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Health-care workers battling COVID given thank you cards, gifts

The first batch of packages was delivered to the Olds hospital on Tuesday
MVT Thank you health-care workers Olds
Mary Turner, right, an organizer of a drive to create more than 900 thank you cards for front line health care workers and Olds Hospital site manager Wayne Krejci, left carry boxes of thank you card packages into the hospital on Nov. 2. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — Thank you packages from local service clubs and other groups were distributed today to Olds hospital employees as part of a plan to distribute more than 900 cards to front-line health-care workers.

As of Nov. 5, a total of 656 were delivered to front-line health care workers in Olds. Plans called for 319 to be sent to front-line health care workers in Sundre on Nov. 8.

They’re in appreciation for the sacrifices front-line health-care workers have made over the past 19 months or so to battle COVID-19 in an effort to keep residents safe.

Each package includes a thank you card and a letter of thanks as well as some treats.

The letter says, in part, “we want you to know that we care for you!

“We have taken time to write to you personally; creating cards over the last few weeks to express our thanks for what you are doing every day to keep our community going. 

“We recognize health-care team members who have been working day and night through this global pandemic without a break to help our community.

“This personal message from us to each of you is our way to say Thank You, along with a small treat in a special package for you from us."

The idea is the brainchild of Mary Turner, a member of the Rotary Club of Olds who also works at Wild Rose Medical Centre.

Turner got the idea back in the spring of 2020 when her mother was hospitalized with chronic pneumonia and she was unable to care for her, due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I had to rely on the hospital staff to care for her in her last three weeks of life and I never got an opportunity to say thank you,” she said during an interview.

The idea stayed with her as wave after wave of COVID hit the community.

About three weeks ago, Turner decided to turn that thought into action.

“I thought ‘now more than ever, when we’re in the fourth wave, we need to reach out and say ‘thank you.’”

She approached Rotary Club of Olds president Paul Gustafson with an idea to have club members write thank you cards. 

“He thought it was just awesome,” she said. 

“So then a couple of days later, we got together virtually online and we spent an hour-and-a-half socializing online, writing cards – just our club.”

Initially the idea was to write cards and create thank you gifts for the hospital’s 323 employees. But then Turner got the idea to expand those efforts to all the other health-care workers in town, including those in medical clinics, pharmacies, mental health and addictions workers, seniors’ homes as well as ambulance staff.

Two other service clubs in town -- the Kiwanis Club of Olds and the Olds Lion Club -- were approached and they too agreed to help out, as did teachers and students from École Olds High School; École Deer Meadow School; École Olds Elementary School as well as the Olds Rotary Interact Club, which consists of ÉOHS students; Olds Regional Exhibition; Olds College; the Catholic Women’s League and Girl Guides.

“I was aiming for the hospital staff and then I was hoping that it was going to grow bigger and I'm just thrilled that it has, because everybody needs to be appreciated for the work they’re doing,” Turner said.

A kind of packaging bee was held at the Cow Palace Oct. 28 where the thank you cards, letters and gifts were all put together and loaded into boxes.

Turner said she was “overwhelmed” and “thrilled” with the way everyone pitched in to help.

“All these cards are personally written, hand-written messages. They’re all different, they’re all unique,” Turner said. "It’s just blossomed, it’s amazing. We have over 700 cards right now.”

She’s pleased that the idea has spread from there. 

On Friday, it was introduced to all Rotary clubs in the local district, which stretches from Ponoka to the U.S. border and from Kindersley, Saskatchewan to the B.C. border. The Rotary district that includes Edmonton is doing the same.

Kiwanis Club of Olds president Betty Baril was pleased to have her club involved. 

“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been in this project and we’re all excited to join. It’s a way to thank the front-line health-care workers,” she said.

“The cards and the bags, it’s just a small token of appreciation for all they have done, right?

“We just want them to know that all their hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed, that we appreciate them. Their sacrifice has affected lives in our community.” 

Baril estimated that volunteers in her club wrote messages in more than 100 thank you cards.

Olds Lions Club president Jessica Lee was also happy to have her club involved.

“I think it’s a great initiative for the community to thank our health-care workers and to have representation from the service clubs. It’s just awesome, and I was so grateful to be approached,” she said. 

Lee said eight Lions Club members wrote messages on about 150 cards a couple of weeks ago.