On the frontline
Locals do what they can to keep things moving during pandemic
Position: licensed practical nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea
What drew you to this career? “It’s always been a blessing. I’ve always wanted to help people and be with people”
What has it been like working during the pandemic? Medical staff need to make sure they have masks and goggles. Patients wait in their vehicles instead of waiting rooms. Surfaces and any other materials anyone possibly could have come into contact with have to be cleaned between every appointment. Some patients were scared of coming in, afraid they would be more likely to catch the virus at a hospital, but more have said they felt safe because they knew a hospital was one of the best places to be as far as cleanliness goes.
Biggest takeaway from the pandemic: “We have to be positive. We’ll get through this, too, just like everyone else.”
Position: director of nursing for skilled care at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community
What drew you to this career? “I fell in love with the people I cared for. My grandparents encouraged and supported me as I pursued my RN. They are the true reason I am a nurse; without them I would not have realized my dream. … I feel this is the work that God intended for me.”
What has it been like working during the pandemic? “COVID-19 has added an element of fear to our already emotionally charged jobs. There is a true fear in getting ill and bringing it home to our families and the fear of bringing it into the people we care for. I have seen my staff cry out of fear, then rally and move on to provide the best care possible, despite challenges of less than ideal personal protective equipment and constantly changing regulations. These people I work with are truly amazing. The love and support they show the residents and each other is inspirational.”
Biggest takeaway from the pandemic? “Health care workers are heroes! All of them from nursing to dietary, housekeeping, activities, office personnel and maintenance. They have always been essential!”
Position: paramedic with Mayo Clinic Ambulance
What drew you to this career? “The Army picked it,” as she was sent to school to train as a combat medical specialist with the National Guard.
What has it been like working during the pandemic? It has added more stress, as she said there are still the same amount and types of calls as before, but now more due to COVID-19 as well as more screening that has to be done with all calls due to the virus. They also have to take more precautions to protect themselves as well as patients.
Biggest takeaway from the pandemic: She still gets to do a job that she finds extremely rewarding, knowing that she can be there for people on their worst days and try to help make them better. She said it has also been a team effort to keep things running as smooth as possible, from dispatch helping with procedural screenings over the phone and earlier shifts helping prep for the day.
Position: manager of store operations at
Hy-Vee in Albert Lea
What drew you to this career? After starting with office work, he knew he wanted to be able to be on the floor with customers to move around and help people out.
What has it been like working during the pandemic? “Crazy,” he said.
It’s been a challenge watching the supply chain and keeping the shelves stocked at times. Watching at times for a possible meat shortage and when the store had to limit how much toilet paper could be purchased at a time were some of the crazier things he has witnessed. The store’s Aisles Online grocery shopping increased by a large margin, with many people choosing to pick up their groceries curbside instead of shopping in the store.
Biggest takeaway from the pandemic: Finding out different ways to help customers feel safe while still being able to get the supplies they need has been a rewarding challenge to figure out.
Cinthia Villagomez, Jolene Dillemuth, Mary Daly, Ken Dreyling and Bill Daly
Position: volunteers with Loaves and Fishes, an organization that serves a weekly free meal from Marion Hall
What drew you to this volunteering? The previous coordinator was looking to retire, so Mary and Bill Daly took it on. Other friends who retired and volunteers from others churches joined over time as well.
What has it been like volunteering during the pandemic?
Instead of dishing out food via a serving line once a week, they now prepare carryout containers of food that people can come up to the door to pick up. They are planning to be able to start serving people inside again as of August. Less volunteers from other churches or older volunteers have not been able to help out as much, which the Dalys said they completely understand. Luckily they have had plenty of donations of food, money and masks from parishioners as well as other donors.
Biggest takeaway from the pandemic? Many people locally are struggling financially.
“I didn’t realize there was such a need here in Albert Lea,” Mary Daly said. “Some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”