Evanston residents show support for health care workers

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Catherine Buchaenic / Daily Senior Staffer

A banner thanking health care workers hangs outside NorthShore Evanston Hospital. Since the pandemic began, Evanston residents have shown their support for medical staff.

Eva Herscowitz, Assistant City Editor

As health care workers risk their lives battling COVID-19, Evanston residents and organizations supply those on the front lines with food, gifts and gratitude.

Large companies and locally owned businesses across the country are offering health care workers deals, donations and free products. Since the pandemic began, cities worldwide have come together to show their support for medical staff through scheduled cheers from rooftops, windows and porches.

Evanston residents are joining in, too. Pinto Thai Kitchen has provided meals for hospital employees, including those at NorthShore Evanston Hospitaland AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital Evanston, owner Ann Yodtheerak said. The restaurant is also donating meals to Connections for the Homeless and providing free dishes and groceries for Evanston residents facing food insecurity.

Yodtheerak said it’s apparent from Facebook comments and takeout orders that the community values Pinto Thai Kitchen’s outreach.

“They are very appreciative,” she said. “When customers come in, they say ‘Thank you, my health care worker loves your food.’ We are so happy to help.”

Community members have also organized rallies and cheers to show their support for health care workers.

First responders from Evanston Fire Department, Northwestern University Police and Wilmette Police and Fire Departments clapped for front line workers outside NorthShore Evanston Hospital on April 22. Holding signs and wearing masks, police officers and firefighters applauded health care professionals leaving and heading to shifts.

Evanston resident Ande Breunig was in her car with her young son near NorthShore Evanston Hospital when she noticed the group of first responders cheering. NorthShore employees cared for her son, who was born three months premature, when he stayed in the hospital for 50 days after his birth. Still friends with some of the nurses and members of the Infant Special Care Unit who cared for him, she said she has a special connection to the hospital.

“It was just really heartwarming to see everybody gathered together in unison to applaud the efforts that these medical professionals are making,” she said. “Every single day, they’re putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others. It just really chokes me up because of the particular experience with that hospital being there for us during a crucial time in our lives.”

In addition to thanking workers with meals and community tributes, some residents, like Larisa Olson, the owner of Wilmette’s Chantilly Lace, are gifting inventory to those caring for coronavirus patients. Since March, Olsen has organized donations of personalized sleepwear packages for nurses working at local hospitals.

Olson sent gifts from her shop in early March to a few nurses she knew, and when customers expressed interest in sponsoring presents, she began formally organizing a donation system. Through the Chantilly Lace Comfort Project, anyone can sponsor a gift — an assortment of pajamas, robes and sleep masks with a personalized note — through a $50 donation.

As of this week, customers and vendors have sponsored nearly 500 packages. Olson said an administrator told her the gifts “bring smiles” to nurses’ faces.

“They’re overjoyed. They just absolutely love it,” Olson said. “They say it’s really nice to get something they can keep.”

“It’s so important that stores get involved and start making these care packages, because the customers are happy to purchase them,” Olson said. “They just don’t know how to help, because the best thing they can do for humanity is to stay home. This is a really great, safe way to support the front line workers.”

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Twitter: @herscowitz

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