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Providing Help, Finding Hope

By Megan Jonas

The late children's television host and Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers' advice to "look for the helpers" is often cited in times of crisis. "If you look for the helpers," he said, "you'll know that there's hope."

As humanity continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, we looked for the helpers in our Whitworth community. They weren't hard to find. Whitworthians across generations are helping their patients, students, congregations and communities in countless ways. They give us hope, and we are grateful.

Following are snapshots of their experiences.

Nate Lamberty '17 and Brittany Castilla '13

Whitworth assistant athletic trainers who volunteered for several months with the Spokane Regional Health District, screening people at homeless shelters for COVID-19

"Having the opportunity to get out and provide tangible help to people who are particularly at risk in the Spokane community was a huge blessing. This was a tremendous opportunity to take an adverse situation and use it to live out part of the Whitworth mission statement of serving humanity." – Nate Lamberty

"Many people experiencing homelessness have mild to severe health illnesses and increased risk for other illnesses due to environmental factors. Community and volunteer services for this group were not as easily accessible with the mandatory stay-at-home order in place. The SRHD made sure this high-risk and vulnerable population had access to nightly COVID screening. I chose to volunteer with this group because they needed people specifically with a medical background. It runs seven nights a week and not everyone is available to do all seven nights. I wanted to assist and do my part in helping during the pandemic since I was capable and available." – Brittany Castilla

Jon Anderson '08, M.D.

Attending intensivist (critical care physician) at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane

"I am one of the physicians who works directly with patients, providing advanced life support and medical care for the sickest COVID patients in our region. I find hope and strength in the people who I work side by side with caring for these patients. To face a disease that causes such devastating illness with a team that is so committed to doing everything possible bolsters my spirit and helps me face each day. I don't know how I'd do this without my family either. My wife is a fellow physician, and her empathy and kindness help get me through the worst days, even as she faces the same disease at her clinic."

Shannon Kozlovich '15

Kozlovich is the volunteer communications director for the COVID-19 National Scientist Volunteer Database, a group of 9,000-plus scientists who are helping various government entities, organizations and businesses nationwide to respond to the pandemic.

"When the Safer at Home orders began rolling out across the country among stories of PPE shortages for healthcare workers, I felt quite helpless. Then I received an email about a town hall for volunteer scientists to help with the COVID-19 response. I figured that my experience with volunteer organizing would come in handy. During the town hall, they said what they really needed was a communications leader; before I knew what I was doing I had unmuted my mic and offered up my time and expertise for communications. I have always thought that STEM graduate programs should be required to teach scientists to communicate their findings to the general public, since what we do is funded by their taxes and is done for the public good. I thought that the least I could do was fit myself into a spot in this 100 percent volunteer and unfunded organization in a way that would spread the word of science to the masses."

Ruth Carlson '22

A Whitworth continuing studies student, Carlson has sewn and donated so many masks she has lost count.

"Part of me was paying forward the generosity that people showed me when I was going through a hard time. Now as COVID and social distancing continue on, it has been heartwarming to be part of a collective sewing community that has come together to meet some needs both large and small. As we go into 2021, I have been thinking about sewing bulk children's masks to donate to schools. I also have begun trying to find other ways to help – we have had a lot more than COVID impacting our communities. There are many everyday ways we can be helpers."

Chris Koch '94

English congregation pastor for the Reformed Church of Newtown, Queens, New York City

"My church is located two blocks from Elmhurst Hospital, which was featured in the news nationally as one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City. Since we live in a diverse community both ethnically and economically, the pandemic hit many families in our church very hard. Some of our undocumented families especially were in crisis since they didn't receive any government assistance. Because of this many congregation members are contributing to groceries, rental assistance and other needs for families in crisis. This pandemic proved that the church is not defined by a building but by Jesus Christ, and we have continued seeking to worship, serve and grow in Christ together despite our church building being closed."

Erica Uyehara '05, M.Ed. '12

First grade teacher at Adams Elementary in Spokane

"I'm teaching from my office at home, which feels very disconnected from my students. I am learning to translate everything I know about best practice and pedagogy into a virtual setting. Although it can be extremely overwhelming and, at times, seem completely foreign to all I think I know, the heart of it is still the same: building relationships and making connections. Even in a virtual setting, this is still priority No. 1! Some of the relationships have been enhanced with COVID in that we as teachers are essentially in many of our students' homes every day. I am experiencing daily contact with some families that I might not have had the opportunity to build as strong of a partnership with otherwise."

Rebecca Ricards '97

As an emergency management logistician for Doctors Without Borders, Ricards helped lead a team in Houston that supported nursing homes

"Coming to Houston and helping with a COVID intervention felt really necessary. I haven't been personally affected by COVID, so it was important for me to see firsthand what is happening. It was really cool to say to nurses, ‘We're not here to find things you're doing wrong. We're here to tell you what you're doing right and find ways to support you.'"

Marie D. De Jesús /©Houston Chronicle. Used with permission.

Sarah (Everett) Brody '98, M.Ed. '09, M.A. '17

Chaplain at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane

"In the midst of a lot of tragedy and loss, it has been moving to be a part of a collective movement of care for the vulnerable. There is a bone-weariness that so many of us feel in healthcare, as in many other sectors, but you're never as weary as the patient lying in the bed. Just thinking we might be recalling to that person their worth and belovedness in the ways we care for them is worth every ounce of effort.

"Isolation exacerbates our experiences of anxiety and strips us of the support of physical touch and the comfort of family presence. My colleagues and I have been helping to bridge some of those 'gaps.' With COVID-positive patients, we have been able to call into their room with the aid of nursing staff and stand outside the door offering virtual visits and prayers."

Erin (Nakasone) Murakami '08

Kindergarten teacher at Ewa Elementary, Ewa Beach, Hawaii

"I have felt like I am a first-year teacher all over again. I was very stressed in the beginning of the school year. So many things were unfamiliar and so brand-new: learning how to use Google Meets; teaching on a computer; troubleshooting technical issues for parents and grandparents; condensing our curriculum to fit screen. We just started quarter two, and teaching and learning on the computer all day has become easier.

"I'm super proud of our students for evolving and learning with us. I also know how challenging it is for families to support their little ones while also working from home or for grandparents having to 'go back to school' to help their grandchildren."

Jeff Mullaney '89

Manager, Research & Development Operations Center of Excellence at Eli Lilly and Company

"If you would have told me a year ago that we would be able to identify a new therapy and have it in clinical trials in a matter of a couple months, I would have asked if you were also trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. Over the last six months I can't keep up with the number of conversations where I consistently hear, 'How can we do this faster and better?'"

Maggie (Staib) Mayer '04

Teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, Spokane

"When I learned we would be teaching online I asked myself, 'What can I do to help students want to be part of our virtual class each day?' And I realized it's similar to what we all want in any educational setting: We want connections. We want to know we are loved and that we will all grow and learn together. We want to laugh together and know that we are missed when we are gone.

"COVID has taught me that my No. 1 goal is to be flexible. Teaching and learning online with young children is tremendously challenging, but so rewarding. Out of necessity, teachers have had to get very familiar and comfortable with technology. I believe this will benefit us in our profession far beyond the pandemic. What brings me hope is to remember how resilient children are and how adaptable we can be if we try to stay positive in difficult situations."

This story appears in the fall 2020 issue of Whitworth Today magazine.

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