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Celebrating Essential Workers In Wilmington

Updated March 22, 2021
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As part of our collaboration with Currie Salon and their Virtual Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on March 8, we asked you to nominate your favorite essential worker to win a Staycation, which was provided by Currie Hair, HOTEL DUPONT, and Le Cavalier. We received so many wonderful stories that Currie provided another three essential workers with a hair/spa treatment of their choosing. 

While we were not able to award everyone for their hard work and dedication to serving our community, we wanted to share their stories here!

Frances Smith, a Maternity nurse at St. Frances Hospital, was nominated by Taylor Urban. 

“She has worked tirelessly through the pandemic, as well as work with the distribution of flu vaccines (she does clinics annually) and distribution of Covid vaccinations. She’s a hero every day – juggling nursing and her family.”

Kierstin Hill is a labor and delivery nurse at ChristianaCare.  She was nominated by one of her patients, Katherine Vaughn.

“My husband and I met Kierstin when I was induced for my first pregnancy this past January. Being first-time parents we weren’t sure what to expect when arriving at the hospital for an emergency induction, but we quickly discovered our experience would be unlike the glamorous versions you see in the movies. Kierstin was our night nurse the three full nights we were in the labor and delivery wing. The third night Kierstin was scheduled, she even requested to be assigned to our care since she had been with us what seemed like our entire journey to welcome our baby boy.

While in Kierstin’s care, we learned so much about her and the recent struggles her and her family have experienced during Covid (since there isn’t much to do when you’re in labor for 3 straight days!) She explained that one of her sisters was infected with Covid while battling osteosarcoma creating a vast amount of stress on her family due to the high risk nature of her health. Keirstin also expressed her worries to have the opportunity to travel to see her other sister before she is deployed overseas with the Army. Kierstin and her husband also got married in June, having to cancel their wedding and settle for a backyard ceremony with just close friends and family. They were also unable to take a honeymoon so I feel as though this prize would give her and her husband a chance to celebrate their marriage and have a beautiful experience with the best Wilmington can offer!

After over 60 hours, two failed inductions, and complications from a spinal injection during my C-section, Kierstin held my hand through the whole ordeal. Once I was under, she reassured my husband through the unknown moments that followed since he was not able to be in the operating room. She even made sure to capture pictures of our son’s first moments of being born that we missed out on. While everything turned out fine and we welcomed an 11lb 2oz baby boy into the world, we could not have done it without the support of Kierstin. Without her we would have been lost, confused, and laughed a lot less through the whole process. She deserves to be recognized for her amazing effort and kindness she showed us through this stressful time. I hope all new moms are lucky enough to have a Kierstin through their hospital experiences and have the support of someone with such a big heart and dedication to her patients!”

Karolina Piszczek, a pediatric resident at AI DuPont Hospital, was nominated by her coworker, Katherine Callaghan. 

She is dedicated to the well being of the children of Delaware. She looks out for the mental health of her colleagues as well, always being supportive and offering to talk out problems. We’ve all had a difficult time this year with uncertainty and poor patient outcomes, but Karolina continues to have a positive optimistic outlook which is always appreciated. I’m blessed to have her as a friend and the children of Delaware are lucky to have her serving their needs.”

Maryah Mansoor is a physician at ChristianaCare

“She primarily takes care of arthritis patients, but has also volunteered as physician backup on the Covid floors, and for Covid vaccinations.”

Evelyn Deming, a nurse at Penn Medicine, was nominated by Nancy Kohlreiter.

“She has worked extra shifts to help due to sever understaffing during COVID -19. Her father and her two aunts died three months apart and she kept pushing through. She got COVID herself and was very sick but she never worries about herself! Evelyn has made such a difference!”

Alison Purner, a Nurse Manager at Christiana Care’s Heart and Vascular Center, was nominated by her co-worker, Deanna Corcoran.

“She has always given her all to our teams to help with stroke codes and heart codes. When Covid hit and things got really hard, she was there for all of us without blinking an eye! Working tireless late hours, buying us lunches anonymously. Providing cases of K-cups and treats out of her own pocket, staying crazy late hours and coming in super early. She never complains and she never does anything for herself! I wanted to nominate her to show how her teams, her coworkers, and our community appreciate her efforts and her big heart!”

