The Sandy Hook Elementary School is located just a few miles from our Newtown campus, where we interact with hundreds of patients, residents and volunteers, and employ over 300 people. Horrified at what was happening so close by on December 14, we were also extremely concerned about employees’ children who attended the school.
By that fateful Friday afternoon, our hospice and bereavement professionals were mobilized to offer support and comfort to employees and the community. Masonicare at Newtown’s Administrator, John Sweeney, quickly reached out to First Selectman Patricia Llodra to offer lodging or other support for emergency medical and safety workers.
The following Monday, our largest meeting room at Masonicare at Newtown was utilized as a place of support for staff and families throughout the day. That afternoon, Chaplain Joe Blotz held a worship service open to all residents, staff and visitors in one of the third floor dining rooms of our Newtown facility. In Wallingford, 28 memorial tea lights were placed on the altar in the Health Center chapel. Open as always, the chapel was offered as a particular destination for staff, residents and families to use for prayer or contemplation. Chaplains Thayer Quoos and MaryAnn Purtill were available to minister to staff as well as residents and patients. The week before Christmas, ecumenical services were held on both the upper and lower campus. At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, December 21, the carillon in front of the Health Center was rung 26 times, joining bells at Masonicare at Newtown and across the state.
Given the intense desire among our employees to “do something,” we identified the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, created by the United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank, as a way to do so. The fund will provide support services directly to affected families and the community. Masonicare matched employee donations and Carl Anderson, Masonicare’s Vice President for Mission Effectiveness and a resident of Newtown himself, presented the entire amount to the United Way at the end of December.
Circumstances such as this are a test of our ability to believe in good. As Susan Adams, Vice President at Masonicare Home Health & Hospice wrote to her staff: “As homecare providers, we all strive every day to do good in this world, to help others, and make things better for them. The true test comes when we are at a loss for how to even try to make it better. We must continue to do what we do best – care.” And we did. I am very proud and grateful to all of our employees for their compassion and support throughout this difficult time. All of us continue praying for the families, school staff and first responders as they do their best to go on.