BANGOR, Maine — As we enter the New Year in the midst of a pandemic, life will by no means be easier yet for health care workers. It's why the United Ways of Maine are spearheading a project to show these frontline heroes the community cares about them -- and is grateful for their service.
The "Caregiver Card Campaign" is a virtual card platform that allows people from around the state to submit positive messages. They can choose a card template online to accompany their note or upload an original image, like a drawing or a picture. It's free to do so -- and those close to the health care world say it means a lot.
"I think it's really just important to show that we're all sort of behind them -- and that we're all in this together," Aubrae Filipiak expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom, her four-year-old son, Henry, sitting next to her. Filipiak's husband works in emergency medicine at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor -- and she says this year has been tough on all of them.
"It's been challenging I think, especially for him -- just sort of knowing what he needs to do to keep himself safe and...having the initial stress from his work and seeing how that plays into our family life," Filipiak explained.
It's why she and Henry spent part of their morning Tuesday creating cards with colorful construction paper and crayons for this campaign.
"It feels good to know that there's something we can do to make their day a little bit brighter," Filipiak admitted.
Daniel Babigian-Moreno and his daughter, River, from South Portland are also participating, since Babigian-Moreno's husband is a palliative care specialist at Maine Medical Center. River says they've made a lot of cards to make sure health care workers know how thankful they are. It's a mission that's important to Babigian-Moreno, too.
"It's important to remember that the healthcare world is still on the front lines still dealing with this, and in fact, it's probably worse than it was when it first started," Babigian-Moreno explained. "I think this is just another way to make sure that we're reminding people that we're thinking about them. We thank them. We're really grateful for everything that they've done."
This kind of community reaction about the initiative has meant a lot to people at United Ways who are coordinating the effort. Matthew Wolcott, the senior vice president for resource development and governance at the United Way of Greater Portland, says they've seen how challenging the pandemic has been on these workers.
"They have to suit up and go into an environment that so many of us are working really hard to stay out of," Wolcott expressed.
Wolcott says this campaign took off the week before Christmas, and within the first day (with little promotion), they had seen more than 200 submissions. He says a responsibility of the United Way is to use the power of the community for good -- and this campaign is just one way to do so for a group of people that's done so much for us.
"We all are indebted to Maine's healthcare workers," Wolcott said.
The cards submitted online will be sent out to health care workers virtually (and, in some cases, physically) come mid to late-January. Those on the receiving end will include not only health care workers in hospitals but also in assisted living communities, nursing homes, and home health care.
The deadline for submissions is January 8, but the United Way says it will continue accepting cards through the weekend. You can participate here.
Some examples of cards submitted so far include the following notes:
- "Your love, compassion, dedication and support to the many in need in our great state goes unnoticed. Thank you millions for ALL you're giving and all you're sacrificing. Please stay safe and well." -- Jo
- "Thank you for your dedication, care, and compassion in providing health care during these challenging times! We appreciate you!!" -- Kathy and Family
- "Our family is so appreciative of everything you are doing to help others. You are a hero. Please know that we think about your efforts daily and are so thankful for your bravery and commitment." -- Kristen & Jack
- "Thank you for everything you do. You truly are saving lives and making the world a better place. Thank you for keeping me and my family safe." -- The Andersen's
- "As a retired nurse, I know and appreciate all you do thank you!!!!!!" -- Donna
- "Thank you for all you are doing to care for us. You are the ones who run to the fire not away from it! We appreciate it please stay safe and we all hope for a better 2021." -- Glenn and Ellen