Debbie Marco, an ER Nurse at ChristianaCare, was nominated by her sister, Doris Kerr.

“She has been a nurse for almost 25 years and she has worked tirelessly to help others. After travelling for nursing in her early years, she returned home to Delaware after 9/11 to be closer to family. Since 2001, she has worked in cardiac step downs/ICUs, in research and other departments at Christiana Care. However, she always ended up returning to the ER where she currently works.

Her dedication to nursing and her career has morphed into many forms as she and her commitments have changed through the years. Working holidays, night shifts, day shifts…whatever is asked or needed, Debbie consistently does what she needs to do to help her co-workers and most importantly, her patients.

Back then, being single and working flexible as needed was easy. Fast forward, my sister is now married with 3 young children ranging in age from 2 years old to 8 years old. She home schools her children 5 days a week and works overnight shifts at the ER a few days a week.

As if that were not enough, my sister has stepped up to save our father. My dad has been a diabetic for over 30 years. In the last couple years, his kidney function has declined significantly. Due to his age, he is not eligible for a transplant. His doctors advised for dialysis treatments 4 days a week (around 4-5 hours per session). Over a year ago, my dad hit an all time low, and it seemed like we were nearing the end. Dialysis was the only route for some kind of treatment.

My sister did not blink an eye and she volunteered to train and to perform home dialysis for my dad. So, day in day out, my sister works at the ER overnights on weekends, teaches my niece and nephews home schooling during the week and keeps my father alive by performing dialysis for him 4 days a week. Keep in mind, she does all of this with a smile. As the youngest of four, she has been our family entertainment and bright energy of laughter and charisma throughout our lives. Working non stop like this would wear anyone down. Not her. She truly is an angel to our family.

That is why my sister is our and my hero. There is no doubt that my father is alive today because of her and we (me, my brother, my sister and my dad’s eleven grandchildren) are eternally grateful to her for that.”

Kirk Mader is a Credit Department Lead at PNC Bank. He was nominated by his wife, Jody.

“When the pandemic hit, stores and restaurants were hit very hard. So the federal government offered loans to many of those people. My husband worked 12-18 hours every day getting loans processed for businesses so they could stay open and pay their employees. My husband ate many meals in his home office, slept very little and never complained. He loves his job. And this pandemic hasn’t changed him a bit! He deserves a nice break away from the house. He works behind the scenes so you probably wouldn’t think of him as an Essential worker.”

Jennifer Axell, a Charge Nurse at Select Speciality Hospital, was nominated by her former co-worker and friend, Lindsey Safian.

“Jen came to our company about a year after I began working there. Many of the staff were burnt out or apathetic, feelings that often plague health care workers especially when caring for very sick patients and a lot of them (there is a term for the phenomenon called moral distress). Jen’s commitment to patient care was evident immediately. She had this passion for the patients- for their lives, both before and after their illness. She guided daily huddles, inserting small pieces of information about our patients’ lives before they were ill or about their memories with their loved ones, reminding us of the person behind the tubes. It refocused and refreshed our perspectives, inadvertently (or intentionally) prompting us to provide better care for our patients. In addition to her pervasive compassion was her unmatched intelligence; she was smarter than many of the physicians we worked with but never boasted that intelligence. Her dedication to our patients continued into her role as our nursing director (she has dual Master’s degrees which she earned as a single mother raising three daughters), and she worked tirelessly to improve practices and patient care. She was my mentor for the five and half years I worked at Select, and when I left the company, I took what she had taught me and applied it at my new job. Because of her, I am the successful, certified nurse pursuing my own graduate degree that I am today.

Jen still works at Select and leads the team as the charge nurse, prioritizing patient needs while supporting staff. I am not only proud to have learned from her but to also call her my dear friend. I hope that this message conveyed how much she means to the world of medicine. She deserves recognition as do all of our frontline, essential workers (medical and not) during one of the most challenging times of our lifetimes.”

