At College of the Ozarks, many opportunities to serve others have surfaced in the midst of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis.
Fulfilling the needs
Janice Williams, director for the Armstrong McDonald School of Nursing at the College, knew there would be a need the nursing program could fill to help those on the front lines, medical personnel.
“One of our first thoughts was related to our area clinical partners and how we could encourage and assist them during this time,” Williams said. “When in dialogue with the chief nursing officer, Lynne Yaggy, at Cox Branson, she stated that they needed more PPE [personal protective equipment] — masks, gloves, gowns, etc. Immediately, our simulation coordinator, Karen Shepherd, inventoried unused PPE supplies and passed these on to Lynne.”
“I woke up Monday morning from our spring break and had two issues on my mind: When will PPE for our Cox Branson employees run out and can we give them our supplies? and who was going to milk the cows?” Shepherd said. “Giving supplies was a great way to feel involved and helpful. I’m thankful we had supplies available.”
The cows are being well cared for by staff and faculty as more than 30 employees cross-trained to care for the animals on all farms – hog, dairy, and beef farms – and the other workstations that must remain operational, such as the switchboard, landscaping, and power plant.
Blessings in disguise
Dobyns Dining Room at The Keeter Center serves more than 2,300 people per week in the popular restaurant. With the doors temporarily closed, however, Executive Chef Robert Stricklin had a surplus of perishable items.
“I hate nothing more than wasting food,” Stricklin said. “We had all these perishable items, and no one to serve in the restaurant. But we knew we could bless many people by donating milk, eggs, produce, and lettuce and kale from the C of O hydroponic gardens.”
The Keeter Center donated items to Christian Action Ministries and prepared a grocery box for all of The Keeter Center managers who were still working.
Craig Ernsting, director of food service at the Pearl Rogers Dining Center on campus, also found a way to bless others with a donation of food items to the Kirbyville School District. They provide meals for all of their students three times a week. The College gave 828 apples, 120 pears, 450 pounds of potatoes, 12 gallons of orange juice, and 50 pounds of yogurt to the school district.
Kirbyville Schools received the following from a parent: “Thanks for bringing the lunches! [My son’s] anxiety was kicking in because he knows I’m not working right now, and he feels so much happier with a bag of his very own food! (We’ll be ok, but it’s going to be a long spring for sure).”
Ernsting also is finding ways to care for the campus family during this difficult time.
“This week, I started a program where the campus community can buy hard-to-find items from me,” he said. “Eggs, flour, and sugar are not easily found in local supermarkets but are still available in bulk to me. In addition, this week we implemented a carry-out program for the campus community that will feed a family of four with a main entrée and two side dishes.”
“When I found out about the College offering the fully prepared meals for faculty and staff, I was thrilled,” said Chelsey Leimkuehler, The Keeter Center guest services manager. “I have a 45-minute commute to the College, so knowing that my family can sit down and eat dinner right when I get home is a huge blessing. These meals are cost effective for my family, only $12 per meal, which comes out to $3 per person in a family of four. During these trying times throughout our communities, I have been blown away with the efforts that the Pearl Rogers Dining Center staff and College administrators have made to ensure the campus family is taken care of.”
A fortuitus purchase
Samantha Overturf, junior family studies and social work double major from Republic, Missouri, has found a way to serve others and use a unique skill. Sometime ago, she purchased an old sewing machine from a garage sale. She hoped to revive her old hobby. Little did she know how useful that machine would become at just the right time. She’s using it to help others during the COVID-19 crisis.
“My mom found a pattern for face masks, posted on Facebook by a hospital, and I already had the sewing machine,” she said. “I was so excited the details all came together as they did.”
Overturf prepares masks for local hospitals in Springfield, Missouri. When she is not making masks, she is busy learning online and working part time for a license company. Her service to others is a motivation to all around her, including her College of the Ozarks family.
“This young lady is humble, hardworking, and compassionate,” said Toni Whitted, C of O staff member. “She would never say this, but she is a hero.”
The power of prayer
As the College, and the whole country, navigates through unchartered waters, people can feel frustrated when trying to help others and yet stay distant physically. Williams knows that in a time like this, prayer is of utmost importance. She is concerned, not only for her students (future nurses), but also for her graduates, those who are currently the front line of defense.
“Armstrong McDonald School of Nursing faculty and staff are praying specifically for each of our 180 graduates,” Williams said. “One of us is praying for the graduates of the class of 2010, 2011, all the way through the class of 2019. These amazing nurses are on the front lines, providing excellent care and calming patients’ fears. They are in a unique position to be the “anchor” and “calm” in the midst of this health crisis. We are in good hands!”
Professors are praying for the students as well.
“Praying is a powerful way to connect with them even though they may not know we are praying,” Shepherd said. “Through texts or emails and GoToMeetings, we are encouraging our students to trust in the Lord, be patient with themselves, stay safe, recognize God is in control, be prayerful, and stay in the Word. We keep encouraging them to take it one day at a time, and we are still continuing forward with learning, even though the way of delivering education is different.”