Program held at historic Schoellkopf Park
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center honored area residents and staff members impacted by COVID-19 during ceremonies held Tuesday morning in historic Schoellkopf Park on the medical center’s downtown campus.
The outdoor program celebrated the resilience and perseverance of the community and the dedication and extraordinary efforts of Memorial Medical Center and Schoellkopf Health Center employees during the pandemic.
NFMMC President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo said the hospital was ahead of the curve in terms of response to the coronavirus. The facility brought in 80 extra volunteers and was among the first medical centers to begin contact tracing those who tested positive. To date, more than 6,500 people have been tested – and, thanks to efforts educating the public – less than 1% of the 2,000 most recent tests have come back positive.
Ruffolo said there was no playbook for COVID-19, but he and upward of 50 people met daily for huddles: planning and praying and prepping for what the new day would bring.
The Rev. Craig D. Pridgen, senior pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church and a member of the NFMMC board, had the coronavirus. He shared his symptoms were severe and required hospitalization. Pridgen said that, thanks to the work of hospital staffers, he recovered and reunited with his family.
Other speakers included Pastor Vince Eisaman, NFMMC spiritual care coordinator; attorney James C. Roscetti, chairman of the hospital board of directors; the Rev. Stewart Lindsay, OSFS, senior parochial vicar at Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish; Judy Villani, director of volunteer services; and City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino. Vocalist Hillary Poole, R.N., performed an original song she wrote and recorded about the pandemic.
A maple tree honoring those whose lives have been impacted by the disease was dedicated adjacent to the ceremony, and a moment of silence was held to honor those whose lives were lost.
Eisaman said Ruffolo was more than a president/CEO, he was the captain of the ship.