A Look Back at Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Look Back at Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

In March 2020, the world changed forever—we faced one of the most significant challenges of the century: COVID-19. During the pandemic we locked down and cared for our 370 individuals 24/7. The people we supported were unable to go to their jobs. All specialized day programs were closed. Suddenly, we needed staff at our 68 homes all day. Many businesses and nonprofits closed, including several group homes similar to Hammer & NER, due to a lack of caregivers. We managed to stay the course thanks to our dedicated nursing team, devoted caregivers, strong family support, donors, and community volunteers. Our mantra became: We cannot close!

While there were a chaotic few weeks, our caregivers stepped up, working more than 60 hours a week. A few moved out of their own homes and avoided their own families for extended periods. Our nursing staff provided PPE equipment and loyal care to the people who got COVID.

We sent an urgent appeal to our long-time supporters. Within three months, 950 people donated over $500,000! We were so grateful for these funds as various needs were identified and staffing issues were addressed.

The Volunteer Resources department sent out a request for reusable face masks. We received 2,000 within two weeks! As the pandemic progressed, we asked for assistance with meals. In the first year alone, volunteers provided 960 meals. When the holidays rolled around, we received 1,620 holiday cookies.

Pivot to Virtual
Family members and volunteers found ways to stay engaged with Zoom and FaceTime. They continued cooking, music lessons, writing sessions, exercising, and just plain old talking. The Community Life department also moved to virtual experiences. Zoom bingo, arts and crafts, Hammer Idol (our talent show), and other games helped us stay connected. When the weather got warmer, we rented large tents and brought in special guests to entertain.

Jon and his sister, Beth, used an iPad to connect during the pandemic

Serving vulnerable adults, we were one of the priority groups to be offered the COVID-19 vaccinations. To date over 1,500 vaccines have been administered to the people we support and our caregivers. Our nursing team also administered thousands of COVID tests.

Thanks to forward-thinking emergency preparedness plans we succeeded in keeping the people we support and our caregivers relatively safe. Sadly, we lost several individuals due to COVID and other underlying health conditions. Our caregivers made incredible sacrifices to care for both their own families and the people we support.

Ginger Venable joined the Hammer & NER Development team in 2012 and serves as our Event & Project Manager.

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