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City launches COVID-19 Community Heroes initiative

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Sault Ste. Marie is a caring community, and it has been demonstrated throughout the past few months as we deal with COVID-19. 

As a means to recognize Sault Ste. Marie-area residents who are providing essential services during the pandemic, along with local groups, organizations or businesses who go above and beyond to assist neighbours and others, the City has launched the COVID-19 Community Heroes initiative.

Lorraine Matheson is manager of Pathways Retirement Residence, and throughout the pandemic Lorraine (along with staff at Pathways) has gone out of her way to be even more kind and caring and sensitive to the residents they care for.

Over the past several months, the staff at Pathways have extended themselves over and above knowing the residents cannot see their family or friends by trying to maintain a positive and happy disposition, in spite of the stresses in their own lives as a result of the pandemic. The calm and steady and experienced demeanour Lorraine exhibits, sets the tone for the staff.

Throughout the pandemic Joan Congdon has worked tirelessly to sew more than 400 masks for Sault Area Hospital and Algoma University to ensure people in our community have access to needed personal protective equipment.

“I am just one of hundreds of people doing what they can to help while we were staying safe at home,” said Congdon, who also wanted to recognize the people who have helped her, in particular Cora Rumley and Trish Sullivan for donating fabric and to Joanna Cicino for donating elastic. “Without their help I wouldn't have be able to make 467 masks and counting!”

City Meat Market has been a fixture in downtown Sault Ste. Marie for over 100 years, and offers quality meats and produce, along with a wide selection of products and specialties and authentic hometown personal service.

John and Rosina Bruni purchased City Meat Market in 2005, and continued to operate the business throughout the pandemic. City Meat Market staff have worked hard to serve local residents by facilitating curbside delivery to ensure customers, in particular downtown residents, had access to meats and produce.

Care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is provided by a multidisciplinary team, which includes specially trained nurses. Each professional brings his or her particular expertise to the team, collaborating on a plan of care and treatment for each patient, based upon his or her individual needs and conditions.

Nurses such as Robin Dechamplain, Meg Offidani, Ash Adams, Michelle Mceachern, Carly Boynton and Kelsey Freiburger (pictured above) are some of Sault Ste. Marie's tremendous front line workers serving our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of pandemic and the impact on workers in the public and private sector, many retired Canadians have re-entered the workforce, and operations across the country have benefited for their expertise and hard work.

The supermarket and grocery store sector has been significantly challenged throughout the pandemic by the virus itself and the resulting service related demands. To meet the needs of customers, grocery store workers have stepped up and worked hard to ensure people have access to food and other essential items. For 25 years, Kathy Drager worked at Northern Credit Union in Sault Ste. Marie and during her retirement she has returned to the work force at a local grocery store. Thanks to people like Kathy, people continue to have access to the food and other products they need.

Dashing Diva's is a group of local women who buy gifts for strangers, and leave them on their doorsteps as a means to provide a boost during a stressful time. The group’s reach has continued to grow, and they currently have about 8,000 members across three Facebook groups.

Dashing Diva's was started by Hope Smolik during the pandemic, and thanks to her efforts/the generosity of community members, hundreds people have received gifts over the past few months.

Dr. Luke Fera is a local physician and clinical epidemiologist. In addition to administering health care throughout the pandemic, he has shared recommendations and public health advice through social media. On Facebook, Dr. Fera has produced and shared numerous videos and messages advising residents of precautions related to COVID-19.

“As businesses reopen, it is even more important to take careful precautions, including wearing a mask while in a public place, vigorous hand washing and hand sanitization, and physical distancing,” reads a post from Dr. Fera from May 24. “You should continue to make social gatherings small and limit your errands and groceries to once per week. I cannot stress this enough. There is a very high risk that we could have a significant spike in the number of cases if people do not continue to follow the rules.”

Paramedics have an integral role on the front lines of healthcare, and throughout the pandemic, they have continued to go above and beyond to provide the best of care in often the worst of circumstances.

