St Elizabeth corona

Parishioners support local healthcare workers

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

While most of the public stays home, healthcare workers labor on — and St. Thomas Parish, Ft. Thomas, wanted to show its concern for essential employees.

In a new program called St. Elizabeth Outreach, Father Ross Kelsch, parochial vicar, and his parishioners have created a system to make sure every employee at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Ft. Thomas, receives tokens of appreciation.

In a video posted to Facebook, April 2, Father Kelsch requested that the parish reach out to their local neighbors at the hospital. Through online donations to St. Thomas, they’re paying for meals and gift cards to the employees at St. Elizabeth.

For example, parishioners are buying dinner for the night shift in the Emergency Room, gift cards to the janitorial staff, and sending cards to different departments.

“The idea behind it is helping those who are helping others,” said Father Kelsch. “We felt like St. Thomas should do something because St. Elizabeth is in our parish.”

St. Elizabeth, Ft. Thomas is the hub for the coronavirus in Northern Kentucky, so the hospital has converted itself to take care of those who are most in need of ventilators. Normally, Father Kelsch said he’d organize a movement to have people go to Kroger and buy gift cards or donate baked goods, but with social distancing rules in place, he’s having everyone give to an online platform which he then sends directly to the hospital.

Father Kelsch went directly to Mary Lynn Brunemann, assistant vice president, Foundation at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, who put him in touch with the Ft. Thomas branch administrator, John Mitchell.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response to that,” he said. “Last Saturday night we provided gift cards for the entire night shift, that was 110 gift cards for everyone from the doctors to the janitorial staff to the food service people.”

When he communicates with the hospital, Father Kelsch is careful to ensure that everyone gets something, so it’s not just particular departments. “Our goal is to support those on the front lines,” he said.

Father Kelsch said the parish currently has collected over $7,000 in donations, simply by reaching out via Facebook and e-mail.

St. Thomas has also reached out to the local fire and police departments, purchasing dinner for them or sending cards to show their support. It’s all in an effort to “be a good neighbor.”

“We all play special roles and some roles are more critical right now,” said Father Kelsch. “The $15 gift card isn’t going to make that much difference in your life, but to know there are people out there supporting you and praying for you and caring for you was the goal.”