This insight is part of a continuing series of informative best practices and shout outs to recognize innovative approaches state and local governments have adopted to help them manage through the current COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to the City of Westminster, Colorado for allowing us to share this material.
The residents of Westminster, Colorado, a first-ring suburb of Denver, enjoy majestic views of the Front Range, family-friendly neighborhoods, ample open space and ready access to urban amenities. The city of Westminster’s “SPIRIT” values of service, pride, integrity, responsibility, innovation and teamwork define how municipal employees approach their work, even during challenging and stressful times. Three creative programs launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis showcase the city’s commitment to innovation and teamwork.
Care Call program
When the COVID-19 spread forced the closure of public facilities and cancellation of programs and events, shuttered businesses and distanced neighbors from each other, many city employees were directed to shelter in place and left without work to perform. Nevertheless, 25 employees from the Westminster Parks, Recreation & Libraries (PRL) department found a new way to serve through an innovative “Care Call” program.
Created by the city’s Economic Development department, the program was launched to maintain a connection and communication with the myriad Westminster businesses impacted by the public health emergency. Voluntary PRL employees selected to serve as Care Call Ambassadors were provided with a brief training and written script, then were asked to complete 15 daily calls to local business for approximately ten days. These calls served to ensure the accuracy of the city’s contact information on record for each business to subsequently provide important, resourceful information in the coming weeks and to help identify immediate needs the business may have. Depending on these needs, the ambassador would connect the businesses with the appropriate staff for follow-up.
When asked why he volunteered to become a Care Call Ambassador, one PRL employee answered, “When I saw the Care Calls opportunity, I was drawn to it because I consider myself to be a ‘helper’ and my sense of empathy kicked in. I tried to put myself in the business owner's respective shoes and imagined how difficult this period must be for them. At the same time, I found that helping others by participating in this outreach program reduced my stress levels at the time.”
Food distribution support
The day after Colorado’s governor declared an emergency and issued a statewide stay-at-home order, the CEO of Growing Home, a Westminster not-for-profit organization whose mission focuses on supporting families in need, realized that its food pantry was close to bare. Through an existing partnership with the city of Westminster, Growing Home was able to continue and expand its duty to provide food support to the populations in need. Nine PRL employees supported such tasks as food pickup and delivery from the regional Food Bank of the Rockies to Westminster, on-site food distribution and overall coordination of the expanded program. The city also opened a recreation center for cold food storage.
The successful initial involvement of city employees in the food assistance effort has led to further collaboration to help struggling families, including a vegetable garden currently under construction thanks to grant funding provided by Westminster’s Parks, Recreation, Libraries and Open Space Advisory Board.
Delivery services for high-risk residents
When an 85-year-old Westminster resident was unable to leave her home to refill an expired medical prescription, a city volunteer stepped up to assist. Twenty-five healthy adult members of Westminster’s Volunteer Program are delivering groceries and other essential items to high-risk residents, including older adults and people with underlying health conditions. The volunteers pick up pre-placed orders from participating vendors and deliver them to the residents’ doorsteps. Volunteers are also working with PRL and a local foundation to deliver donated food to residents and families experiencing food insecurity.
Kudos to the City of Westminster for demonstrating these prime examples of public servitude and overcoming COVID-19-related obstacles with dedication and ingenuity.
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