“While our community is doing its part following directions of stay at home and respecting physical distancing whenever possible, paramedics do not have that option,” reads a post from the Paramedics of Sault Ste. Marie Facebook page. “As a part of both the healthcare and first responder communities, these professionals are working day and night to protect the health of the community and their patients. Paramedics work hard to ensure your health and safety while in their care and the personal protective equipment a paramedic wears when you meet is to both safeguard them and ensure that you are safe and protected as well.”

Paramedics such as Jeff Orr have provided integral service to the community throughout the pandemic. For the past 29 years, Jeff has worked as a paramedic and our community continues to benefit from his expertise and hard work.

Eye Deal Optical is a locally owned and operated business proudly serving the Sault and area since 1995. In recognition of National Nurses Week, Eye Deal Optical Eye donated 100 protective face shields to frontline healthcare workers at Sault Area Hospital.

“In our small community of Sault Ste. Marie, we all know or love at least one nurse. Personally, at Eye Deal, we have family members, friends and MANY much loved customers who we want to celebrate this week,” reads a social media post from Eye Deal Optical. “Thank you for everything you have been doing during this scary time and for what you have been doing all along.”

Sandy and Craig Holmberg, along with their three daughters Carly, Cait and Lauren, operate Sunnynook Farms in Echo Bay. In addition to serving as a local food supplier to several restaurants, Sunnynook Farms offers a Community Shared Agriculture program. Community Supported Agriculture is an organized process involving the distribution and growth of organic produce, and Sunnynook Farms has adjusted operations to continue providing food during the COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, they have held contests on social media and provided the winner with free boxes of food.

Dr. Tara Guzzo is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist based in Sault Ste. Marie, and she hosts a show on Shaw Spotlight called, “Elevating Women's Wellness”. Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Guzzo has invited community practitioners on her show to talk about how people can deal with anxiety and stress during COVID-19; providing an important resource for community members.

Algoma Business Computers has been providing Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding areas with computer equipment and service since for more than three decades. During the pandemic, staff at Algoma Business Computers have worked hard to continue serving customers. With many people working from home and businesses/employees challenged with facilitating remote operations, Algoma Business Computers staff offers technical support and products to ensure customers have access to the required items to work from home.

“Without their friendly, courteous service and solution built processes this would not have been able to happen,” said Jessica Nadjiwon-Smith, ONWAA Executive Director. “We truly appreciate them and their service.”

For years, Gabi Doleske has been one of the leads for our local chapter of “Days for Girls” and her role has seen her organize monthly sewing bees which have produced thousands of menstrual products for girls and women in developing countries.

When COVID-19 reached our area, Days for Girls switched to making masks from home and for the past three months Gabi been sewing masks and helping to organize around 300 volunteers who are sewing at home; including troubleshooting design issues, picking up supplies from homes/stores and washing materials. Masks have been donated to Sault Area Hospital, ARCH, Community Living Algoma, and other across the community. Her mask design was approved by the hospital and became a template for local volunteers.

 

Dr. Lucas Castellani is an infectious diseases specialist at the Sault Area Hospital and throughout the pandemic he has worked hard to serve the community both through his position at the hospital and social media, where he has produced videos and messages urging residents to follow public health advice.

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Dr. Castellani earned his undergraduate degree in Lab Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto and then attended medical school at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He returned to the University of Toronto to complete his residency in internal medicine and adult infectious diseases. In 2015, he received both the Sopman Humanitarian Award and the University Health Network Resident Award.

The VON Victorian Order of Nurses Day Away Program staff and volunteers coordinate activities such as exercise classes, card and word games, communal outings and crafts for seniors and adults living with a disability or with Alzheimer's Disease, dementia or cognitive impairment.

During the pandemic, staff and volunteers have continued to care for their clients by virtually hosting activities such as weekly teleconferences and bingo games, along with providing resources such as puzzles, pictures and treats geared to the individual.

