Farragut signs, seals, delivers warm wishes for local health care heroes

By KATE COIL

TML Communications Specialist

The town of Farragut is working with residents to show their support and appreciation for frontline medical workers through a letter-writing campaign.

The “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered – We Care” campaign aims to show gratitude to employees of Farragut’s Turkey Creek Medical Center ranging from doctors and nurses to cleaning and support staff who have aided the community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special green mail boxes have been set up outside the Farragut Community Center and Farragut Town Hall for residents to deposit letters, cards, pictures, notes, and other expressions of thanks. The town will then deliver these messages to the hospital where they will be displayed for staff. No postage is needed, but residents are encouraged to get creative with the project.

Karen Tindal, tourism coordinator for the town of Farragut, said inspiration for the project came from an unlikely source: Santa Claus.

“We do a Santa Mail Box during our Light the Park event, and we had a record-year this year,” Tindal said. “We collected more than 1,700 letters for Santa. I was blown away by the number of letters we had collected. My daughter is a registered respiratory therapist at Turkey Creek Medical Center. As I was working on those Santa letters, I was thinking about her and our medical workers. Our COVID numbers were pretty high in Knox County at the time, and I am often sending her text messages to tell her I love her or to lift her spirits and help get her through the day. Then a light bulb went off in my head, and I thought what if we did something like this for our frontline workers.”

Tindal then worked with Farragut Parks and Recreation Director Sue Stuhl, members of the city’s public works department, and the marketing director of Turkey Creek Medical Center to organize the campaign.

“The hospital was thrilled we were going to take the initiative to collect letters,” Tindal said. “They were so thankful, because I think, in a way, they have felt a little isolated. They were so appreciative that the town was reaching out and saying that we appreciate them and the value they bring to the community. I talked to the public works department to ask if we could put up some mail boxes. We’ve been promoting it on social media. We kicked things off on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and by Tuesday, we had about 20 letters already.”

The project will carry on through the end of March with themes set up for the following dates:

Jan. 15-31: Thank you for your service

Feb. 1-15: Can you feel the love?

Feb. 16-28: You make a difference every day

March 1-15: We are proud of you

March 16-31: True heroes wear scrubs

High levels of stress, fatigue, and “compassion burnout” have been reported among medical workers and emergency personnel who have been in the thick of the pandemic for nearly a year. March 5 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee.

The goal is to ensure a steady supply of new messages of support coming into the hospital in the next few months, Tindal said, especially as the pandemic comes closer to the one-year mark.

“When we talked to the hospital, they talked about how at the beginning of the pandemic there was a lot of support for frontline workers and events for them, but as the pandemic has gone on that has tapered off,” Tindal said. “We wanted to encourage that to start again. The hospital marketing director will display a fresh supply of letters every two weeks in the break rooms and the lobby to show our support for the workers. We want them to know that people care.”

Having a daughter who works in the health care field, Tindal said she has seen the frustrations experienced by those fighting the pandemic on the frontlines.

“It’s being going on for nearly a year, and it’s easy to throw your hands up in the air,” she said. “As a mom, I’ve seen it from both sides. I have watched my daughter go from a few people in the hospital to being completely overwhelmed and working lots of overtime. She has gone from not being able to hold her niece to now being vaccinating and feeling safer around her family members. It’s not just the doctors and nurses either. It’s the people cleaning the rooms and making the meals. It takes everyone from the get-go making sure the hospital is still running not just for COVID patients but for our whole community. They are still taking care of regular patients. The hospital has more than 850 staff members, and I hope we collect at least one letter for each staff person at the hospital.”

Tindal said she is hoping that both hospital employees and Farragut citizens who contribute to the campaign get something out of the project.

“Certainly, at the hospital I hope the workers really feel the community is behind them,” she said. “I hope they realize how much we appreciate what they are doing. They are doing their best to keep our community safe and healthy every day. I hope that we can reach out to some of our schools and senior centers, maybe some of those folks who are also isolating and feeling isolated, to see if they can contribute as well. I think it will mean a lot to people to connect like that during this time.”

Tindal said she encourages other cities to consider doing something similar in their own communities to remind local health care workers that their efforts are just as valuable now as they were a year ago.

“It would be great if other cities replicated this project,” she said. “It just takes one person to organize it. It’s simple; it’s inexpensive. Just reach out to your local hospitals and don’t be afraid to do something like this. It’s well worth it.”