Laurie Bernard, center, poses with volunteers who helped deliver flowers and messages of hope to the Maine Veterans’ Home – Scarborough. A number of residents had died at the home recently due to COVID-19. Courtesy

SCARBOROUGH — Laurie Bernard, a paralegal from Scarborough, believes veterans and those who care for them at Maine Veterans’ Homes – Scarborough are some of the most valuable people in this country. So when she learned through her future daughter-in-law, who works as a certified nursing assistant at the home, about a large number of deaths among residents there due to COVID-19, she could imagine how hard it must have been for the staff and other residents.

“I just wanted to do something to lift their spirits,” she said.

That’s why Bernard organized a group of friends and family to do an impromptu delivery of perennial flowers, hand-painted rocks, flags and posters with inspirational messages and donated them to the home on May 2. In the end, about 50 people donated about 80 different plants, Bernard said. They didn’t enter the building, only leaving the donations outside, but the intent was for staff at the home to turn it into a “Hope Garden,” which she said staffers promised to do.

“It was a great day, and it was the least I could do,” she said.

A flag with a message of hope to residents and staff at Maine Veterans’ Home – Scarborough. Courtesy

Josh Scroggins, director of development and communications for Maine Veterans’ Homes, confirmed that the Scarborough facility had experienced some deaths due to COVID-19.

“One of the units on the home has been hit very hard,” he said.

Scroggins said more than 120 residents were tested for the disease. Of those, 34 tested positive, and 14 have died. He said staff at veterans’ homes throughout the state are watching carefully for the virus, given how vulnerable the homes’ residents can be.

“This virus is such a horrible virus in the elder community,” he said.

Scroggins said the home also tested more than 200 staff, of which 25 tested positive. So far, he said, 18 have recovered completely and are back at work, while the rest are isolated and expected to recover as well.

Bernard’s donations were somewhat of a surprise to the home’s staff, but did not go unnoticed.

“Their efforts not only mean so much to our residents, but to our staff, who will see their signs of encouragement as they come in to start their shift or on their way home after the long hours many are putting in these days,” said Maureen Carland, the home’s administrator. “It takes every bit of strength we have to battle this virus and when a group like this shows that they’re behind us, it brings a smile to our faces.”

Bringing the home’s staff and residents something positive, Bernard said, was exactly what she had in mind.

“I just wanted them to know there is hope,” she said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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