Detroit nurse organizes caravans of supporters to cheer on healthcare workers.
After receiving a master’s degree at Michigan State University, Hawa Hoff went on to work as a Detroit nurse for 23 years, eventually earning a doctorate of nursing. She has always had a passion for what she does, so when the coronavirus pandemic began, Hoff felt a deep-seated responsibility to thank healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients.
“They were afraid, and I thought, what could I do?” said Hoff, 45, of Detroit. She decided to create the Facebook Group, “Frontline Healthcare Workers Appreciation Group: We’re Showing Up,” which has since drawn 2,000 members. Its mission statement, written by Hoff, reads, in part:
“This group is formed to rally around frontline workers and show solidarity and support to those leaving their loved ones everyday to care for our loved ones in the midst of this pandemic. Our goal is to show up at their places of work (local hospitals) and applaud them as they get reading to provide healing for families and communities. We’re doing this from grassroots!! This group is especially for those who don’t have resources of PPE and want to support in the best way possible!! I too am a Nurse Practitioner and truly understand the need for equipment for frontline workers! If you have resources to provide to hospitals please contact each hospital individually and support!!”
Hoff organizes caravan trips to area hospitals where group members cheer on workers from inside their vehicles. She enforces social distancing and mask wearing and requires that there are no more than twenty cars at each event.
The Detroit nurse recalled someone saying, “No, you just need to say home, it’s too crazy out there.” But, she thought, “Well they go there every day – we can still social distance and abide by the laws and make this happen!”
Working in the ICU, Hoff said, “No one would really tell us ‘thank you.’ We would be saving six, seven lives at a time and at the end of the day it was, ‘okay, see you tomorrow.’ That’s what prompted me to do this movement.”
At one hospital, security came out and told them they had to leave. So, she shifted the group’s focus to another location. “We still have this forgotten group of people at the nursing homes in and around the city, and the suburbs,” Hoff said.
Debra DeBose, 65 of Southfield, has been involved since the group’s inception, drawn by the looks of appreciation and gratitude on the faces of frontliners when the caravan shows up.
“I was hooked,” DeBose said. “Going to these appreciation events gave me a feeling that I was contributing to their health and welfare in some small way.”
Christy Chalfant Byers, 42 of Detroit, also participates with her two children, ages 11 to 15. They make signs beforehand, and she said, “They cheer, yell, clap, they say ‘thank you’ and little encouraging things to nurses and doctors.”
So far, Hoff’s group has held more than thirty events and they plan to keep going strong. She said, “COVID is not gone, and these people are risking their lives.”