Cassie Hooper

Submitted Photo

Cassie Hooper poses for a photo with her most recent team of health care workers. Hooper, the niece of Patti Klevorn, helped to inspire an opportunity where people can purchase Downtown Ludington gift certificates for healthcare workers locally. Starting at noon, gift certificates can be bought on a buy-one, get-one basis thanks to a $10,000 grant from Consumers Energy.

The Ludington Downtown Development Authority and Consumers Energy combined for a second grant opportunity, but this time to potentially benefit the workers at local healthcare workers.

Consumers Energy is donating $10,000 to match gift certificates sold by the DDA as a buy-one, get-one opportunity, and the opportunity is one to perhaps donate gift certificates to the frontline workers at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.

The idea came Patti Klevorn, who lost a family friend last week because of COVID-19.

“(Loren ‘Brandy’ Brand) was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, served in the FBI and retired to Ludington with his wife TJaye. We have gone to church with them for 20 years,” Klevorn said. “And while we’re virtual now, I have a hard time imagining not seeing Brandy every Sunday.

“As I was thinking about Brandy as well as thinking about our niece, Cassie Hooper, a traveling nurse who has been going from COVID hotspot to COVID hotspot around the country, I knew I wanted to do something to help.”

Klevorn said Hooper received a lot of love and support while in New York fighting COVID-19, typically pronouncing their appreciation for health-care workers at 7 p.m. each night.

“(People were) opening their windows and banging pots and pans, yelling thank-yous and then also sending food to the hospital crews day after day after day. She hardly had to buy a meal, and she felt so supported.”

Klevorn turned to the City of Ludington with Jen Tooman and Heather Tykoski, Ludington & Scottville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brandy Miller and Kaley Petersen, director of the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Foundation.

“Thinking about our friend Brandy, and having read that it can take more than 100 health care workers to care for one COVID patient over time, and thinking about all the love shown to Cassie in New York, I wanted to do something here to show our hospital workers how appreciated they are,” Klevorn said. “I thought, if I wanted to buy hospital workers some meals the way people in New York did for their hospital workers, I’ll bet other people would, too.

“At the same time, I thought this could be a help to our struggling local businesses.”

From there, the city and chamber contacted Consumers Energy to see about an additional $10,000 match grant to a sale of gift certificates.

Petersen said during a video on the city’s Facebook page that the staff at Spectrum Health have been hit hard by the disease as it has impacted staff here in Ludington especially this fall.

“The acuity of the patients can be very high, and so it’s very physically and emotionally demanding job because not everybody does survive,” Petersen said. “That is very hard, and it’s very real. Any celebration of gratitude, the thank you, the celebration of lights that happened last Friday and meals and tokens of appreciation from the community really does pick up our team.”

Eric Gustad, community affairs manager for Consumers Energy, said in the city’s announcement Thursday that the toll being felt by loved ones and caregivers is immense.

“In one perspective, you have the loss from your friend that is near and dear to your heart and the folks that were close to him. But oftentimes, we forget that the caregivers that were trying to save his life have loss, too. They’re doing their darnedest to do everything they can to save this person’s life,” Gustad said. “And when that doesn’t go well, and that person loses their life, that’s a huge impact to them emotionally, physically, mentally. We often forget, holy moly, that has to take a toll on them as well. You forget sometimes those folks are feeling the same thing.”

Gustad said in the announcement the utility company looked forward to making the matching grant with the city for the gift certificates.

“If you buy one and get one, and you have opportunity to pay it forward for healthcare workers,” he said.

The buy-one, get-one promotion starts at noon, Friday, online. The gift certificates are available at https://shop.downtownludington.org

Last week, the gift certificates sold out in four hours with $10,000 donated from Consumers Energy, according to Tooman, marketing and communications director for Ludington Downtown Development Authority. Tykoski, the community development director for the city, said on the Facebook video that 114 people took advantage of the last offer, and the average purchase was $87. There is a limit of $100 per person on the buy-one, get-one deal.

Tooman said the offer for buy-one, get-one is open to those who did not purchase the gift certificates previously, but anyone could purchase a gift certificate for a healthcare provider. The city will offer curbside pick-up of certificates next week for those who order, and there is not a guarantee that gift certificates would be available for Christmas if they’re mailed.

Klevorn said she was glad that the city, chamber and Consumers could make everything happen.

“It’s a godsend. I’m in awe. When I learned about it I cried,” she said.

The Managing Editor for the Ludington Daily News since June 2018 and on the staff since Oct. 2011, taking over for legendary Lloyd Wallace. Previously with The Chippewa Herald in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and the Tuscola County Advertiser in Caro.