Rhonda Silence

Health Care Foundation honors health care heroes

The North Shore Health Care Foundation (NSHCF) hosted something that is quite rare in these COVID-19 pandemic days–an in-person gathering. Leaders of the Cook County medical community and public health gathered in the sunny lobby between North Shore Health and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic to be recognized for the efforts of their staff members.

To observe social distancing requirements, North Shore Health Care Foundation President Jerry Lilja and Executive Director Valerie Marasco Eliasen presented a package of gifts to the leadership of the various local health agencies.

In the boxes was a small gift for every employee of North Shore Health Hospital & Care Center, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Grand Portage Health Services, the Cook County Emergency Operations Center & Incident Command Team, as well as employees involved with the response from Cook County Public Health & Human Services.

Marasco Eliasen said each of these “local health heroes” is receiving a hand-written card of thanks, organic hand lotion, and lip balm sourced through the Cook County Whole Foods Coop and a certificate for a complimentary coffee and treat at a variety of locations across the county including the Java Moose in Grand Marais, Fika Coffee in Lutsen, Holiday stores in Grand Marais and Tofte and the Grand Portage Trading Post. “A little gift of comfort,” Marasco Eliasen said.

Also presented were more than 300 cards of thanks for all health workers in Cook County–handwritten by the Health Care Foundation’s board of directors.

Accepting the recognition and gifts on behalf of their employees were Kimber Wraalstad, CEO & administrator of North Shore Health Hospital & Care Center on behalf of their 146 employees and Kate Surbaugh, CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic for the 53 clinic employees. Also on hand was Jennifer Sorenson, director of Grand Portage Health Services for the 25 employees there. Grace Grinager, Cook County Public Health & Co-Incident Commander of the Cook County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center accepted the gifts for 32 members. Also recognized were approximately 50 additional EMTs/EMRs.

After accepting the recognition, the public health team gathered–socially-distanced, for a photo. Because their smiles could not be seen the group gave a heartfelt thumbs-up, as seen in the photo.

All of this was part of the Health Care Foundation’s “Heart-Felt Thanks to Health Heroes” initiative to celebrate and recognize the extraordinary job these essential workers have done throughout the pandemic in responding to COVID-19 and protecting their communities and organizations.

“Cook County health workers and the Incident Command Team can be exceptionally proud of the tremendous job they have done in managing the COVID-19 response in Cook County,” said Jerry Lilja, president, North Shore Health Care Foundation. “These folks have shown amazing dedication and resiliency working under tough conditions and demands, living in PPE for nearly a year now while performing already tough jobs. The unified response from our health leaders as well as the community at large has proven to be highly successful and the Foundation wanted to demonstrate its gratitude on behalf of the whole community.”

Cook County has maintained some of the lowest case counts of the COVID-19 virus in the state and nation for the duration of the pandemic, has the highest vaccination rate, and has zero COVID-related deaths to date.

Marasco Eliasen commended the community’s healthcare workers. She said, “As an organization that advocates for health and emergency services, this is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and recognize everyone who works in health role. Our frontline workers have been living in PPE for months, showing up each day risking their own health for ours, while managing families and/or other responsibilities and they deserve to be recognized for the outstanding job they have done.

“We are proud to be able to extend this heart-felt thanks for all they have done for Cook County. Every health worker from physicians and nurses to administration, janitorial, and food services has had their jobs turned inside out to manage the pandemic while continuing to provide extraordinary service, this is the least we can do on behalf of our citizens.”

The initiative also includes free postcards for anyone to send their own message of thanks to health workers, available at locations across Cook County including the Cook County YMCA, all health facilities, and partnering organizations.

In addition, the bright banner declaring heartfelt thanks to health care workers unveiled at the event can be seen at all health facilities and Grand Marais Family Dentistry as a show of support.