The Meaning of Care Magazine

Fremont Community Steps Up With Donations During COVID-19

Published: Nov. 25, 2020
Nurses in handmade gowns

Fremont and Dodge County have been through challenging times over the years. There have been floods, building explosions, fires and now a pandemic. As in many communities across Nebraska, when tragedy or hard times strike, it’s the people who step up and say, “What can we do?”

Such was the case in March when COVID-19 arrived in Nebraska. Within a few weeks, concerns about personal protective equipment and other supplies began to surface. That’s when Shawn Shanahan, executive director of development and community health for Fremont Health Foundation, began to circle the wagons.

Juice Stop

“Having worked with United Way for 10 years and having recently led community efforts related to the 2019 flooding, it was an easy and natural fit for myself and the Foundation to say we will help coordinate donations, be a point of contact and bring together others to be part of the solution,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of assistance – she had seen the community respond before. But the needs for a pandemic were very different, and she was overwhelmed by the generosity of so many.

Panda Express

The first need was cloth masks. Her strategy was to bring together quilting teams, church groups and others who had an interest in sewing. Over 2,000 cloth masks were made in the first nine weeks.

With that need met, Shanahan and her team turned their attention to surgical gowns. This was a more challenging task because the type of material was critical to the process.

“Our surgical teams made us aware of the Halyard material that covers surgical supplies and is often used for draping,” Shanahan said. “This was being thrown away, and the thought was that it could be of possible use. The infection prevention team reviewed this and felt we could at least get seven to eight uses if they were made into gowns.”

Once again, Shanahan leaned on those quilting groups and churches to sew 350 gowns.

“So many individuals and groups really dived right into this project,” Shanahan said. “We found a pattern on the web. They tweaked the design a bit, as well. Then they really worked as teams to divide and conquer the gown project. Some ladies cut the fabric, and others worked on the elastic – so they were all working on the project while still being mindful of social distancing.”

Skin care kits

While church auxiliaries and quilting groups rose to the challenge, many others did as well. One woman wanted to sew gowns to keep her mind busy as her husband was undergoing cancer treatment. Another donor was going through cancer treatment and was unable to return to work – so she sewed. And a local nursing home set up a sewing room for residents as an activity they could take part in.

“When you look at the flood and COVID-19, there really is no comparison because the emotions are so different,” Shanahan said. “The flood was a direct hit with quick impact. The community didn’t have the time to feel the sadness and the distress that was taking place until two or three weeks later. With COVID-19, it’s more of a feeling of, ‘What are we going to do to ensure the safety of our health care workers and our community?’ It’s a desire to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

Businesses donated lunches, snacks, homemade cards for the Dunklau Gardens residents, gloves, masks, face shields, hazardous material suits, brown paper grocery bags for assisting with the N-95 mask disinfection process and car wash certificates for staff members. Methodist Fremont Health physicians and leadership have and continue to provide a meals-to-go service.

Dunklau Gardens gift bags

“I feel very fortunate and blessed to live, work and play in this community,” Shanahan said. “When a child is in need, a family is in need or a health care system is in need, this community says: ‘What can we do? What can we do together, and how can we accomplish more together?’”

Shanahan said the need for donations still exists as the pandemic maintains a strong presence in the community. For more information on how to donate, contact Fremont Health Foundation at (402) 727-3566.

To learn more, visit

Pictured above: Diers Ford-Lincoln in Fremont donated items to Dunklau Gardens residents.

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About the Author

The Meaning of Care Magazine is published by Nebraska Methodist Health System. Featuring interviews with care providers and first-person stories of patients touched by our services, it is produced entirely by Methodist Marketing Department staff.

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