Showing their appreciation: How LaGrange County is giving back to its local hospital

From signs on social media, to prayer nights, and luminary walks, residents across Northeast Indiana are coming out to support local healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. Disler

As the region’s largest healthcare provider, Parkview Health has seen several acts of kindness toward its staff. While you might think of Parkview as its sprawling campus on Dupont Road in Fort Wayne, its rural hospitals are feeling the love, too, says Jordi Disler, President of Parkview LaGrange Hospital. 

With an estimated population of 37,100 residents in the 2010 census, the LaGrange County community includes many rural and Amish areas, like Shipshewana. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to rural places with higher populations of older residents, having a quality healthcare provider close to home is something that LaGrange County residents are not taking for granted, Disler says.

Parkview Health purchased the Community Hospital of LaGrange County in 2005 and opened it as a new and improved modern medical facility in 2008.

Parkview LaGrange Hospital opened in 2008.

Ann Kadish, Media and Community Relations Specialist at Parkview LaGrange, remembers the old hospital as being ill-equipped for a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, with double rooms and emergency bays separated by curtains.

“The affiliation with Parkview has been a life-changer for the community,” Kadish says.  A snack basket from Farmers State Bank in LaGrange.

The new facility has single rooms throughout and technology to support advanced digital diagnostics, digital medical records, virtual healthcare visits, and more.

It’s upgrades like these that make a world of difference in a rural community’s ability to withstand a pandemic, Disler says. But beyond structural advances, community resilience to any health crisis can also be measured by the dedication of its hospital staff working day and night on the frontlines. And in LaGrange County, rural residents are showing staff just how much they care. 

“We are that resource of trust and strength for them when they are in need, and now, they’re supporting us just as much,” Disler says.

All week, she’s been collecting photos of the acts of goodwill community members are pouring out on the hospital and its employees.

A few weeks ago, a local family used sidewalk chalk to decorate the front and back entrances of Parkview LaGrange with two large “thank you” displays.

“Any of us going in and out of the building knew that there were people thinking of us,” Disler says.

Less than a week later, the LaGrange Church of God set up luminaries on the sidewalk inscribed with thank you’s and inspirational verses. 

The luminaries glow for nightshift workers.

Since then, Disler says the hospital has received numerous thank you signs and cards, as well as other tokens of appreciation. LaGrange neighbors hang "thank you" signs for hospital staff on fences.

Before Parkview Health’s official mask-making program was announced, several LaGrange community members started calling about donating handmade masks, Disler says.

“More than 600 masks have been made and donated to Parkview LaGrange alone,” she adds. “That’s not counting another 1,000 that a local company is currently sewing.”

One company in LaGrange that has stepped up is Lund International, which usually designs and manufactures automobile accessories, and is now making masks on a volunteer basis.

“They’ve set themselves up at a safe social distance on sewing machines, and when they knew they were sewing for local healthcare workers, their faces just lit up,” Disler says. “They knew they were helping their neighbors.”

Local restaurants, businesses, and organizations across northeast Indiana have been donating meals and snacks for hospital staff, as well. Tiffany’s Family Restaurant in Topeka provides meals for Parkview LaGrange staff.

Tiffany’s Family Restaurant in Topeka is providing meals for Parkview LaGrange Hospital’s staff three days a week.

Eel River Elementary School in Fort Wayne has also donated meals to its emergency room and medical floor staff where COVID-19 patients are housed and screened.

Other groups, like Precision Financial Group, LLC, in LaGrange have donated funds to the hospital so it can purchase healthy snacks for their employees, and companies like Farmers State Bank in LaGrange and Community Baptist Church in Wolcottville have donated snack baskets for break rooms.

“We all keep saying we’re going to gain weight,” Disler jokes. “It’s just amazing to see the outpouring of support.”

A day doesn’t go by when the hospital staff doesn’t receive a text or a letter thanking them for what they are doing. As President, Disler makes it a point to share these with employees, so they realize how much their sacrifice of time, energy, and personal safety is appreciated.

“Everyone who goes into healthcare knows that they’re going to be caring for others,” Disler says. “However, when caring for others can be harmful to your own health, it adds an extra sense of urgency and caution to the situation. Our employees are amazing people—some of most selfless people I know. They’re willing to put themselves out there for others. Some have had to make hard choices about changing their personal routines or making arrangements for their children to stay elsewhere so they don’t risk infecting them. They are working hard, but it’s something they’re willing to do because it’s what they’re called to do.”

Eel River Elementary School in Fort Wayne donated meals to Parkview LaGrange staff.

And in a rural community like LaGrange County, the support the healthcare workers see from friends, neighbors, and complete strangers makes a difference. 

“The reality is that at a rural community hospital, many times our staff ends up taking care of their friends and neighbors, and they know that we’re all in this together,” Disler says. “Sometimes, on the frontlines, it can feel very lonely, so the staff are just so gracious about the support they are getting. They know that what they’re doing is appreciated.”

Want to support regional healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Here’s a quick Q&A with Parkview staff to help.

Q: Is Parkview accepting homemade masks?
A:
We are accepting and welcome homemade masks at this time. Once complete, all masks can be delivered to 3718 New Vision Drive or to your local Parkview community hospital between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donated masks will be laundered by Hospital Laundry Service before they are distributed. Please note that we are not accepting fabric donations at this time.

Businesses wishing to donate their supply of unused PPE, such as N-95 masks and gloves, can do so by dropping them off at the Parkview Distribution Center, 1450 Production Road, Fort Wayne, to be vetted for safety before distribution.

Please email [email protected] with any questions about the mask creation or donation process.

Q: Can people donate food to hospital staff?
A:
Please direct all food donation questions to [email protected].

Q: What else can people do to help?
A:
The American Red Cross is in critical need of blood donations as COVID-19 is causing serious shortages in blood supply. Visit redcrossblood.org for information on how you can donate.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.