Photo by David J. Phillips / Associated Press

If there is any positivity at all that has come from this pandemic, it is the way our community has come together and the many people who have gone beyond the call of duty to help their fellow citizens. This is, of course, no surprise. We’re that type of town.

From our doctors, nurses, and health care workers who were savvy enough to prepare for the worst and who worked long hours, to restaurateurs who fed unemployed service workers, to the folks who helped the homeless, refugees, and the poor, Bloomington has come through admirably.

We owe our thanks to all those grocery store employees; postal personnel; delivery workers; our police, fire, and EMS professionals; city employees; and other essential workers who do their jobs without hesitation.

A shout out as well to our teachers and all the professionals at Indiana University and Ivy Tech who quickly made the transition to online education. Also worthy of our gratitude is the small staff of reporters at The Herald-Times, who did their utmost to keep us informed during this perilous time.

In the stories below, we celebrate some of our many heroes. —the editor

Sean Buehler: Med Student Helping the Homeless Stay Safe


For most people, staying at home is the best way to protect against exposure to the coronavirus. But the risks are reversed for those who sleep in community shelters. In mid-March, when “social distancing” had just entered the lexicon and the directors of Bloomington’s shelters were scrambling to safeguard the homeless population, one person quickly made himself indispensable. Read more.

Remote COVID Testers Working Outdoors Come Rain or 90° F


The coronavirus doesn’t stop for weekends or holidays—and neither do the 14 front-line health care workers comprising Indiana University Health Bloomington’s Remote COVID Test Site team. Read more.

Greg Fichter, IU Building Services: Delayed Retirement to Stay on Job


When Indiana University shut down after spring break in mid-March, Greg Fichter, then 73, could have retired after almost 40 years as assistant director of Building Services. In fact, he could have retired several years earlier.

But staying on in the midst of a crisis, he says, “is part of the job.” Read more.

Debbie Fish: Working for the Incarcerated


It was a play, a poem, and COVID-19 that inspired Debbie Fish to become an advocate for prisoners. Last fall, the former teacher and school principal attended a performance of Sentences: Stories from the Pen by Bloomington’s Resilience Theater. Read more.

Jane Walter, El Centro Comunal Latino: Helping B-town’s Latino Community


El Centro Comunal Latino (Latino Community Center), Room 200 of the Monroe County Public Library, provides native Spanish speakers with access to resources and a place to hold community events. But when much of Bloomington closed for the pandemic, El Centro’s sole employee, part-time director and health services coordinator Jane Walter, transformed the nonprofit organization into a financial-aid institution, raising funds and paying rent and utility bills for many local Latinos. Read more.

Melinda Seader: The ‘Recycle Queen’


When Cardinal Stage sold its South Walnut Street building in the spring, moving into a much smaller space shared with the Bloomington Academy of Film & Theatre, it was a complicated prospect. Melinda Seader—who Cardinal Managing Director Gabe Gloden calls “the reuse, repurpose, and recycle queen”—swung into action. Read more.

Dr. Brad Erickson: First on the Front Line of Care


Caring for COVID-19 patients requires real mindfulness. Every footstep, every touch—and certainly every breath—matters. “You really had to slow down intentionally, so that you did not make mistakes, because in that environment … one breath could be the difference between getting COVID and not getting COVID—and, therefore, the ability to transmit it to someone else,” says Dr. Brad Erickson. Read more.

JaQuita Joy Roberts & Family: Helping to Feed Kids at the Food Train


When the stay-at-home order was given and most folks settled in their homes to ride out the pandemic, JaQuita Joy Roberts knew that wasn’t going to work for her. Roberts is a doer by nature.

“I’ve always had multiple jobs,” says Roberts, a single mom who works in the Indiana University Black Film Center Archive and also as a manager for Kilroy’s. “I support a lot of local events and volunteer a lot of time. You find a way to give of yourself so the world can be a better place.” Read more.

Kelly Clark & Nola Hartman: Bloomington Fabric Mask Drive


When Kelly Clark closed her physical therapy practice as the pandemic escalated, she decided to spend her time making fabric masks for friends and family.

One day in mid-March, as Clark was browsing at a local fabric store, she overheard a woman talking about making her own fabric masks. They struck up a conversation and hit it off. That was the beginning of the partnership between Clark and Nola Hartman that soon became the Bloomington Fabric Mask Drive (BFMD). Read more.