Kate Ragghianti is a social worker for the State of Delaware. Kate was nominated by Jenny Torgerson. Jenny submitted a video nomination that you can watch below:

Liann Bova, a nurse in the Medical ICU at ChristianaCare, was nominated by her husband, Parker Havis.


“Liann has served as a nurse in the Medical ICU at Christiana Care, which has operated as a primary hub for helping Delawareans in our fight against COVID. During the pandemic, she has worked extra shifts with heavy protective equipment and without complaint or compromise in her quality of care. Outside of the hospital, she has recently donated thirteen inches of her hair to Locks of Love, with the help of the hair stylists at Currie Salon’s location on the Riverfront. Liann is my best friend, and I am proud to be married to someone who strives to serve others both inside and outside her profession.”

Felisha Alderson, a Kutz Senior Living Campus Manager, was nominated by her co-worker, Cheryl Heiks.

“She has relentlessly fought the virus, communicated with the residents and families and advocated on behalf of residents and staff in the face of the ever-changing and conflicting governmental guidance. During this time she experienced the illness and loss of her own Father. Like many of her colleagues, she has always responded to me when I have reached out in need of input from a clinician or facility perspective. Kutz senior living – offers both skilled care and rehabilitation services and has a separate facility for assisted living with a secured unit for those with dementia diagnosis.”

Ilana Wright, a Grocery Delivery Worker, was nominated by Rachel & Zay Wright, as well as Dori, Ardell.

“She was a full-time owner of a Children’s entertainment business and due to Covid, she turned to Instacart to continue to care for her family and 7 children while out and about during the peak of the pandemic to deliver groceries to those who could not get out.

In addition to that, she would help out her elderly neighbors and take friends to the doctors as they needed it.
During that time she had two surgeries, walks with a boot cast and always goes above and beyond to help anyone in need at all times. She’s a loving , hard worker who is a true inspiration to all.”

Tracy McCausland, a property manager for BPG, was nominated by her co-worker, James Bowman.

“She is a very sweet boss who works very hard and sometimes works outside of her scope of work by showing that she does have some mechanical skills as a handywoman beside being able to sit behind a computer.”

Amber Clark, an essential worker for the State of Delaware and teaches blind children and adults to travel, was nominated by Kohaku Sueda.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic she has maintained serving her students and clients while juggling being a single mother.”

Kasey Samluk, a tech/medical assistant for Nemours Pediatrics, was nominated by Marci Agnew and Tracey Blumfield.

“Kasey has had a rough 2 years and really deserves to be taken care of the way that she takes care of others! We lost our dad to cancer in August 2019. March 2020 the pandemic hit and rocked her world at work. In June 2020 she filed for divorce, and in July moved herself and her now 3 year old son out of their house. It seems as though she cannot catch a break, but always remains positive and optimistic.

Kasey is an awesome single momma who is always busy with her son, Easton. She takes him on adventures, creates fun themed meals for him, crafts up a storm, and comes up with fun activities for the two of them to do. As you can imagine between taking care of a 3 year old and working full time treating patients and their families, there is little time for self care. Kasey’s work schedule has changed to some late nights, weekend COVID clinics, and the added risks from seeing children and their families all day long.”

Heather Lemley, a nurse, was nominated by Cheynne Hall and other neighbors at Christiana Landing. 

“She is an extremely hard working nurse who has been on the frontlines throughout the last year. We have seen her beyond exhausted and yet she gets up every day and ensures her patients are taken care of. She picks up countless shifts for her peers who fall ill with COVID. As if this wasn’t enough, Heather has also decided to further her education and begin her Masters program.”

Dionne Price is a nurse at the Wilmington VA, and a caregiver. Dionne was nominated by Kev McDonald.

“A single mother raising 2 amazing daughters and working 2 jobs. During the week Dionne has been on the frontline a the Wilmington VA. Since Covid hit she has volunteered for testing duty, worked the Covid ward, and now helps coordinate getting at-risk Vets vaccinated. On the weekends she continues to help others by working as a caregiver at an assisted living home.”

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