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7's Hero: Idaho Facebook group helps people show appreciation for healthcare and frontline workers

The group is called Idaho - Adopt a Healthcare/Frontline Worker, and it's a way to let those who have battled COVID-19 for the past year know you care.

BOISE, Idaho — The last year has been extremely difficult for healthcare and frontline workers across Idaho due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It's been a rough year," said Christy Bennett, a nursing supervisor for Family Medical Residency of Idaho.

Bennett is just one of the thousands of healthcare workers who have been treating COVID-19 patients for months. 

"We've all been worried about having enough PPE, not having enough staffing," she said. "Just a lot to deal with." 

In addition to the internal challenges, healthcare workers are also faced with Idahoans who do not take the pandemic seriously.

"It's been pretty disappointing," Bennett said. "I will admit I've tried to be proactive in educating friends and family members, and to have people not think this is real has been really disappointing."

Despite the challenges, individuals and groups throughout the community have shown their immense gratitude to frontline workers battling the pandemic. Among these groups is Idaho- Adopt a Healthcare/ Frontline Worker.

Healthcare workers join the group and share a bit about themselves with the other members, as well as a private Amazon wish list. Members of this group then "adopt" healthcare and other frontline workers and gift them small things from their wish list.

"The goal is, at this point, to get people who are not in healthcare to adopt a healthcare or frontline worker. It could be nurses, doctors, paramedics, firefighters, policemen, anyone on the front line during this pandemic," said Rebecca Barry, one of the administrators of the Facebook group. "You commit when you adopt to giving three gifts over a three-month period, so three gifts total."

There are currently more than 400 members in the group. There have been over 60 adoptions and about 20 frontline workers are waiting to be adopted. 

"I think it's one of those things where the right person has to come along at the right time and make that connection," Barry said. 

When Bennett heard about this group, she decided to try it out for herself. The day her gifts arrived on her doorstep, she was incredibly touched.

"I was in tears that whole evening just thinking, 'Someone thought I was worth the time to adopt me," she said. "It's one of the best ways to connect with somebody in our community that has been working hard the last year just trying to keep going every single day. I can't describe the amount of gratitude I felt just receiving something from a random stranger." 

Many of the frontline workers in the group are also adopting each other, sharing their stories, and making new friends who know what they are dealing with.

"I would just go to the list and buy random people random gifts so that everybody was at least getting something, and the gratitude and appreciation just came back one hundredfold," Bennett said.  

Although Idaho's vaccine rollout is moving quickly and case numbers are down in comparison to where they were in the winter, healthcare and frontline workers are still deep in this pandemic.

"They're coping with what's left behind. They are the people who are getting forgotten about in some ways. The case rate is declining, we justify it to ourselves, but they have a year of memories to manage. They have a year of fear, a year of pain that they are still processing," Barry said. "I don't think that goes away just because the caseload is dropping, and I think we can still be there for them because they were there for us, and they were before and they will be again. Just to have someone say 'I see you' is so important in this climate." 

You can join the group as an adopter or an adoptee by clicking here.

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