Host: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois was one of the hotspots in the US. As hospitals became overwhelmed, there was a domino effect in different parts of the community.
Host: Ceejay Alegros had seen up close the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Chicago’s busiest hospital.
Ceejay Alegros: In Chicago itself, in about February, March was when we really started to see Covid really starting to pop up. And by April, we were already at over 100. And that was in a month’s time. So hearing those numbers constantly rise, constantly change, was very nerve wracking.
Host: Her line of work– caring for children of frontliners and non-frontliners alike at the Health Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago.
Ceejay Alegros: As mandated reporters, as teachers, as early childhood educators, were mandated reporters to also make sure that [the] children’s well-being is taken care of.
Ceejay Alegros: We wanted the kids to have some sort of consistency to make sure that it didn’t disrupt their everyday life.
Host: Ceejay and her staff felt the weight of the pandemic as school began to close across the country.
Ceejay Alegros: As a daycare center, we are licensed by DCFS, which is the Department of Children Family Services. So, if they also close, we typically follow suit and close as well.
Host: Soon after, the governor of Illinois ordered the closure of all public and private schools. Ceejay had to figure out what to do next.
Ceejay Alegros: When we made the decision to close the child care center to the community, I closed my office door and I cried.
Ceejay Alegros: So suddenly going from 88 children to all of a sudden, under 20 children in a day was definitely a huge change for us.
Ceejay Alegros: You’re running the entire center. And one mistake from me could potentially be detrimental to these 80 families that were relying on us to take care of their children.
Host: Ceejay dealt with the problem the best way she knew how.
Ceejay Alegros: So, when i went into the office, I cried, I shut my blinds, and I prayed, because I needed guidance. I had no idea what to do.
Ceejay Alegros: So, I prayed and I asked our Almighty God for guidance, and I asked Him for clarity of my mind.
Ceejay Alegros: After I prayed, I stopped crying. It was okay. I opened my door, and I spoke to my assistant director and I let her know. I said, this is what we have to do.
Host: Ceejay was determined to find a way to keep the child care center open, while caring for the families of non-frontliners.
Ceejay Alegros: We had to apply for an emergency daycare program license but under a 24 hour turnaround time.
Ceejay Alegros: Although there was potential for exposing ourselves, and exposing the teachers, we thought that that would be the best decision to make, because how else can we help those people if these frontliners aren’t there, they can’t help.
Ceejay Alegros: I took it upon myself to tell our managers and leadership of the hospital that we are already in a pandemic, and our families are already struggling as it is, and some of them don’t even have work right now. I asked them to not charge our families.
Host: Ceejay’s help didn’t stop at the care center, but even overflowed into her own neighborhood.
Ceejay Alegros: I was thinking about my families in the center and one of the moms had actually emailed and she was sad that she couldn’t be there. Her daughter used to always be able to get her meals at school. And she said that she was helped by another family that willingly give her something.
Ceejay Alegros: I suddenly decided that maybe this is something that I can do for my neighborhood. My house is actually located on a corner, right across the street from a park where there’s plenty of foot traffic. And I took an extra storage box that I had and I decided to put food in it. I decided to put non-perishable food and I posted it on a Facebook group that has my neighbors in it.
Ceejay Alegros: They felt like this was a great opportunity for people that might be embarrassed.
Ceejay Alegros: You know, we want to be able to help other people, we want to do good deeds. And that’s because that’s what our Almighty God taught us. This is the faith that we have that during a pandemic, even if some of us might be struggling, we want to be able to still help other people because who else is helping us? Our Almighty God is helping us in blessing us. So why wouldn’t we want to help mankind as well?