A group of residents in southeastern San Diego is gathering small tokens of appreciation to give to San Diego’s health care workers, who have been at the forefront of the pandemic.
Paradise Hills residents plan to distribute at least 100 gift bags to employees at Paradise Valley Hospital in early February. The bags include hygiene products, snacks, gum and hair accessories.
“The pandemic can be devastating, but this is a little bit of hope and love that we can give,” said Selina Lugo, one of the organizers with ProjectReo, the community group.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Project REO has assembled hundreds of gift bags for health care workers.
Bags have been distributed at Reo Vista Healthcare Center, a nursing home that once had the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the state; Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and Sharp Chula Vista.
Lugo said items have been donated or purchased by area residents who are looking for small ways to give back to those on the frontlines.
“Our community is a very generous community,” said Gina Moreno, one of the organizers.
Moreno, who works at Scripps in the bariatric and general surgery department, came up with the idea after the unit she works in was turned into a COVID-19 unit. Although she did not directly work on the frontlines, she heard from colleagues about how draining it was to work under new circumstances with little information about the virus.
“I couldn’t image what they were going through,” Moreno said.
Among the items in each bag are face washes, gum and Chapstick, which workers say are convenient if you have to wear face masks all day, Moreno said.
The group decides where to donate items based on need, Lugo said. The group distributes gift bags not only to nurses but also secretaries, lab workers and janitorial staff.
In addition to the gift bags, the residents are also trying to raise $1,000 to purchase gift cards from businesses located near Paradise Valley Hospital to distribute to employees.
Lugo said it’s a way to help small businesses struggling to stay open because of COVID-19 closures. Lugo was one of the owners of a coffee shop that closed last year.
The group also solicits items through an Amazon wish list to minimize physical contact.
Moreno said the greatest gift that people can give health care workers is to stay home and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“That’s the best support that you can give them,” Moreno said. “You’re wearing your mask, you’re washing your hands, you’re avoiding large gatherings, those are the things that you can do to to really show support to the nurses … not just nurses but all the healthcare staff.”
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