Anastasia Morrone: Leading Online Learning at IU

Technology leader Anastasia “Stacy” Morrone has been preparing for a pandemic for more than a decade.

In 2009, Morrone led the University Information Technology Services Learning Technologies team that created Indiana University’s Keep Teaching initiative in response to the swine flu (H1N1 virus) epidemic. After the 2009 pandemic threat had passed, Morrone says they decided to keep the website up and running in case of other emergencies. Read more.

Fire Chief Jason Moore: Professional Risk Manager


If any profession is equipped to adapt to the unpredictable and ever-shifting risks presented by the pandemic, firefighters are at the front of the line, says Jason Moore, chief of the Bloomington Fire Department.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we are, technically, professional risk managers,” says Moore, 38. “When it came to COVID, we were used to having to make decisions with limited information and adapting to the new information as it comes in, which is exactly what we did.” Read more.

Abby Ang: Finding Resources for Marginalized People


COVID-19 is frightening enough for people with prominence and a voice in the community. For marginalized people—the unemployed, minorities, and the poor—it can be terrifying. With a new organization called Monroe County Mutual Aid, their voices can now be heard.

Started in March 2020 by Bloomington activist Abby Ang, 27, the organization was modeled after a similar entity in Somerville, Massachusetts. Read more.

Khalil Stewart, LPN: A Rallying Force at Stone Belt


Safely providing services for people with disabilities is a daily challenge during normal times. Doing so during a pandemic, however, requires an outside-the-box approach.

In February, when Stone Belt, a nonprofit that provides resources and support for individuals with disabilities, began preparing for the effects of COVID-19 and the eventual stay-at- home mandate, one of the concerns was that some of its clients wouldn’t easily be able to maintain a six-foot distance from others or wear a face mask effectively. That’s when Khalil Stewart stepped up.  Read more.

John Hamilton: Mayor Carries On As Family Is Hit by COVID-19


When the coronavirus hit, everyone in Bloomington felt the impact. Students were forced to finish the semester online and parents had to adapt to working from home. Some people became ill. Some were hospitalized. Most tragic of all, some died from the disease. Mayor John Hamilton and his wife, Dawn Johnsen, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, faced all of those scenarios. Yet through it all, Hamilton carried on leading the City government and its response to the pandemic. Read more.

Leah Steele, Middle Way House: Patience and Positivity in a Time of Crisis


While Middle Way House offers a diverse array of support services, its Rise and Shine Childcare center typically cares for young children under the age of 5, most of whom are residents of the group’s emergency shelter or transitional housing program. But when the pandemic shuttered schools, youth programs, and many other child care providers, the center— helmed by Childcare Coordinator Leah Steele— expanded to also include school-age kids. Read more.

Jeff Mease, One World Enterprises: Free Meals for Servers & Hospital Workers

Jeff Mease. Photo by Martin Boling


It’s been nearly six months since Americans first learned about the novel coronavirus. At the time, it seemed hard to fathom it could shut down our restaurants.

“Three or four days before Lennie’s [Restaurant and Brewpub] closed, I was scoffing at the idea that they might make all of the restaurants close across the country,” says Jeff Mease, co-founder and CEO of One World Enterprises. “It boggled the mind. It seemed impossible. And then it was happening.” Read more.

Katy Howe: Leading Hospital’s Emergency Department


Katy Howe has gotten good at watching for storm clouds. She’s even better at finding their silver linings. Formerly with Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital’s emergency trauma center, Howe joined IU Health Bloomington Hospital as director of emergency services shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s definitely been an adventure,” she laughs. “We can call it that.” Read more.

Savannah Powell: Helping Immigrant Families


Diane Legomsky, former executive director of the Bloomington Refugee Support Network (BRSN), recalls how BRSN coordinator Savannah Powell arrived at a public event for the volunteer- run nonprofit organization. Powell greeted Legomsky with a question: “What can I do?”

For Legomsky, that mindset embodies Powell’s three-year involvement with BRSN. “She’s a determined person and determined in the best way—just determined to make life better for immigrant households,” Legomsky says. Read more.

Chris Morron: Nurse Helped Build Hospital Response


Registered Nurse Chris Morron has eyes on everything from pre-admission testing to post-anesthesia care. A manager in surgery administration, Morron has been with Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital for 26 years. So when go-time came to prepare for an influx of coronavirus cases, she was a natural. “I helped build the surge plan—but not by myself!” she asserts. “There was a huge team.” Read more.