He just left a career in emergency medical services; now he's creating LCCM's COVID-19 pandemic response plan in Lebanon County
Bryan D. Smith just exited his role as the executive director of First Aid and Safety Patrol, an ambulance service in Lebanon County. Six months into his new role as the executive director of Lebanon County Christian Ministries, he's leading the charge as LCCM braces for the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. You can help us.
Bryan D. Smith was about to enter his office at Lebanon County Christian Ministries Wednesday morning but stopped short and laughed when he saw a big, colorful poster board with the words “Happy Birthday, Bryan!” hanging on the door.
As he opened the door, he carefully stepped over 43 balloons – a covert operation executed by a few sneaky staff members the night before – to make way to his desk where a six-pack of vanilla and chocolate cupcakes were waiting for him.
It was a light moment during the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic that has essentially caused Lebanon County and the rest of the country to come to a standstill.
Smith just smiled and shook his head as he prepped for the 9 a.m. standup meeting with staff implemented this week to assess each day’s needs throughout the many departments at Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM).
It’s a bit ironic that he spent his 43rd birthday planning and implementing an emergency response to a pandemic just six months after leaving a long career in the emergency medical services field.
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Last year, LCCM distributed over 400,000 pounds of food, provided 20,000 clothing items to 862 families, served 47,000 noon meals and discharged 130 people to housing from FRESH Start Emergency Shelter and Resource Center.
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“I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing emergency planning again, certainly not to this capacity,” said Smith, the former executive director of First Aid and Safety Patrol, an ambulance service in Lebanon County.
In just a matter of days, LCCM’s regular routine has been upended by the threat of the coronavirus.
That’s a serious issue for a nonprofit that provides emergency social services to thousands of people each year.
LCCM’s new leader is being tested on multiple fronts in what could become LCCM’s most troubling time as it braces for the potential economic fallout of a pandemic.
Smith is now leading the charge in a different kind of emergency field. The nature of it may not be medical emergencies that emerge during a pandemic, but instead, it could be a personal and economic one.
LCCM serves as the food and clothing bank of Lebanon County and operates the only family-based shelter in the county. The nonprofit provides households with up to 2 weeks’ worth of food supplies, clothing, energy assistance, and serves a daily free noon meal on site or at a partnering church or organization.
LCCM also serves as the distribution site for the federal Emergency Food Assistance program and serves the community’s seniors through the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program. At the end of the school year, it also operates the Summer Food Program for students.
With a staff of nine and more than 400 local volunteers, the logistics of coordination under normal conditions is a considerable undertaking to meet the needs of those facing insecurity and homelessness in Lebanon County.
A United Way report's data show 37 percent of people in Lebanon County can’t cover the costs of basic necessities such as housing, child care, transportation and food – in Lebanon city, that number rises to a whopping 60 percent.
And that’s under normal circumstances.
As of Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Department of Health has reported one case of COVID-19 in Lebanon County. In the last two days, as the spread of COVID-19 prompted Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to order a statewide shutdown, Spotlight Pa reported that state officials received 120,000 claims for unemployment benefits – more than half of what the state reported for the entire first quarter of 2019, according to state and federal data.
Smith has displayed grace under pressure in his short time here, a skill that undoubtedly became second nature through his previous life as a paramedic for 24 years.
“He’s a blessing, especially right now,” said Bill Bishop, an LCCM board member who volunteers weekly. “His leadership style was one thing we really liked about him. That is one reason we hired him. Now it’s just on full display during this emergency. His skills are paying off in spades now.’
Part of his previous job was serving on regional task force initiatives and develop emergency response plans for other pandemics in the past such as Ebola and H1N1. Last week, he put those skills to use in developing a multi-level emergency response plan for LCCM. Experience in preparing and implementing emergency response plans is a convenient, albeit, unexpected, skill in his new role, but the pandemic isn’t the only time his background as a paramedic has come into play at LCCM – four other medical emergencies occurred at LCCM in his short time here.
But the last few days have been a shock to the system as Smith must now orchestrate not only the urgent response in the short term during a state of flux, but must also focus on the long-game strategy for LCCM to remain viable into the future. This not only encompasses serving emergency needs, but implementing programs that also encourages personal sustainability in the long term.
As he drove to Hebron Catering and Events Wednesday to pick up meals donated to LCCM’s noon meal, he said he has no doubt that LCCM and the Lebanon community is in unchartered territory, but says Lebanon County has always been a particularly giving community. And that’s not just anecdotal. Philanthropy.com ranked Lebanon as the second-most giving city Pennsylvania in 2015, a status given due to it donating 3.45 percent of its total adjusted gross income.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever seen anything like this,” Smith said of the pandemic. “I will say that Lebanon is an incredible community, a giving community, a resource rich community, so I feel like if there is a community I would want to be in, it’s Lebanon.”
Written by Andrea Gillhoolley, director of development and marketing, Lebanon County Christian Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org