As COVID-19 frontline workers push their physical and mental limits from caring for patients, they could all use a hug — something prohibited in our new-but-temporary normal.
Luckily, Isabella Morrison, a junior at Milpitas High School, can give them one virtually.
Morrison is the founder of Milpitas Gives Back, a growing community volunteer group that collects and sends letters of encouragement to nurses, police officers, doctors, paramedics, and other essential workers.
The young Milpitian learned how serious and emotional the coronavirus pandemic could be while browsing Twitter. She came across a video of a nurse crying, exhausted from the influx of patients in her hospital. It was then that Morrison realized the pandemic was so much more than what she had seen on TV.
She, like many others, looked for a way to help.
“After seeing that and seeing how much it affects them, I also realized how many people I’ve heard say, ‘I wish there was more I could do to help, but I’m stuck at home.’”
Morrison quickly solicited letters for essential workers and set up an Instagram page and email to ask for more of them.
Morrison has collected an estimated 15 messages for Milpitas Gives Back so far, in both physical and digital form. They range from cute drawings by children to heartfelt postcards from students and adults. Morrison is relying more on PDFs and digital cards to make sending files easier. She still accepts paper letters, however, which she takes pictures of to send to frontline workers.
Morrison’s ambitions don’t stop there. She’s looking to compile the submissions she receives into a slideshow and send it out to the workers — everyone from nurses to restaurateurs to grocery cashiers. She’s also in talks for a larger project with groups like Coronacovery, a student-run collaborative that delivers groceries and essential items to residents, and Project Maskify, a group that donates handmade masks to the county’s medical workers.
“These are trying times for everyone,” Morrison said. “For everyone to come together and appreciate our healthcare workers and other essential workers is important. But it will also make us realize all the things we take for granted when things are normal.”
When California’s shelter-in-place order is finally lifted — and Morrison, like many of us, hopes it’s sooner than later — Morrison hopes to continue the project. And she hopes the rush of support that brought frontline workers to the spotlight isn’t shut off.
“It just puts into perspective how much work they [frontline workers] put in not just during crisis, but every day,” Morrision said. “It’s a warm feeling to see so many people willing to give their time to this project, and to see them make a difference in the lives of our essential workers.”