What started as a school assignment, turned into an initiative that positively impacted close to 500 healthcare workers and child patients in the Chatham-Kent municipality, and Caring Support is part of it.
When Alexis Penich, a Grade 8 student at Georges P. Vanier School in South Chatham, was asked by her teacher Cathy Bechard to take $25 dollars and find a creative way to give back to the community with that sum, her first thought was to support front-line healthcare workers. “Covid workers have been doing the most work, so I thought they deserved it the most,” she said.
At her young age, Alexis is one of the millions of primary students in Canada that saw how their lives changed with the onset of the pandemic a year ago. Since then, she has been clearly moved by the dedicated and committed work of the front-line healthcare workers in her community of Chatham-Kent, in Southwestern Ontario, which is why she decided to go the extra mile to thank them.
With that goal and in mind, Alexis and her mother, Jackie Penich, reached out to as many people as they could, including family, friends, and local businesses, to ask them to be a part of the project through donations. However, this task didn’t come without its challenges due to Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing, which made some companies unable to donate food and beverages, for instance, so they opted to donate gift cards instead. Thanks to these efforts, weeks later the initial $25 had turned into close to $2,500.
Caring Support is among the companies that donated to Alexis’ cause. The job-matching platform specialized in the healthcare sector donated sanitizing supplies from its sister company Disinfect & Fog, which were well received by healthcare workers at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA).
“The response we got from the nurses and administrative staff was great. They had never seen anything like it. They were blown away by the SaniGO Wrist Bands after Alexis gave them a demonstration,” commented Mrs. Penich.
A part of the donations gathered by Alexis was destined to support dozens of frontline healthcare workers in the emergency department and the covid unit in the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA), as well as in the Chatham-Kent Paramedics, and Voyage Services. These workers received food, coffee, and personal sanitation supplies, that they otherwise have to pay for out of pocket, which is one of the things that surprised Alexis and Mrs. Penich the most. “Some of them had tears in their eyes,” they said.
The rest of Alexis’ donations was given to the Paramedics Plush Foundation for the purchase of stuffed animals for more than 350 children in Chatham-Kent. These toys are gifted to child patients during 911 assistance, as a way to reduce their fears and anxieties while they receive medical attention, and are usually paid for by the EMTs themselves.
The impact of Alexis’ actions didn’t end there. The family also received a very special offer from the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Foundation. “We received an email from the hospital foundation. They are the ones that do all the charity work for the Chatham-Kent surroundings. They asked Alexis to keep them in mind when she gets a little older to work for their charity”, said a very proud Mrs. Penich.
The school project that inspired Alexis and her classmates at Georges P. Vanier School to give back is called the Kingdom Project, a Lenten assignment created by teacher Cathy Bechard over 10 years ago. The idea is for them to use their talents to make a difference in their communities using a small sum of money.
Students are not required to get more funds, in fact, many of them simply donated the $25 to their favorite charity organization; but some of them decided to do something extraordinary, like Alexis. “My children are not being raised to simply donate money. If it’s for charity, they have to put their heart and soul into it and make sure they are giving back to their community that will be there for them at the end of the day”, said Mrs. Penich.
Now Alexis is considering her options for future initiatives to benefit her community. She is not sure what her next project will be, but she is certain that she wants to help make a difference in the lives of the people that dedicate themselves to others, just like frontline healthcare workers have been doing during the pandemic.
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