BOONE — After hearing about the positive feedback after the pastoral community simply stood along the hospital employee walkway and thanked the staff for their service, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce decided to do something similar with a “Thankful Thursday” event.

Katie Greene, director of communication and marketing for the Chamber, said they were approached in early September by Laura Weant, the Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, with the idea to mobilize community members — and the business community — around a campaign to show support to the ARHS staff at Watauga Medical Center.

“We pulled in Lisa Shelton, the director of employee assistance, to advise on how to focus our efforts, considering current visitor and gift restrictions on the WMC campus,” Greene said. “Lisa brought up the positive feedback she received after the pastoral community just simply stood along the employee walkway and thanked the staff for their service.”

Greene said the hospital staff have been full throttle since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 20 months ago.

“They are absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally, and our goal was to make them feel seen, valued and appreciated for protecting our community,” Greene said. “Every single employee in every single department across the board is feeling the effects of COVID-19 and every single one of them deserves to feel the community rallying behind them.”

The Chamber decided an hour time slot during both morning and night shift changes would be best since traffic along the walkway would be at the highest. Greene said some folks showed up with hand-made signs, their kids, their dogs, friends and family members. Greene said some businesses brought items like cookies, coffee and biscuits.

“The feedback from the staff was overwhelming…lots of smiles, some tears shed, some even shared stories of how this small gesture gave them the strength to push another day,” Greene said. “We organized three consecutive ‘Thankful Thursday’ events, but hope that the effort builds momentum and community members continue to be present. Putting action behind our gratitude for these employees should be ongoing.”

Greene said the Chamber has a unique platform in terms of audience and simply served as the “community gatherer” in the events.

“The people and businesses that show up is what make this effort so special,” Greene said.

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