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Residents pitch in to assist weary hospital employees with much-needed snacks, sustenance

BUCKHANNON – Create Buckhannon is gathering snacks and meal items for weary hospital workers.

Create Buckhannon member Buck Edwards said hospital staff approached him to help organize a food program, and he brought the idea back to Create Buckhannon.

“Their staff is really stressed out right now,” Edwards said. “They’re really shorthanded or working double shifts, and many of them don’t have time to even stop and take a lunch break, so they have been trying to do something on their own but just couldn’t get it done, so they asked me if I would help.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital canceled a blood screening that had been scheduled for Sept. 11, citing a staffing shortage, and in a press release issued late Wednesday, hospital president Skip Gjolberg described the situation in the Emergency Department and other areas as dire.

“The rapid increase in COVID in Upshur County is severely straining our hospital’s resources,” Gjolberg said in the release. “I am not sure the community understands how critical this situation has become. We have now moved into the Crisis Level of Code Triage with our Incident Command team meeting daily to assess the quickly changing situation.”

The hospital’s Emergency Department has been seeing a record-breaking number of patients, with at least half testing positive for COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-like symptoms, the release said.

So, in response to exhausted hospital employees’ requests for assistance, Edwards made a Facebook post on his own page, asking for donations of water, Gatorade, energy or protein bars, chips, packaged cookies or fresh fruit like apples, oranges and bananas.

“I put it out there and have been getting a lot of donations; I just made my second trip to deliver stuff to them this morning,” Edwards said. “We’re collecting at Ace Hardware and Pop’s Furniture to give them an opportunity just to grab something out of the break room, eat it on the run, and keep moving. I know if I don’t eat, I get grouchy and the last thing I want is a nurse or doctor grouchy.”

Edwards picks up donated items from each location daily, and people interested in making a financial donation may do so via PayPal at create.buckhannon@gmail.com or by mailing a check to Create Buckhannon, PO Box 991, Buckhannon, WV 26201 (note the donation is for hospital staff in the memo line).

“Wendling’s is donating 12-ounce bowls with lids to us, and I have over 1,000 cups of soup pledged from different restaurants in town, plus Chapel Hill, so those will go to the hospital starting next week,” Edwards said. “This morning I got a call from a local church that’s put a check in the mail for $800, and there’s been a couple donations from individuals. One of the Fraternal Order groups is having a meeting on Tuesday and they’re going to be sending a check, so there’s folks out there who want to donate and then when we get that money, we can go to Walmart or Kroger’s or wherever and buy what we need to supplement.”

Edwards said he hopes the donations won’t be necessary for the long term.

“Hopefully, this is only a three- or four-week process, and the surge goes back down somewhat, but one of the nurses told me they may be caring for 12 or 13 people on a shift,” Edwards said. “You get invested in those people and then you come back the next day and one or two may have died, so it really has a huge emotional impact on those employees, when you’re working your darndest to try to keep them alive.”

Edwards said those employees shouldn’t have to worry about when or what they’ll eat that day.

“People don’t understand the emotional impact that goes into doing that job, especially when you’re doing a 12-hour shift or longer, and then you go home and have to get up and come back the next day,” Edwards said. “Who wants to pack a lunch when you’re just trying to get up and do what you have to do, to get back to work? That’s why we’re doing this.”

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