By Tucker Harris
BIG SKY/BOZEMAN – Healthcare workers have been working tirelessly for more than a year and half to keep communities healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. One Big Sky organization is spearheading an initiative to give something back to those giving so much of themselves on the frontline.
The Yellowstone Club Community Foundation is working in collaboration with Bozeman Health to provide boxed lunches for the Big Sky Medical Center and Bozeman’s Deaconess Hospital staff on a few select Thursdays, an initiative aptly called Thankful Thursdays.
Thankful Thursdays were crafted as a way to express support and directly benefit Bozeman Health staff. “Healthcare workers are continuing day after day, doing the best they can, to serve us,” said Ciara Wolfe, VP of philanthropy at YCCF. “We wanted to say thank you and try to lift their spirits in a kind way.”
YCCF has executed three Thankful Thursdays this month, two in Big Sky and one in Bozeman. Over those three days, 3,000 boxed lunches were distributed to healthcare staff, catered by BYWOM and Gourmet Gals in Big Sky and Firehouse Subs in Bozeman. The final Thankful Thursdays will be at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital on Thanksgiving day.
Funding for Thankful Thursdays is being drawn from money donated by Yellowstone Club members in the spring of 2020 that went into the Big Sky Relief fund, used for pandemic support. In addition to Thankful Thursdays, the donations have funded grants for nonprofits who are starting mental or behavioral health programs, vaccine incentive programs and grants to individuals who lost work before unemployment benefits began.
This token of appreciation has not gone unnoticed. “It’s amazing, honestly,” said Paige Bichler, Deaconess Hospital Emergency Department nurse manager. “Staff are tired and stressed, people are tired and stressed, not just in the hospital, but in our community. Anything to lift the spirits of our staff is pretty wonderful and we are very grateful for the lunch.”
Lauren Brendel, system director of marketing and communications and public information officer at Bozeman Health, compared the tireless efforts of Bozeman Health staff to running a marathon without a finish line. She says the best way community members can help support their healthcare workers is by getting immunized against COVID-19. Recognize that everyone is tired, she said, so be kind to one another.
Wolfe said that YCCF hopes Thankful Thursdays will serve as a model for other businesses and nonprofits to give back to our healthcare workers in ways that they can. The greater community of Big Sky has found other ways to express their gratitude during this trying period for healthcare workers, including posting yard signs with supportive messages, sending cards and emails and organizing a virtual hug.
“It’s really heart-warming to see the community support of our healthcare workers,” Brendel said. “It’s all so thoughtful and definitely appreciated; these meals help boost morale of everyone who’s working and caring for patients.”