What does it take to continue to serve vulnerable people during the treacherous time of the COVID Pandemic? Grit, determination, a sense of humor, flexibility, and science.
When it became clear in March 2020 that the Pandemic was real and dangerous, all SMGW (Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington) offices closed for in-person services and made plans to pivot to virtual online services and limited direct services on our porches. At NOVA, this meant setting up intake and service stations at 6-foot intervals, watching the numbers – the surrounding jurisdictions’ 7-day average new case counts.
Throughout, the SMGW COVID Taskforce met (and continues to meet) weekly to review the latest figures from DC, NOVA, and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, MD. About February 2021, when the vaccines were available and effective and the new case numbers were beginning to decrease, this team set up a 28-day Countdown Clock for re-opening. It was decided that NOVA might open first, as they had a track record – and the 2207 Columbia Pike house was set up for safe social distancing and the safety protocols and procedures were in place.
The clock began ticking on April 21, 2021 – but like all processes – life interfered and the re-opening was set for Wednesday, June 9. The countdown included: making sure the space was set for a maximum of seven people, the plexi-glass shields and 6-foot spacing signs were on the floor, the new hours and opening were communicated to all involved and appointments made with Participants. Most important the NOVA office needed a roster of trained, enthusiastic, caring staff. At a minimum to open, each office needs an SMGW employee (for NOVA, Lead Case Worker, Jane Bishop, and a Front Office Coordinator (FOC). Sy Jones, Volunteer Coordinator, came to the rescue!
And this is how we came up roses! We opened with a friendly face familiar to some Participants, Susan Weinbeck, rejoining our team after a three-year absence. Susan said, “It’s great to be back!” And not only did she pitch right in, but asked if we could use some disposable post-surgical personal supplies. Well, that very day a Participant, who has been waiting for over a year and working hard toward a date for some restorative surgery, called to say the date has been set for July 7. The supplies will be put to very good use!
Then on Thursday, Susan and Katie Rice, SMGW new summer Intern from Virginia Tech, came in to shadow Ivy Kilby, who has served as FOC from November 2019 through regular open hours, porch-only COVID hours, some open COVID hours, back to the porch, and now to re-open. Talk about a person with
grit, determination, a sense of humor, and flexibility. Unfortunately, for us June 17 was her last service day as her Navy husband is being transferred. So we say: Welcome back, Susan; welcome aboard, Katie; and to Ivy, Thank you so much. The NOVA Team salutes you for all your hard work and good cheer and wishes you the best!
And to all current and future Participants and Volunteers, come on in! Thanks be to God.