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Honoring “Heroes” for Going the Extra Mile

Holly Davis, RN, (far right in photo, above) traveled to Pittsburgh to accept the award on behalf of fellow members of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Backus Federation of Nurses. She joined nearly two dozen caregivers from Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin on stage before a standing ovation from 3,000 union delegates.

Recognizing members for extraordinary service on the job and contributions to their communities has become a tradition at our national union’s convention. Honorees in recent years have been proposed and selected by their peers, frequently through a friendly competition. Given the unprecedented number of challenges facing our country, 2018’s “AFT Heroes” were chosen among the many who, often under extreme conditions, aided those most in need.

Click here for photos of Davis this past weekend accepting the award.

Davis, who treats patients in the emergency department at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, described her time on the island of St. Thomas as an “uplifting experience.” She hopes it translates to more of her colleagues jumping at the opportunity the next time members are asked to volunteer to provide relief to those in need.

“There’s a whole movement backing us,” added Davis, who is also a school nurse with the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeast Connecticut and additionally a member of our VNASC union. “They realize that now, and I think more members will step up in the future,” she said.

Davis and her Backus Hospital co-workers devoted a week to assisting teachers, school nurses and support staff in two AFT-affiliated locals on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Since last September’s back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the people of the USVI have struggled to recover, rebuild and meet their basic needs. 

AFT teamed up with the Clinton Global Initiative, the Seafarers International Union, Airlink and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in order to cover the critically important mission’s costs.

Click here for press reporting from the USVI on the effort.

Leigh-Anne Marshall, RN (far left in photo), who also works in the hospital’s emergency department, recounted her week in St. Croix as both “awesome and a blessing.” She was able to coordinate time off with the four weeks notice provided, thanks to a per diem colleague willing to cover her scheduled shifts.

“There’s a camaraderie when opportunities like this come up,” said Marshall. “A lot of our nurses who couldn’t go said that, if anyone needs time off, they were happy to help,” she added.

Amanda Daniels, RN (second from left in photo), shared the “gratitude” shown by fellow union members and students when she and the team of volunteers arrived and throughout their stay in the hurricane-ravaged USVI. She described the countless “hugs, high-fives and fist bumps” while assisting teachers and school nurses with vital hearing and vision testing for the territory’s children.

Daniels, who also works in the Backus emergency department, said the trip helped “open my eyes to how big our union is.” She added, “I didn’t realize how much it does and how much it helps us on the job — and how many resources we have as members,” until the volunteer mission.

Both Daniels and Marshall in May were on hand to represent their colleagues when the delegation to the USVI relief team was recognized at AFT Connecticut’s annual convention. “Ambassadors” from local affiliates who traveled the country over the past year to help fellow members in need were commended for displaying altruism, solidarity and goodwill.

Click here for a photo of Marshall and Daniels with our national union president following their state recognition.

Along with fellow members and Backus emergency department caregivers Mary Van Hoesen, RN (middle in photo above) and Sarah Menner, RN (second from right), the team demonstrated the meaning of the “U and I in Union.” By supporting and relying on their colleagues and each other, they were able to be part of a unique experience while improving the lives of thousands of children in need. 

Click here to watch and share more of our members’ observations after returning from the USVI relief mission.


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