, 100,000 masks and 100,000 face shields. My office has been happy to connect eight health organizations to Vera Bradley and other suppliers that have stepped up to the plate.

They aren’t the only mask producers in town. Attorney Jerri Mead has made masks for couples who have health risks. Jay County school teachers are sewing facemasks for their community.

It’s been wonderful to see thriving communities move online like the Huntington Neighbors Helping Neighbors Facebook page. Users there have given away clothes and cleaning supplies. They’ve shared tips on where to find scarce items and organized efforts to save struggling local businesses.

The biggest heroes of them all—our healthcare professionals—have put themselves in harm’s way to treat COVID-19’s victims. They work day and night to keep the hospitals safe and available to those that need it the most.

I’ve seen Hoosiers big and small take steps to show their appreciation for those working in the healthcare industry.

Our hearts were warmed by 10-year-old Sophia Wallace who placed thank you notes on Parkview cars and ambulances. Starbucks employees delivered pastries to staff at Parkview and Dupont Hospitals. Well Grounded Café in Huntertown delivered pastries to workers at Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

Last, we’ve seen banks and credit unions step up to the plate and provide vital financing to small businesses that need it so they can stay open and paying employees. As I know from leading a call with 150 small business owners last week, there is high demand to participate in the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). STAR Financial, First Federal Savings and Lake City Bank are working hard every day to accept and process applications for the PPP, providing no interest loans and reach new refinancing agreements with their clients. 

I want to say thank you to each and every group or individual I’ve seen this month step forward to make a difference. There are many more that I didn’t include here that deserve recognition, like the 100 faith leaders I spoke with last month who are doing their best to find innovative ways to worship while adhering to social distancing orders.

These are extremely difficult times for us all. But endurance develops character, and character produces hope. We see that character on display all around us. I couldn’t be prouder to be from the Hoosier state.

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