As director of admissions at the Hempstead Park Nursing Home in New York, Suzanne Foster’s job does not normally include handing out meals, changing blankets or helping residents get dressed.
But in March 2020, nothing was normal. The coronavirus had spread, and things were changing quickly at the 251-bed nursing home. When the pandemic set in and the home experienced staffing shortages; it was all hands on deck.
Without thinking twice, Suzanne traded in her business suit for a face shield, gloves and scrubs. The Amway Independent Business Owner (IBO) headed up to the patient floors to help the residents, some of whom were battling COVID-19.
Whatever was needed, Suzanne filled the gaps. It meant working long days, double shifts, weekends and holidays.
In response to the global health crisis, everyday people like Suzanne became Everyday Heroes – and Amway is celebrating their stories. From sacrificing time with their families to sewing hundreds of face masks, these Everyday Heroes gave of themselves to serve and bring joy to others during trying times.
Suzanne stepped forward to help during this challenging time, exemplifying not only generosity, but a can-do spirit that had an impact on everyone around her.
“Suzanne just exhibits positivity. No matter how difficult it got, she always saw a silver lining,” says Lauren Klein, administrator of the Hempstead Park Nursing Home. “I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through this without her.”
Being there for residents
With outside visitors prohibited during the pandemic, residents couldn’t see their families. Suzanne found ways to help families visit the residents in the only way possible. She used her own cell phone to make video calls so residents and families could see and talk with each other.
“It made a big difference for them,” she says. “Sometimes it was hard because the residents were really sick, and you knew that it was their time. Those calls allowed some families to say their final goodbyes.
“At the end of the day, if you made them smile, or you made it a good day for them, that’s a big thing. I would want someone to do the same thing for my family.”
Help came for her, too
While she tirelessly helped the residents at the nursing home, her son Johnny was being cared for by others.
Johnny is 15 and has autism. Taking care of him remains the top priority in Suzanne’s life. In 2019, well before the coronavirus took hold, Suzanne realized Johnny needed extra support and therapy. She learned about The Center for Discovery in upstate New York, which offers education, therapies and programs for individuals with special needs.
Taking Johnny to live there in 2019 was one of the hardest decisions of her life, Suzanne recalls. But It was the right decision: Johnny is thriving.
The Center has 1,500 acres, an organic farm and animals, too. He swims, zip lines, brushes horses and receives therapy. “They’re doing amazing things with him,” Suzanne says.
A difficult time for Johnny
Eventually, coronavirus restrictions stopped Suzanne’s visits to Johnny, too. Trying to help him understand wasn’t easy. She tried to explain to him on their daily video call that there’s a virus with bad, yucky germs. “I would tell him, ‘You’re so brave. I’m so proud of you. The best thing you can do is stay home, wash your hands, be happy and play.’”
Suzanne is grateful for how the staff supported Johnny during the COVID-19 lockdown and how they also supported her. “Throughout this whole thing, they were asking me if I’m OK,” she says. “They understood how hard it was for me not being able to see my child.”
It was 123 days before Suzanne was finally able to spend time in person with her son. On July 3, she drove to the Center and when Johnny saw her, he had a huge smile on his face. “I started crying hysterically,” she remembers. “I was so happy to see him.”
Enduring their separation solidified what Suzanne already knew: “I was meant to be his mother; there’s no doubt about it. He teaches me patience every day and about looking at the world differently.”
Giving to the Givers
In early 2020, to give back to people who were doing wonderful things during the coronavirus pandemic, Amway sponsored a #GiveToGivers contest, inviting people to nominate individuals who were going above and beyond. Suzanne was one of the top five winners in the U.S.
To honor her, Amway made a $5,000 donation to The Center for Discovery where her son lives. Her donation supports the Center’s co-op grocery store, a seed-to-table, virus-free grocery store for its employees to protect themselves, their families and the children they serve from COVID-19.
Watch for more stories about Amway IBOs, philanthropic partners and employees who led with their hearts and took positive action during the pandemic to make the world a better place, and read about past recipients of Amway Hero Awards on Amway Connections.