BRYAN, TEXAS — During this pandemic, donating meals to essential workers has become an inspiring sight, and lifeline for many that are working tirelessly to serve.
Here in Bryan-College Station, the community has been dedicated to providing this service of giving.
"In two days, it has exploded with support and encouragement, and people really want to help," said Wendy Flynn, an effort organizer, in response to the new increase in donations.
"We need to help them, and help them get through their day. They are taking care of our friends, and family members, who are actually in the hospital. We can help them, while they are helping others. It's an easy thing for us to do" Flynn added.
Just over the snowy weekend, nearly 1400 meals have either been delivered, or planned, for our local healthcare workers. All of which, were made possible by the immediate support of the community.
"This morning when I came in, I got tearful, because there was food everywhere. Everyone was so grateful. There were like "we are working 13 hours shifts" and they are doing it with a smile, and they are taking the absolute best care of our patients," Heather Bankston, RN at CHI St. Joseph in Bryan said.
Brazos County has been seeing a consistent number of near-full hospital beds, and an ICU bed occupancy mark exceeding 120% in recent days, an unimaginable work load for those taking care of people who need it most.
Fitting in a balanced lunch? Not really a top priority when battling the latest case spike within Brazos County.
"We created a Meal Train online, for people, to send in donations of meals for the ICU at St. Joseph's in Bryan, and then we started hearing from other units, that were equally slammed with patient loads," Flynn added.
Expanding care from the hospital rooms, to the break rooms, Bankston, a Registered Nurse in Bryan, took it upon herself to provide assistance outside of her clinical care.
"So, I asked permission from Admin here, if I could post it on Facebook, and within hours, food started being delivered. We are not just doing ICU, we are doing the whole entire hospital, Lab, X-ray, everybody, not just one department," Bankston added.
Extending to other departments like the Critical Care Unit. Mary Menjares, also a Registered Nurse, says in her near 40-year nursing career, shes has never seen the level of support like she is witnessing now.
Starting her career out during the AIDS epidemic, she says shes never seen this kind of support for hospital staff ever.
"There was no outpouring of support for the medical community, and that was back in the early 80s, this has been something. This has been heart-warming, to see the people we serve appreciate what we do for them," Menjares said.
Assisting her own coronavirus healthcare workers, Bankston says, its the people behind the push.
"Because I love my St. Joseph family. The staff here at this hospital, are absolutely amazing. I just started my 21st year here, and I wouldn't work anywhere else," Bankston added.
On top of hot meals rolling in, so have the donations. Nearly $4,000 dollars have been raised since Friday.
This added source, is another avenue to keep dollars here, by pumping them back into the local community and locally-owned restaurants.
Organizers says, they hope to see these efforts span to other local medical facilities as well.
If you would like to support, you can do so within the links below.
Baylor S&W ICU/COVID Unit (35):
CHI St. Joe's Bryan - ICU (30):
CHI St. Joe's College Station - ICU (10-20):
CHI St. Joe's PCU/Telemetry/COVID Unit - College Station (25):
CHI St. Joe's Bryan ER (36):
CHI St. Joe's College Station - ER (15) :
To donate cash that will be used to purchase grab-and-go snacks, and meals directly from local restaurants, you may Venmo @Wendy-Flynn-Realtor.