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Tracy Davis (left) and Michelle Herring deliver food to dialysis clinics during the coronavirus outbreak with support from the Caring Foundation of Texas. 

Texas Care Vans Shift Gears During Coronavirus Outbreak

Tracy Davis and Michelle Herring understand it doesn’t take a catastrophe to upend the lives of patients at the Houston dialysis centers where they do business. 

Many of them routinely struggled to find transportation, food and other necessities under normal circumstances.

So Davis and Herring, who are account managers for a pharmaceutical company, sprang into action to help as the coronavirus began spreading through Texas and the greater Houston area. Dialysis patients are immunosuppressed and at heightened risk of contracting severe COVID-19 disease.

“We were so worried about these patients,” Davis says. “The situation was so dire. The stores were out of things, and these patients are not even supposed to be in stores.”

Within days, the coworkers teamed with Christine Kutnick, chief operations officer of the Caring Foundation of Texas, who agreed the foundation could serve as an umbrella organization for their project and provided an online fundraising portal, as well as a Care Van, to enable them to buy and deliver groceries to dialysis patients.

The foundation, supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, partners with nine organizations and runs 10 Care Van initiatives around the state. These initiatives address the barriers that prevent families from securing preventive health care.

Care Vans fulfill changing needs

The Houston dialysis project is among a few pivots made to keep the foundation’s Care Vans on the road and serve communities during the outbreak. Vans that had been used to provide health screenings and immunizations before the coronavirus now are offering social distancing education and delivering personal protective equipment and Girl Scout cookies to health care workers. 

With Kutnick’s support, Davis and Herring have raised more than $1,500 and helped about 60 patients so far. 

“Our hope is to create a legacy,” Davis says. “The next time there’s a flood or hurricane, there already will be something in place.” 

Horizon Therapeutics, the coworkers’ Chicago-based company and a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois customer, supports their efforts. 

“At Horizon, we have built a culture that encourages employees like Tracy and Michelle to give back to their communities in ways that make a difference,” says Geoffrey Curtis, Horizon’s executive vice president and chief communications officer. “We hope that their work inspires others in the greater Houston area to help people in need of dialysis treatment.” 

San Antonio’s Meals on Wheels program contacted the foundation for support, too. The nonprofit organization, which delivers daily meals to about 5,000 home-bound residents, requested Care Vans to provide food to its clients.

During the outbreak, Meals on Wheels is making two weekly visits to limit potential virus exposure, but drivers are delivering more food than they typically would to ensure clients have plenty to eat between visits. The Care Vans have more room to transport the additional food people need.

San Antonio's Meals on Wheels program is using two Caring Vans to deliver extra food to clients during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Our clients don’t leave the house to go out and get food,” says Forrest Myane, the San Antonio program’s chief development officer. “We’re trying to give them a lot of extra food. Now, they get three chilled meals and a box of food.”

The partnership with the Caring Foundation of Texas has helped provide the flexibility her program needed to keep some of the San Antonio area’s most isolated residents fed.

“The foundation has a lot of resources, and since we are a health care nonprofit, we should be doing our part to help our communities,” says Sheena Payne, the Caring Foundation of Texas' executive director.

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association