By KATHLEEN SHAW
Daily News-Record 4/2/20
Behind the meticulous lawns, a landscaping team; behind the stocked cafeteria, a truck driver delivering crates of food. Every day, countless workers keep life running at Sunnyside Retirement Community during the COVID-19 pandemic, so residents decided to share a thumbs-up in recognition of their hard work.
The photo series was snapped by artist and resident Mary Rouse last week while walking along the campus with a camera in hand. Observing those coming in and out of Sunnyside’s gates, practicing social distancing and working to ensure life went on as usual for residents, Rouse photographed each worker she encountered.
Watching service vehicles drift in and out of the community delivering services and goods, Rouse said she was shocked by how much effort goes into Sunnyside’s upkeep and wanted to celebrate their hard work.
“I’ve seen the Sysco truck arriving … every day, sometimes twice a day, delivering food. I’ve seen the bread trucks. I’ve seen various trucks, but I had no idea that so many arrived within an hour or two that I pictured,” Rouse said. “Nurses and health care people and the food preparation people who serve the needs in the health care building and in the apartment building come in a wide variety of vehicles.”
On her walk, Rouse bumped into Jim Hogan, another resident and writer. After seeing her photos of the behind-the-scene workers, Hogan came up with the idea of asking residents to pitch a thumbs-up in support of service workers.
“ I’d seen them, but it never clicked from the standpoint there are people coming in every day helping us, in particular, the people who work with the assisted living and residents because they’re the ones who need them,” Hogan said. “Every one of here us at Sunnyside should acknowledge these people [who] make it worth living here.”
To bring attention and create a physical display of support, Rouse photographed residents the following weekend posing with an approving thumb in the air for service workers, and she said the attitude from everyone was infectiously positive.
“They not only lifted their thumbs, but they shouted as well. So, everybody’s been enthusiastic about that,” she said.
Robert Shenk, director of buildings and grounds at Sunnyside, has overseen the flow of service workers at Sunnyside for 42 years. Due to social distancing efforts, Shenk said adjustments have been hard on staff, but the community has always shown relentless appreciation and consideration that has extended through the pandemic.
“We are, in all honesty, at Sunnyside just like a family. They care about us. They are emailing us and asking us ‘How are you? How is your family? Hope all is well. May God bless and just watch over you.’ So, they care about us as much as we do them. They really do,” Shenk said.
In Sunnyside Times, the resident- run paper, Hogan wrote an acknowledgment for the workers titled “Thumbs Up” alongside Rouse’s photos to increase awareness for all that workers do daily.
“Frankly, we don’t give them the recognition they really deserve and maybe it takes a virus to wake us up,” Hogan said. “There’s a whole lot of other people pulling on the oars nationwide so maybe in our small community it’s important to give people a thumbs-up.”