The struggles of essential workers in our community


Belinda Chelgren, Kimberly Wilsoncroft

Belinda Chelgren pictured on the left as well as Kimberly Wilsoncroft on the right

Ethan Yarger, Staff Writer

Over the past year now, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world. Everyone has been affected in some way or another. Society has been saved from complete chaos by these strong fighters who sacrifice themselves to help others: essential workers. Their role in their community is essential. Whether they are a grocery store cashier or a nurse, they serve a great purpose for us all. In the local community, Clearfield and Curwensville alumni, Kimberly Wilsoncroft and Belinda Chelgren, respectively, are great essential workers to highlight based on their experience and story in this pandemic.

Belinda Chelgren is a Registered Nurse at the Penn Highlands Clearfield Hospital who works directly in the COVID-19 unit; she has been working as an RN for 16 years now. Her work life has been impacted greatly by the pandemic. Over the past few months, she mentions how much the hospital has changed, “We have been facing many challenges with staffing, supplies, frequent changes in policies, patients that are requiring more care, higher levels of stress, time management issues due to the redundant donning and doffing of personal protective equipment.” The precautions and protections put in place to keep staff and patients safe are remarkable.

Her personal life has also been devastated over the past year not only by social distancing, and other COVID-19 regulatory guidelines but by her very demanding essential job. She relates that “Hospital nursing can be stressful and at times it can be difficult to not allow that stress to carry over into family life. We are required to work every other weekend and every other holiday.” She sacrifices seeing her kids and family for her work, going on to explain, “Nurses often say that we are missing out on our own families while we are taking care of yours and I think that statement is perfectly accurate.”

Finally, when I asked her what motivates her to keep going, she reflected how rewarding it is to help the community, “We are fortunate to have access to a local hospital and I am dedicated to making it as competitive as possible with hospitals of similar size.” Her work as a nurse right now is very admirable.

Kimberly Wilsoncroft is a cashier and nighttime office worker at JG Food Warehouse; she has worked there for about 3 years. Her job has been affected immensely by the pandemic for she is essential as a grocery store worker. “Working around and in close proximity with a large number of people daily can be stressful,” says Ms. Wilsoncroft. This stress is exacerbated even more by her situation at home, with her father who is undergoing chemo treatments and is immunocompromised. She said keeping herself safe to be around him is challenging.

Other challenges she faces in the pandemic come from the interactions she makes with others on a day-to-day basis, whether it is a customer refusing to wear a mask, treating the pandemic as a joke, or other unsafe practices, these situations are hard to be safe around for someone who is constantly experiencing them.

Miss Wilsoncroft is also balancing her education on top of all of this—taking more hours for work means less time to spend time doing college assignments, studying, etc. She is taking more time away from her own life to help the community. She explains her motivation, “I enjoy being able to see my co-workers and have new experiences, although it can be a big stressor at times. Those who do take the pandemic seriously, and respect my co-workers and I, have been wonderful. We’ve received cards, letters, pizza deliveries, and even gift cards!”

She would like to let readers out there know that “since most of you are still in high school, keep hanging in there. I know it can be tough and this situation is not good for any of us, let alone high school students. Keep a positive outlook, and wear your masks!” Well put.

I call to anyone reading this out there, appreciate everyone working out in the world right now, they are sacrificing a part of themselves to help out you and your family. Give thanks to those who literally give up their own safety for you.