TARPON SPRINGS — The procession of police, fire and emergency vehicles snaked from the parking lot of the Tarpon Springs Golf Course, across South Pinellas Avenue and through the driveway of AdventHealth North Pinellas Hospital for a full five minutes, with sirens blaring, lights flashing and dozens of mask-clad hospital workers waving and cheering them on.
The heartwarming scene April 14 was one of many examples of communities supporting their local health care workers during the coronavirus crisis, and it served as a powerful display of allegiance from one set of front-line workers to another.
“Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue and Tarpon Springs Police Department and Sunstar paramedics wanted to say thank you to those individuals fighting this deadly disease on the front line,” Tarpon Springs Police Maj. Jeffrey Young said as the vehicles staged in the parking lot before the procession.
“We work hand and hand with health care workers, and we wanted to show support and say thank you, not just to those here at AdventHealth, but across the nation.”
Hospital president and CEO Jason Dunkel said the act was yet another example of those in the Tarpon Springs community supporting one other and he said it would go a long way toward boosting morale.
“It’s amazing and is speaks to the level of support this community always provides to our hospital,” Dunkel said. “It’s nice to see other first responders helping us. It makes us feel extra supported during this crisis. This will help morale more than anything I can do. It’s pretty awesome.”
A few yards away from the entrance, inspirational signs had been placed on the hospital lawn, including a professional “Heroes Work Here” collage and one with a touching, handwritten picture and note.
“SpeedPro in Tampa donated “Heroes Work Here” signs to remind team members they are loved and cared for as they pour their hearts into caring for and healing the community,” AdventHealth’s director of corporate communications, Richelle Hoenes-Ahearn, said via email, adding signs were also donated by other companies and residents and installed at various facilities throughout the Tampa Bay area, including the AdventHealth ER on U.S. Hwy. 19 in Palm Harbor. Hoenes-Ahearn also noted Tarpon restaurant Mr. Souvlaki recently partnered with their chaplains to feed all 400 team members at the Tarpon hospital and the Palm Harbor ER, and a quick glance at social media reveals many examples of others providing food to beleaguered health care workers, as well.
“I’m furloughed and wanted to do something to keep busy, so I decided to do this to help small restaurants stay afloat and concentrate on one hospital unit to give them love and attention,” said Cristine Kreplick, a registered nurse from Clearwater, of her decision to “adopt” the COVID ICU Night Squad at nearby Morton Plant Hospital. “I know others are doing it, too, but I started doing it when driving around and picking up masks got old!”
Kreplick said some meals have been donated by the eateries, including Ozona Pizza and Schlomo’s Deli in Palm Harbor, and she has received small monetary donations from family members and individuals to help offset the cost; often she paid for meals from her own pocket. “It’s been a true community effort,” she said.
As she continues to search for job openings, Kreplick said she’s training volunteers to cover more hospitals. “I want everyone to pick their closest hospital and restaurants and do the same because that’s too much for me while I’m looking for a job,” she said.
Based on several comments posted to her Facebook page, Kreplick’s efforts have not gone unappreciated.
“Another great meal for the Covid unit,” Pam Braden Westbrook wrote April 13 after Kreplick delivered Easter dinner courtesy of Ozona Pizza. “Thank you to everyone who made this possible (and) special thanks to Cristine Kreplick because without her none of this would be happening.”
In reference to the delivery, Ozona Pizza owner Amanda Sklar wrote, “Honestly if Cristine Kreplick could not have delivered this I’m not sure this would have happened without her selfless work. Thank you Cristine for helping us help others.”