Love in the time of Corona

By Deb Hendrickson

Connections! It’s all about connections for Tonja Gilmore and Thelma Shangreaux.

Both of these ladies are gainfully employed at the Bennett County Hospital and Nursing Home. Tonja is the Occupational Therapist there and Thelma works as a Medical Aide. They have a mutual concern for the well-being of people. Not only the well-being of the people they work with but just people in general. 

The Corona pandemic exposed the harsh realization that people were in need. The need encompassed not only to provide more moral and emotional support but also the very prominent need for personal protective equipment (PPE). The shortage of PPE items set Tonja and Thelma on a mission and timing took care of the rest.

While attending a wedding celebration, Tonja had the fortunate opportunity to meet Nancy Pon. Nancy is an entrepreneurial woman from Canada based in Shanghai. Along with six other volunteers and three board members, Nancy commits a substantial amount of her time to a not-for-profit organization called ProCure Hope. A dedicated team of trusted professionals spanning the US and China, this team volunteers their time to identify, source, transport and distribute badly needed PPE to front-line workers as well as people in need. 

As the pandemic continues to spread, many individuals are becoming more and more aware of the shortfall of PPE supplies. Large US corporations specializing in  industrial fields focusing on worker safety, US health care and consumer goods have stepped up to the plate but the demand has outweighed the supply. In an effort to help with the shortfall, many people nationwide have devoted their time to making face masks, gowns and other PPE items. Still, the shortfall persists.

Tonja’s happenstance meeting Nancy was perfect timing since the growing need for PPE supplies in Martin and the outlying area is very prevalent. Working with Nancy Pon and her association with ProCure enabled many local areas to receive badly needed PPE supplies; including Bennett County, Mission, Pine Ridge, Rosebud and White River.

During the week of May 11, 2020, 1,000 surgical masks and 50 KN95 masks were delivered to Bennett County Hospital and Nursing Home. This is the first, of hopefully several more shipments that will be forthcoming.

Thelma Shangreaux’s connections with the Lakota people paves the way for these PPE supplies to be distributed on several adjoining reservation areas around Martin.

The Tree of Life in Mission in Mission, White River Nursing Home, Bennett County Hospital and Nursing Home, Ambulance Service, and Home Health Care are among those who will be receiving supplies.

This dynamic duo (or should I say trio) have pulled together to help provide necessary supplies and equipment in this desperate time of need.

“It is out of love, care and concern for the protection of everyone that we are putting forth this effort,” said Tonja.

No matter what word you use to voice the word, love is a selfless, sacrifical, unconditional act that a person voluntarily puts forth to another expressing compassion and caring for our fellow man. In a time of national crisis and our present world-wide state of pandemic, it is heart-warming to know that there are still people caring enough to go the extra mile to circulate Love in the time of Corona.

If you are in need of PPE equipment or supplies, please feel free to contact Tonja Gilmore at 605-685-6622, Ext. 1131.

502 Second Avenue, Martin, SD 57551 • 605-685-6866 •