Amid Pandemic, Healthcare Workers See Smiles in Small Gifts

Misty Conerly. Photo by Zachary Dailey, Dailey Life Photography.

By Tony Montcalm, Tanner Health System

It had been a bad day. But a small, surprise packet of lip balm turned it around. 

Misty Conerly had joined a small Facebook group of other Greenway Health employees who shared small Amazon wish lists among themselves. Members would periodically pick an item and “gift” it – nothing big or extravagant, just little tokens and tchotchkes to let someone know they care.  

For Conerly, it wasn’t just the lip balm – it was knowing someone was thinking of her that left an impression. 

When the novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak began, Conerly – now a receptionist at Tanner Healthcare for Women in Carrollton – remembered how those small gestures of random kindness could brighten someone’s day.  

She took to Facebook and created “Gifts for Grins for Healthcare Workers.” At first, she only invited people she knew from within Tanner Health System to join.  

Then those members invited others. And those members invited others. 

Now, the group includes 3,100 members spanning 27 states – and more are joining every day. 

“It’s been unbelievable to see the friendship and comradery it inspires,” said Conerly. “It’s been so joyous.”  

The group includes people from across the spectrum of healthcare delivery, from front-office staff like Conerly herself to people who manage medical practices, nurses, advanced practice providers, emergency medical technicians and others. 

And the wish lists members post tell their own stories.  

Most gift requests are pretty typical – coffee mugs with clever sayings, pens and scented soaps. Conerly said sugar scrubs were a particularly popular item. The rules set the price limit at $25 per gift. 

Other requests demonstrate the painful impact of COVID-19 in some of the nation’s hardest-hit areas where necessary medical supplies have been hard to get. From New York, one nurse asked for hand sanitizer, gloves and facemasks.  

The gifts may come from people who know each other outside of Facebook, but many are sent to strangers as a way for those in the industry to lift each other up.  

The process is simple. Members share items on Amazon that they’d like, and share their wish list to the group. Members can peruse the list, pick an item and pay for it. Amazon does the rest. In a few days, the recipient of the gift has a little blessing waiting at their doorstep.  

The group’s popularity has been challenging. Conerly has had to be selective about membership, recruited additional admins and tried to stay on top of the notifications of new posts and messages. She said she’s probably declined as many people as she’s admitted just because of the demands of moderating the group. 

Still, the group continues to grow well beyond Alabama and Georgia. 

“We have a lot of people from Florida,” said Conerly. “I’m starting to see a lot of people from Illinois. We have a lot of people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.” 

The group’s membership recently went transcontinental with the addition of healthcare workers from Oregon and Washington. 

One of the biggest blessings from the group has been seeing how these workers come together to raise each other’s spirits, Conerly said. 

“We’re recognizing each other and reminding each other that we’re all valued and respected,” said Conerly. “We have allies in the COVID war, whether you’re on the frontlines working with positive patients or experiencing the stress and anxiety of furlough and reduced hours. It’s so wonderful to see how everyone comes together to lift each other up. It takes a special kind of person to be called to this kind of work, and I’m honored to be among them.” 

More information on Tanner is at WGW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.