Despite the onset of a global health pandemic, there have been shining examples of people showing up for their neighbors, for their community or even for complete strangers. Locally, social media groups quickly formed, offering help to those in need. Restaurants gave away free meals to the hungry. Sewers, or just those willing to learn to sew, handcrafted masks to protect frontline healthcare workers. And while this positive spirit has been witnessed across the community, we have seen it in our Puzzle Pieces family just as much.
From parades to Zoom calls, Puzzle Pieces staff members are going above and beyond for their clients. Why? First, we love our clients. They are more like family and we miss them. But also because those with intellectual disabilities are one of the most vulnerable populations during Covid-19 and they cannot understand quarantine or staying healthy at home. Puzzle Pieces clients, in particular, are accustomed to getting out in the community, frequenting their favorite stores and restaurants, so this time of isolation is confusing and often leads to additional behaviors.
Drive-by parades have been a huge source of happiness for our clients. Staff have volunteered their time to drive by as many homes as possible, but with clients spread out across multiple counties, we took the parade idea one step further. Executive Director Amanda Owen enlisted friends and local radio DJs Chad Benefield and Angel Welsh to create a #HappyAtHome movement, asking all of Owensboro to come out in their front yard and show what it means to enjoy life despite the quarantine. With film crews ready, we recorded as many families as we could in order to show our clients that they are not the only ones staying home and that we can all be happy despite the circumstances.
Each Puzzle Pieces client is different. Even those with the same diagnosis are affected differently by their disability. It is this reason that Puzzle Pieces has always strived to individualize care and services for each client. For one client during the Covid-19 restrictions, that means a scheduled call with a staff member each hour of every day. Staff, still working and currently laid off, created a phone tree that has given this particular client a sense of normalcy during a time that is anything but normal.
Our staff have cooked meals for clients, delivered flowers and gardening tools, dressed up as the Easter Bunny, had virtual dance parties and games of charades… the list goes on and on. Why are we sharing this with you? Obviously, we want to brag on our staff. Nearly half have been laid off because on-campus services were temporarily suspended through the crisis. But they are still meeting with clients virtually and volunteering their time to offer support. Others still working are going above what is asked, putting our clients health and safety above all else.
But we also share this to show the silver linings during a storm of uncertainty. The Covid-19 crisis is like nothing this generation has ever seen before. Each day, the number of those infected increases as well as the number of deaths. We have no timeline of when life will return to normal. But amid all of that, there are small examples of humanity, of communities supporting one another, that prove we will all get through this... together.