Walking from the parking garage into Mount Carmel East hospital to start their evening shifts April 8, registered nurses Erin Price and Lisa Wollenberg were in tears.
That's because they were engulfed by cheers and a wave of goodwill from more than 100 people -- almost all of whom attend Faith Life Church at 2407 Beech Road NW in New Albany -- who had gathered on the roof of the parking garage and in the parking lot facing the hospital's entrance.
Some honked horns and yelled, "Thank you," and, "We appreciate you."
Others waved signs that said: "Thank You Nurses," "Be Strong and Fearless You Are Never Alone," "Super Heroes Wear Scrubs" and "Praying for You."
Sarah Traylor is a campus pastor on the Faith Life Church staff who helped to organize the heroes welcome for the Mount Carmel shift that reports at 6:30 p.m.
"We just wanted to get out into the community," Traylor said. "Our church building is closed, but we wanted to just pray over and encourage all the nurses, doctors and health workers that have to work right now. We just wanted to cheer them on."
On April 6, the church delivered meals from Chick-fil-A for 800 staff members at the hospital, 6001 E. Broad St. in Columbus.
The previous week, the church also delivered meals and staged a similar display of affection for workers at Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital in Westerville.
The outpouring of support April 8 heartened Mount Carmel East staff members. A number of them came out and took cellphone videos and photos to commemorate the moment.
Rendia Crews, an environmental-services manager at the hospital, was one who took out her cellphone and waved back to the assembly.
"This means a lot because when you're working day by day, the focus is to save lives," Crews said. "This level of appreciation lets us know that someone is thinking of us as much as we're thinking about other people."
Taylor Lipscomb, 21, who works as a medical-services technician, was surprised that people would come out and cheer them.
"I appreciate the support a lot," Lipscomb said. "It keeps you going."
Those who came to Mount Carmel East said it was time well spent. Aaron Mills, 47, drove from Delaware and fashioned a sign on a wallboard foam panel that said: "We're praying for you."
"We just wanted to show our support for them," Mills said. "These guys matter."
It was a family affair for Michael and Brenda Bakos of Reynoldsburg and their extended family. The signs they displayed were made by their 8-year-old granddaughter, Abbey Frasier.
"We wanted to come out and show our support for the doctors and nurses to tell them that we love them and are praying for them," said Stacey Frasier, 39, who is Abbey's mother.
These are intense days at the hospital, said Mark D'Aloisio, vice president of operations at Mount Carmel East.
Following Gov. Mike DeWine's order, all elective procedures have been suspended at the hospital because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, D'Aloisio said. The hospital's mission is focused on emergency care and preparing for what could be coming when the outbreak hits its peak in central Ohio, he said.
"We've been focused on what is going on inside," D'Aloisio said.
But what has surprised D'Aloisio is all the support from the community.
One morning, Mount Carmel staff members were surprised to see homemade signs along a walkway that leads from a parking garage to an employee entrance.
The signs said things like: "Heroes Heal," "You're Nothing Short of Amazing" and "Health Care Professionals Rock."
"It's amazing the time and energy that people are showing toward the local health-care community," D'Aloisio said. "I guess I wasn't expecting such an outpouring."