Parade honoring unsung heroes is a product of race unity devotional
The parade wasn’t long. Six or so cars. But, oh, did it have an impact on the unheralded front-line workers being feted for their service to the Orlando, Florida, area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The car parade was so unexpected that it brought tears to many of us. The posters on the cars, the man playing music and the smiles were just amazing and heartfelt,” an elementary school food service manager wrote afterward.
“When you presented the poster to me and my team, I just wanted to hug all of you. May God bless you all.”
The parade was one of many gestures of appreciation that stemmed from consultation among participants in a regular devotional gathering, says Rosemary Closson, a Baha’i in Orlando.
The devotional, hosted monthly since spring 2019 by Arthur and June Robinson, Baha’is in Sanford, focuses its prayers and quotations on achieving race unity.
At the May 2020 devotional, held via Zoom, attendees shared readings from a compilation of Baha’i writings titled The Power of Unity.
“Our conversation advanced to the effects of this pandemic, who were affected — disproportionately Black and brown people — and the sacrificial response of hospital staff,” recalls Closson.
“It was noted that nurses and doctors, rightfully, have been shown much appreciation by the community for their selflessness,” she says. “But collectively we wondered about those other workers who are essential but their efforts are unsung.”
Nurses in the group noted the critical work of custodians in the hospital setting, where, says Closson, “especially now the sanitation … of facilities is key.”
“The same is true of schools and the larger community’s garbage collection,” she says. “Despite schools being closed, the food service workers prepare and distribute meals every day to families in need.”
As at each month’s devotional, June Robinson asked, “So what can be done to make a difference?” And that unleashed a stream of ideas for honoring front-line workers.
“We decided to pursue an agenda of gratitude,” says Closson. “We wrote letters to our local hospitals requesting specifically that they be certain to show appreciation for custodial staff.
“Continuing with our gratitude agenda, we worked with school-based staff in Orange and Seminole counties and surprised school food service workers and custodial staff with a gratitude car parade.”
The parade featured cars with people honking horns, using noisemakers and holding out posters bearing such sentiments as “Cafeteria/custodial workers – You’re the Greatest” and “Hats off to Custodial Workers.”
As Closson recalls, “Some of the workers were overwhelmed and began to cry. Each school received a personalized poster as a memento of our visit and our appreciation. Just this simple act touched their hearts.”
As evidenced by emails the participants received afterward.
“I just wanted to say thank you again for taking the time and effort to have the parade and honor the team,” an assistant director of dining services wrote.
“It brings a tear of joy and I know it meant a great deal to each person. Thank you for being a light and sharing it.”
And a dining services marketing/communications specialist added, “I honestly can’t thank you enough. You have an amazing group with such huge hearts.”
The note concluded, “You all are changing the world with love, and I love and I’m inspired by that.”