health workers

Oconee residents Whitney Sperlik and DeeDee Gaines were overwhelmed by the county’s love and support for healthcare workers at Piedmont Athens Regional and St. Mary’s hospitals.

In just a couple days, they and community members garnered $1,000 and enough snacks for 50 goodie baskets, each with one to two cards from afterschool program children and thoughtful banners to put up in the hallways. 

“I feel like it’s our responsibility to give back and help others,” Sperlik said. 

Last week, she asked Gaines about ways people could encourage Gaines’ colleagues at St. Mary’s Hospital, and they came up with the idea of making grab-and-go snack baskets for doctors and nurses. Sperlik posted on her personal Facebook page and the One Oconee group requesting monetary or tangible donations.

“They (workers) could always utilize snacks that are pre-packaged and they could just grab...with how busy they are. They don’t get to really sit down,” she said. 

Several hours after posting, Sperlik had about 50 messages in her Facebook inbox, and she sat for “probably almost two hours” responding to them. 

With dozens of donations, she decided to reach out to Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital’s foundation. Its executive director, Tammy Gilland, heartily agreed.

Then, Sperlik, who is the deputy director for Oconee County’s Parks and Recreation department, asked some of the afterschool program staff if the kids wanted to help make cards and signs for hospital staff. 

Sperlik finished collecting monetary and physical donations for the effort over the weekend, and she and Gaines subsequently organized the goods into the final baskets. 

Gaines will assist with dispersing the snack baskets to nurses’ and doctors’ stations at St. Mary’s, while Tammy Gilland will coordinate getting baskets placed in Piedmont’s break rooms. 

“I’m very personally grateful that our community has responded this way and that we’re able to do this,” Sperlik said. “It’s been almost a year with this pandemic, and healthcare workers have been working without a break.”

“That’s just a great morale booster,” added Gilland, “[with] them knowing that they have people out in the community thinking about and praying for them and making donations.” 

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