Scottsbluff community members took the phrase “it takes a village” seriously in a recent fundraiser project for healthcare workers.
Organized by Team Ashtyn’s Jennifer Schwartz, various friends, family, local businesses and student organizations helped put together 37 large gift baskets to show numerous local health care workers appreciation for all they’ve done and gone through this past year.
Schwartz said the idea stemmed from Giving Tuesday.
“In the past, obviously, I’ve used my Team Ashtyn Foundation as the Giving Tuesday platform,” she said. “But I thought, ‘Man, we’ve gotten so much we’ve received so much. Maybe I can, you know, use my Giving Tuesday for some other campaigns.’ So, I just came up with the ‘Health care Self-Care’ is what I called it.”
Schwartz said she knew the amount of work health care workers have been putting in, not just treating COVID patients, but other patients as well this year. As a teacher, she knows many people have been talking about how teachers are on the frontlines, but she wanted to acknowledge that the health care professionals are right up there too.
The project started as a fundraiser on Facebook Schwartz created on Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. She received $420 through that alone, but was then contacted by Ronnie Sims, who runs the Longfellow Boys’ Club, which Schwartz said dedicated to teaching chivalry, manners and other good citizen traits to young boys. He said his group of kids would like to help out, and they donated another $200.
Schwartz then presented the idea to her fifth-grade students at Westmoor, and they decided they would do some fun fundraising activities during the last week of school to help raise more money.
“It tied in … to something I do every year,” Schwartz said. “I’ve always kind of wanted them to learn about the importance of leaving a legacy, something where you’ll be reminded of the good things that you do.”
During the last week of school before winter break, students could pay 50 cents to participate in various fun activities, including crazy hair day, gum chewing day and dress as your favorite decade day. This week-long fundraiser raised another $472.30.
With just under $1,200 raised, Schwartz reached out to Jana Mount at the Flower Basket at Main Street Market and Susan Wiedeman, marketing director for Panhandle Coop. She was looking for space to build baskets, as well as some grocery shopping and basket building expertise.
“They got a lot for their money, because, you know … I kind of told them what areas had what in the store for them to get,” Wiedeman said. “It was just a way for our community to kind of show them (health care workers) that we’re thinking of them. We appreciate all of their hard work for this past year.”
Schwartz also recruited the students in the HOSA organization at Scottsbluff High School. She thought they might be interested in helping since the organization is for students looking to pursue a career in the medical field. Jen Harre, co-adviser of the group with Kelly Larson, ended up bringing 14 students to pick out snacks and help pack the baskets.
“Since HOSA’s future health professionals, we thought, you know, what better way to give back (than) to our current health care professionals who have worked so hard and been very dedicated in the last eight months,” Harre said. “So, we thought that was a great way for us to contribute, because these are all students that are aspiring to be future health care professionals. … This was a great way to show our appreciation for our community’s health care providers.”
The students were given a $100 limit and then went shopping at Main Street Market on Monday Dec. 28, picking out individually wrapped snack, food and drink items. Once students started coming to a back room at the coop with their goods, they, along with some other community volunteers, started assembling the baskets, creating a total of 37 large baskets.
Then later that day, everyone took a few baskets and delivered them to the hospital, Valley ambulance, clinics, nursing homes, funeral homes and the Panhandle Public Health Department.
Despite the fact that the idea for this appreciation project came from Schwartz, she said it wouldn’t have happened without the many people who stepped up, volunteered and ran with her idea. For her, it’s not about who did what, but about how the community was able to come together for a good cause.
“I can only honestly take credit for the idea, and I’m really good at recruiting the right people. …So many people donated to the cause, and really, I hate to take credit other than I know the right people who will work with me,” she said. “Most of the credit (should) go to the kids who helped, the kids who, you know, just took on my idea and just kind of ran with it.
"This community did this for our family not that long ago, and I feel like it’s just a nice repayment. And these communities love their people. … They have each other’s backs, and they support people in need. And I’ve seen that over and over. That’s just been modeled over and over, and so it’s just a great thing to be a part of just very supportive and loving communities.”