There are 124 hospitals in the state of Arizona, and more than 1,000 churches. During the coronavirus pandemic, a new charitable effort was launched to connect them. Through the Care for AZ online platform, 65 churches have allied themselves with 75 local hospitals in the past few months to provide help in a myriad of ways during the virus emergency.
Some more established hospital systems sought only moral support and prayer, but other medical providers asked for assistance ranging from grocery donations to care packages. Victory Worship Center, the Tucson, AZ, church where Pastor Ryan Burbank serves, partnered with three hospitals in the area. Burbank says child care was the greatest need in his southern region of the state. So volunteers who would normally watch little ones during Sunday service instead traveled to hospitals to watch health-care workers’ children on-site.
In addition to tending children, volunteers have written encouraging notes to health-care workers, made gowns and face masks, set up covid-19 testing sites, coordinated with restaurants to provide take-home meals for hospital staff, delivered medications, and organized blood drives.
Care for AZ grew out of an existing initiative called CityServe Arizona. When Billy Thrall, a Phoenix native, founded CityServe a decade ago, his goal was to connect faith communities with local efforts in education, business, and government, giving churches opportunities to serve their neighbors.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Thrall ended up on a Zoom call with 75 state pastors and a few legislators. Out of this conversation developed the idea to connect churches with nearby hospitals so volunteers could fill gaps. “We don’t tell the hospital what we want to do,” Thrall says. “The hospital tells us.”
Now that these partnerships have been established, churches will be able to serve future needs more quickly. “I don’t see this really ever going away,” Burbank says. “There’s always going to be a need for pastoral care, blood drives, command centers for clinics,” observes Jason Ake, who developed the web platform to connect churches with hospitals. “Now hospitals have a resource to use. It’s our hope and prayer that people will continue these relationships.”