Manitobans show exhausted health-care workers they care with gift packages, food

As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, some Manitobans are creating care packages or arranging food deliveries for the province’s health-care workers to show their gratitude and boost morale during an unprecedented time. 

Jordynn Friesen said she has been trying to check on her nurse friends regularly during the pandemic, and noticed they were getting more and more downbeat as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations climb.

“One person I check on is usually the most upbeat, happy person, and always puts others first and will do everything to make you happy. And it took them a couple of days to respond to me,” she said. 

“When they did, they said, ‘I’m sorry, I was really depressed and I just couldn’t respond to your message. I apologize.'” 

At that point, Friesen felt she needed to act. 

“I went, something needs to be done to try and lift their spirits, because if they’re not doing the best, how are they going to look after everybody else?” she said. 

She decided to create care packages for a handful of nurses she knows. She reached out on Facebook to see if any businesses could donate, hoping to get a few extra things. 

Within a few hours, she had dozens of responses. On Tuesday, her post had more than 120 replies, mostly from people wanting to donate.

“It was very overwhelming in a good way. My intention was I was just going to … purchase a small gift card and maybe some lotion or something,” she said. 

“I never in a million years would have imagined I would get this much stuff.”

‘We’re seeing their struggle’

In recent weeks, officials have warned that the health-care system is becoming overwhelmed as Manitoba sees triple-digit increases in case numbers and multiple deaths every day. 

Feeling helpless as she watched the second wave of pandemic unfold, Genelle McMillan decided to organize deliveries of doughnuts and other baked goods to hospitals. 

She’s organized deliveries to take place next week to nurses at Grace Hospital and Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg.

Genelle McMillan has been organizing food deliveries to health-care workers with her husband, Krispen. (Submitted by Genelle McMillan)

“I just want them to know that they’re appreciated. I just want them to know that we’re seeing their struggle,” she said. 

“So hopefully this will be enough to put a little bit of a smile on their face.”

At the Chicken Chef on Portage Avenue, near the Perimeter Highway, Lori Lucas and her staff have been preparing dinners for personal care home workers using donations from the community. 

In recent weeks, Lucas said they have dropped off individually portioned packages of stew, fresh buns and desserts to about half a dozen personal care homes in the city. Along with donations, they’ve also collected cards and thank-you notes from people. 

Lucas said she just wanted to spread a bit of kindness and show these workers that they’re appreciated. 

“They’re working long shifts. They’re tired and, you know, something like a home-cooked meal, not only is it good for you physically, but it’s good for you emotionally as well,” she said. 

“It’s a reminder … to let them know that they’re not alone, that we do care, that we do support them, that we do thank them for their work.”

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, acknowledged that health-care workers are emotionally and physically drained. 

“They’re there for you and we really need to be there for them,” she said at a news conference Wednesday.

While they do appreciate kind words and gifts, she said the biggest gift you can do for them is to stay home, limit your contacts, wear a mask, wash your hands “and help us to try and get these numbers down.”

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