Under the heading “Thank You Essential Workers,” Lillian P. opened her heart on paper: “Thank you for risking your lives so we can be safe.”
She was among scores of students from Wauseon Elementary School who reached out recently to commend the city’s frontline workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their letters of praise and appreciation were a gesture to acknowledge the people working long and sometimes grueling hours to help the community remain healthy.
“I’m super thankful that you all are still working during this pandemic so our world can be protected. I can’t imagine what you all have been going through to keep our world going. Thank you,” Lillian wrote.
The hundreds of letters and pictures were included in gift baskets of snacks and hot chocolate mix the school delivered over the recent holiday break to essential workers at the Fulton County Health Center, Fulton Manor, and Indian Meadows nursing home. They were created by all grades of WES students as a class project.
Principal Theresa Vietmeier said the endeavor was inspired by teachers acquainted with people working in the local health care field. The teachers spoke of the workers’ dedication during the pandemic, the exhaustion they felt from enduring extra hours on the job, and the guilt they wrestled with over neglecting their families to care for others.
Vietmeier saw the stories as an opportunity to get students involved during the pandemic, since the restrictions connected to COVID-19 have halted many of their usual programs and school visitors.
“We can’t host any of that this year, so all of our initiative – we have to do community outreach. One thing we can do is lift their spirits,” Vietmeier said of the students’ letters and pictures.
The letter writing project was expanded when the families of third grade students donated snacks for baskets. Their generosity allowed for extra baskets to be delivered to Wauseon police and fire personnel.
Written by students ages 8 to 11, the letters to health care workers reflected both their awareness and perspective of the pandemic, Vietmeier said.
“You might think that they might be insulated from that, but kids are inquisitive creatures, and they absorb everything,” she said. “As such, they hear conversations, they see the news. It’s within our culture – they have to wear masks at their age. So they know, they’re aware.”
In her letter, student Sophia M. expressed her gratitude for the workers’ dedication. “I’m truly thankful that you made a sacrifice to work for America,” she wrote. “It must have been scary or hard to work during this pandemic. I’m proud of you. Another thank you for not resting or relaxing to work for us. You are so brave.”
Another student, Morgan, wrote that she appreciates the care the workers give the ill and the extra hours they’ve devoted. “I’m happy we have you so we stay healthy during these tough times,” she wrote.
Vietmeier said the students’ efforts are more important than people may realize.
“It’s a way to stay connected, it’s a way to learn how to be civic-minded, and they can’t model that unless they see that,” she said.
Third grade teacher Kayla Simon, who delivered the letters and baskets to the facilities, understands the current plight of essential workers. Her husband and mother are both in the health care field.
Simon said the school’s administrators and staff try to make the students’ experience during the pandemic as pleasant as possible, “but they’re not blind to the fact that things are hard and things are different. There is so much negativity around, it makes everybody feel better when we do something positive.”
Vietmeier said the students’ efforts would, hopefully lift the spirits of the essential workers who received them, “to let them know we’re thinking about them, that we appreciate all they do, and we know they’re in the thick of it, and we just wanted to, in a small way, say thank you.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010