As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March, Scott Wheeler ’93 was looking for a way to recognize the tireless work of healthcare professionals as they engaged in the battle being waged against the coronavirus.
The idea he came up with was an “Essential Personnel” flag, meant to be personalized and displayed to pay homage to the lifesaving work being done by these essential workers.
“I knew people were getting tired and this was meant to be a shot in the arm for them,” said Wheeler, who is the owner of Quabbin Valley Healthcare, which operates a number of senior healthcare and skilled nursing facilities in central Massachusetts.
Introduced in early April, the flag was downloaded more than 700 times in just a few days after first appearing on the Quabbin Valley Health website. The site has since received thousands of hits.
Originally meant to honor employees of Quabbin Valley Healthcare, interest in the flag has grown regionally and even outside the region, thanks to a number of articles and stories about it, including The Daily News of Newburyport and WWLP-TV in Springfield, Mass. Wheeler was also interviewed by the National Public Library system, which is creating a video-biography about the pandemic, and those that are on the front lines.
“The flag started popping up all over towns, on yard signs, in windows, I’ve even had pictures sent to me of the sign being displayed in Florida and California,” said Wheeler, who was a business and education major at Le Moyne.
Wheeler is thrilled with the response to the flag and the attention it is bringing to healthcare workers for their heroic efforts. “Many people were looking for something like this. It’s been terrific to see how much interest there has been in this.”