ARCH Hospice provides quality, compassionate care through end-of-life to Algoma District families at no cost. Throughout the pandemic, the care team at ARCH has gone above and beyond to serve community members while complying with public health recommendations.

While implementing active screening and tight visitor restrictions, the care team has come up with creative solutions for ensuring final wishes continue to be fulfilled.

During a typical year, Sault Search and Rescue logs over 4,000 volunteer hours and responds to land, marine and air search and rescues, numerous community service events and many training activities.

Sault Search and Rescue and its volunteers have continued to go above and beyond for the residents of our community during the pandemic. When the City’s community hotline was established, the Salvation Army worked with the City to create a partnership to put food boxes together for seniors and people with disabilities. Sault Search and Rescue volunteers served as the “boots on the ground” to get the food boxes to those most in need. Currently, this partnership has led to about 150 in-need homes (and counting) receiving food.

The Sault College Students' Union has continued to serve students throughout the pandemic by helping connect them to needed resources. The union has collaborated with the college to re-open the student food bank and establish the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund. Each of these initiatives assists students in different yet important ways and provides an added level of support to help them succeed.

Ahmad Alkosani, President, Sault College Students’ Union, and his team have planned and facilitated numerous foodbank activities and food giveaways for students; helping connect hundreds with the supports they need to get through a challenging period.

Julie Matteau is an RN at the FJ Davey Home who has gone above and beyond for residents of the long-term facility during the pandemic. Front line workers in the health care sector, such as Julie, have worked tirelessly to provide care to our community members.

Sault Area Hospital is one of only three hospitals in Northern Ontario accredited to provide in-house COVID-19 testing as a result of the work of Marianne Cuglietta (Senior Laboratory Technologist) and her laboratory team for their hard work delivering this vital service.

“We spent weeks researching our testing options, training and performing test validation and were recently granted our license. We were fortunate because we already had the equipment and expertise in place,” said Cuglietta. “Test kit materials are in high demand and we are competing with the entire world for supplies so we are limiting testing to our inpatients only at this time, with an eye on current expansion for the future.”

Benefits of in-house testing include quicker turnaround times with results being available within 24 hours. In-house testing also supports Infection Prevention and Control efforts, personal protective equipment conservation and patient care excellence.

During the pandemic, radiologists at the Sault Area Hospital have been working from home, and home workstations can pose challenges with loading images and speed. Thanks to the hard work of the teams from Aecon Group Inc. (led by Larry McFadden) and Bell, staff at the hospital have access to faster broadband.

According to Sault Area Hospital, radiologists are able to provide timely reporting/ordering and physicians can receive “real time” access to reports; whether the radiologists are onsite or at home. This ensures the hospital continues to provide patient care throughout the pandemic without delays or changes to service.

Dr. Yves Landry is an Intensive Care Physician at the Sault Area Hospital, and one of Sault Ste. Marie's tremendous front line workers serving our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Born in Thunder Bay and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Dr. Landry returned to our community to work at the Intensive Care Unit at SAH. Intensivists are trained to manage high acuity in patients.

“By the nature of our role, we are accustomed to working with very sick patients who most often, require care from a number of health care providers/specialties,” said Dr. Landry. “We consult with other specialties but we are responsible for managing the overall treatment plan to ensure the patient receives optimal care.”

While self-isolating with her family earlier this spring, Sarah Skagen realized that children in our community were going to miss out on a traditional Easter egg hunt. Sarah came up with the idea of painting eggs on the windows of homes across Sault Ste. Marie and encouraging parents to walk with them/drive them around to find the eggs. As a result of Sarah’s idea and hard work, thousands of local children had a positive experience during a difficult time.

Following the success of the Easter egg hunt, Sarah came up with the idea of encouraging people to leave teddy bears and coloured hearts in their windows as a way to show support for essential and front line workers.

 

Dr. Joanna Lamberts, a local dentist, led a PPE drive among dentists in Sault Ste. Marie to provide much needed PPE at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Lamberts worked directly with Sault Area Hospital to ensure they had any resources that were available when the need was the greatest.

 





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