Ascension St. Joseph Receives Special Delivery from Oregon to Honor Hospital Staff

TAWAS CITY, MI - A woman from the small town of Umpqua, Oregon, nestled in a valley where the Umpqua River winds through towards the Pacific Ocean, recently sent a special delivery to Ascension St. Joseph as a way to show thanks and appreciation to hospital staff.

With no specific ties to Tawas City, Helen Bamford, one of Umpqua’s 442 residents, began painting river rocks in 2020 when COVID-19 and the western wildfires started. Her mission was simple - to make a weary healthcare worker or firefighter smile and let them know a fellow American appreciates their sacrifices. Since last year, Bamford has sent over 2,000 hand painted rocks to heroes in 27 states.

Bamford identified Ascension St. Joseph Hospital because there was a recent spike in coronavirus cases across Michigan, just like in Oregon. Having read in the media about the hospital nearing its capacity, she thought the staff could use some love in the form of river rocks. She sent a box of beautifully painted rocks from the Umpqua River, each with a message of appreciation, support and love. The rocks were delivered to Ascension St. Joseph and distributed to staff, just in time for National Hospital Week.

An enclosed letter stated, “Like each of you (hospital workers), each rock is different, unique and beautiful. Rocks create the bedrock for the river. They slow the water flow so the river doesn't run out of control. Together, you create the bedrock of care for coronavirus sufferers and your efforts are the first line of defense in stopping the virus from running out of control.”

Bamford invited staff to take a rock to carry with them in their pocket, put by their workstation or near a patient. When feeling despaired, tired, overwhelmed or lonely, she said to remember the rock. “Each is hand painted with love and meant to remind you there are Americans thankful for your efforts and praying for all our heroes and patients. Thanks to all of you for your courage, tenacity and refusal to let COVID win. With the vaccine here, hope has a highway. Stay strong.”

“This gift of love was such a surprise,” said Shane Hunt, Administrator, Ascension St. Joseph Hospital. “The arrival of the hand painted, impassioned rocks coincided with National Hospital Week and Nurses Month and definitely lifted spirits and made our associates smile. To think that a woman from Oregon, nearly 2500 miles from Ascension St Joseph Hospital in Tawas City, cared enough to send these heartfelt works of art and words of love was truly inspirational. Our hospital staff truly feels blessed having received this gift from Ms. Bamford and we thank her for the love and kindness she shared.”