While health care workers and first responders strive even more to go above and beyond to care for others during COVID-19, there is a local effort to care for them in return.
Financial assistance for day care of health care workers and first responders’ children will be provided as Divine Providence of SD and others plan for the impending pandemic curve that looms ahead for South Dakota and the Watertown area. A $4,000 grant from the Watertown Relief Fund at the Watertown Area Community Foundation will help with the effort still in the planning stages.
“I had heard in some of the meetings (in the Watertown COVID-19 Task Force) that health care workers were already beginning to feel ‘How am I going to handle all this stress in relation to my job and family,’” commented Jo Vitek, Divine Providence of South Dakota president. Divine Providence is the grantee working with others to bring this plan to fruition ahead of the curve.
Deciding to apply for the grant was an easy decision. Healthcare workers and the first responders have a lot to deal with in caring for the rest of us… not to mention that many of their spouses have lost their jobs, she said.
“I’ll speak from experience,” Vitek continued. “When I served in Florida with Tony (Vitek’s spouse, who passed away last year), we lived through several hurricanes. You’re on the front line, taking care of the community… You’re answering calls for service and your family gets put on the back burner.” With COVID-19, there’s the contagion factor as well.
“There’s also the psychological component to it because when things get tougher - and they will – they need not worry about their child care,” Vitek explained. “They can focus more on the job they are doing.” Hopefully, knowing that childcare will be taken care of, will give these people a little more peace of mind.
Liz Christianson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Watertown, shared that other Boys & Girls Clubs in the state are already serving this purpose. The Watertown Club will also reopen specifically to provide child care for health care works and first responders. Two day care centers, Little Blessings and the Lake Area Tech Educare will also help in the effort and are currently open and following safety protocols for COVID-19.
Presently, the clinics, Prairie Lakes Health Care Center and first responders are being surveyed to help gauge the need for both numbers of children and anticipated hours. “We’re trying to be ready,” Vitek said. “We are looking at where we are now and what we could potentially face in coming weeks.”
Vitek said she has been amazed with the volunteerism and organized efforts going on in the community as a result of COVID-19. This daycare effort is just another example, she said. Lake Area Tech Vice President Diane Stiles is leading the Child Care for Emergency Workers Initiative along with Alison Gilbertson of PLH. “They are doing an exceptional job,” said Vitek, adding, “I think we have some really capable people working on this whether it’s human resources at the clinics and hospital, Julie Stevenson our Divine Providence treasurer, the day care providers…” These efforts are being as proactive as possible. “We’re trying to look around the corner and see what’s coming with the curve by looking at other parts of the nation that are ahead of us in this crisis.”