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Somers kicks off "Covid Heroes" recognition at Academy Point at Mystic

Mystic — Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, on Friday morning surprised Academy Point at Mystic Executive Director Bonnie Pollard-Johnson with a "Covid Heroes" award — and by the looks of it, Pollard-Johnson was indeed surprised.

Somers said Friday's surprise at Academy Point served as the kickoff for honoring Covid Heroes, which she intends to do between now and the end of the year.

In July, Somers put out a call asking people to nominate a hero who lives in the 18th Senate District and give a brief description of why they're a hero. As examples, she listed grocery store employees, emergency room nurses, veterinarians, nursing home workers, teachers, those who care for the disabled, first responders and volunteers who have made masks.

"We are highlighting acts of kindness, heroism, and charity we have seen during the (COVID-19) pandemic," the senator wrote in July. "Acts which have inspired us and made a positive difference."

Somers said Friday she got close to 50 nominations — including for a pet chihuahua — and plans to honor everyone who met the criteria.

She said three people separately nominated Pollard-Johnson, and that at least one is a resident of Academy Point, an assisted living facility.

"This is such an honor," Pollard-Johnson said, growing a bit emotional.

Somers said those who nominated Pollard-Johnson said she was always upbeat and friendly, and that she made residents feel safe and secure. Somers added that "one person said she looked tired a lot, which is to be understood."

Tashara Leaky, resident care director at Academy Point, said Friday that Pollard-Johnson "really just held it together, in every possible way."

At the beginning of the pandemic, assisted living wasn't mentioned as much, and more of the focus was on hospitals and nursing homes, Leaky said. She commented that Pollard-Johnson was one of the first people to ask, "What about us?"

Program director Heather Farnell said she feels Pollard-Johnson was one of the best advocates for assisted living, and Amanda O'Rourke, director of business administration, described Pollard-Johnson as "very proactive."

Somers also presented a Covid Heroes award on Thursday to Eileen Cicchese, who is responsible for special needs programs, summer camps and other programs for Groton Parks and Recreation. That wasn't a surprise, Somers said, so Special Rec participants could attend.

Somers also posted on Facebook on Thursday that she honored Tina Falck, Lisa Martell and all staff and volunteers at the Griswold Senior Center for "all they do to help seniors with food delivery, by calling and checking on them, and by simply making sure everyone is ok."

e.moser@theday.com

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