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Small-town Oregon woman uplifts Ascension St. Joseph staff with hand painted rocks

Dozens river rocks from the West Coast include inspiration messages for weary hospital staff battling COVID-19
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 2:29 PM EDT
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TAWAS CITY, Mich. (WJRT) - A woman from a tiny town on the other side of the country heard about the plight of Ascension St. Joseph Hospital staff battling COVID-19 and got out her paintbrushes to help.

Helen Bamford of Umpqua, Ore., sent the hospital a shipment with dozens of hand painted river rocks to uplift staff at the hospital 2,500 miles away in Tawas City. A letter enclosed in the shipment says she wanted to show her thanks and appreciation to the staff.

Bamford, who comes from a town of 442 people, has distributed over 2,000 hand painted rocks to weary firefighters battling western wildfires and health care workers battling COVID-19 in 27 states. She hopes her effort helps them smile and realize their sacrifices are appreciated.

Bamford heard about the plight of Ascension St. Joseph’s staff from reports about the Tawas City hospital reaching patient capacity during the March and April COVID-19 surge in Michigan.

“Like each of you (hospital workers), each rock is different, unique and beautiful,” she wrote in her letter. “Rocks create the bedrock for the river. They slow the water flow so the river doesn’t run out of control. Together, you create the bedrock of care for coronavirus sufferers and your efforts are the first line of defense in stopping the virus from running out of control.”

Staff members were invited to take a rock and put it by their work station, leave it near a patient or carry it in their pocket.

“Each is hand painted with love and meant to remind you there are Americans thankful for your efforts and praying for all our heroes and patients,” Bamford wrote. “Thanks to all of you for your courage, tenacity and refusal to let COVID win. With the vaccine here, hope has a highway. Stay strong.”

Ascension St. Joseph Hospital Administrator Shane Hunt said the delivery of rocks was a surprise. It arrived during National Hospital Week and National Nurses Week.

“To think that a woman from Oregon, nearly 2,500 miles from Ascension St Joseph Hospital in Tawas City, cared enough to send these heartfelt works of art and words of love was truly inspirational,” Hunt said. “Our hospital staff truly feels blessed having received this gift from Ms. Bamford and we thank her for the love and kindness she shared.”

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