Every year, on Thanksgiving Day, the Editorial Board acknowledges people who have gone above and beyond in service to our community. This year, needless to say, there was too much help needed — and too much help given — to name every individual.
From saving lives to feeding bodies and minds, many professions, groups, private companies and organizations, have stepped up. Be sure to acknowledges the heroes and helpers in your own lives, then go a step further and tell them how much they mean to you.
But first, if you’re staying home on Thanksgiving — perhaps with immediate family, but not a huge gathering of people from outside — then a tip of the hat to you. You’ll be taking responsibility for doing what medical experts have strongly advised: stopping the renewed spread of the coronavirus. In the past 10 days, Miami-Dade has seen a spike in the number of new cases. Thank you for making this difficult sacrifice. Now, here’s a tip of the hat to some others:
First, and most obviously, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the medical professionals who have been at war with the coronavirus and its ravages. They were on the front lines at the start of the year, and on Thanksgiving Day, on taking the lead as another major spike in the number of new cases approaches. This will send them into action again as the year closes. Sadly, with war come casualties. Dr. Alex Hsu, a Margate internist, was believed to be the first medical practitioner in South Florida to lose his life to the virus. Jackson Memorial Hospital radiology technician Devin Francis, William Vincent Murdock, an MRI technologist at University of Miami Health System and Araceli Buendia Ilagan, a nurse for 33 years at Jackson, were all suspected to have contracted the coronavirus on the job. They gave their lives in order to save others.
The coronavirus robbed thousands of Miami-Dade residents of their livelihoods, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The working-class has grown poorer, and the working poor have just about gone over the brink. They lost paychecks and became food insecure.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said that, as of Nov. 23, it had processed and paid more than 4.4 million claims to unemployed Floridians.
From the early days of the pandemic, various food banks, including Food Share, Feeding South Florida and Urban Oasis created effective, no-contact lines of distribution sites from Liberty City to Little Havana to Homestead. Hardy volunteers placed food in the trunks of people’s cars, avoiding contact while preventing rampant hunger.
Throughout the pandemic, nonprofits, churches, social agencies, elected officials, food distributors and professional athletes have hosted food distribution giveaways. The Miami-Dade school district has also aided in making sure every child gets a meal every day.
Then there are the caring givers doing it on their own. Lavern Spicer, a licensed cosmetologist, runs Curley’s House of Style in Liberty City. During her recent run for Congress, she told the Editorial Board that it’s a “one-stop shop” for people who need food, clothes or help finding someplace to live. “I work with homeless organizations,” Spicer said.
Camillus House today celebrates its 60th annual Thanksgiving Day, gamely going forward with serving 300 meals to homeless Miamians. COVID-19 has cut into the number of volunteers who will be on hand, and all diners have been tested for COVID-19 — both helping to check the spread of the virus and to get those who test positive into treatment.
“While this year’s circumstances are less than ideal, we are committed to providing our clients with the experience of a home-cooked meal,” said Camillus House CEO Hilda M. Fernandez.
A standing ovation for the thousands of South Florida parents with children in pre-K to high school who have had to turn their living rooms and dining rooms into classrooms and become shadow teachers, while also working from home. We don’t know how you did it.
Museums and galleries pivoted to the virtual, doing what they do best: creating alternate realities to break us out of the routine. This year, “routine” often meant homebound. Artists and and arts institutions took the colorful, the creative, the transformative online — and for free — to transport us away from the living-room sofa. Spanish artist Dora Garcia, for instance, presented one of the more intriguing endeavors, part of a collaboration between Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design and the Miami Book Fair. Her “I Remember Miami” asked participants earlier this year to come together in a virtual space and indulge in the experiences of living in their city. Residents recorded themselves walking through the spaces that made the deepest impressions, recalling even the most minute details of the location.
The result was an intimate verbal tapestry of places they treasure. And as this fraught year has proven, there are so many people to be treasured, as well.