Impact Stories:

COVID-19 Relief Stories: Leanne McDonough

Federation Support Helps Older Adults Feel Good Despite Pandemic Isolation

On a typical day, in a regular year, Leanne McDonough’s job does not risk her life.

Leanne McDonough after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.
Leanne holding a sign reading, "I got my vaccine for my customers."

Leanne works as a hair care therapist at the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA), one of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s eight beneficiary agencies. She helps JAA’s residents look good and feel positive.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, Leanne’s job brought with it the fear of dying from the virus. Leanne suddenly found herself in the category of “essential worker,” risking her health because her residents need her help to sustain their quality of life. For their protection, residents had been quarantined in their rooms since the start of the pandemic. Leanne came to the rescue, though, working with the activities department to provide love and comfort to the residents when they needed it most.

Fortunately for Leanne and for thousands of workers in Jewish agencies across Pittsburgh, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh was ready to step in to help. Because of generous donors, Federation already had established relationships with Jewish agencies before the crisis; as a result, Federation stepped in quickly when the crisis began. An early distribution of $120,000 paid for face masks, gowns, air filtration systems, scrubs and more. The Federation immediately procured and sent this life-saving personal protective equipment, at the outset of the pandemic and beyond.

With financial support from the Jewish Federation, JAA mitigated COVID-19 risk as much as possible. The funds provided by Federation allowed the JAA to keep their employees and residents safe—literally saving lives. Federation and JAA worked closely together to identify needs, from temperature monitors to air filtration improvements to additional staff necessary to increase cleaning frequency and allow for social distancing. Federation has supported JAA with millions of dollars over decades, including over $1 million* to get JAA through this difficult year.

Thanks to the Federation’s support, Leanne guards herself every day by wearing a face mask and face shield. Every single morning, she wears clean scrubs. Leanne can leave her dirty scrubs at work at the end of the day and pick up clean, fresh scrubs the next morning, never having to worry she is bringing the virus home on her clothes.

Leanne felt the Federation and the entire community rally behind JAA’s employees and residents: “It was amazing to see everyone jump in and make sure people could still thrive.”

JAA resident Leanne poses with her new haircut. The hair stylist takes a photo in the mirror.

Thanks to the donors to the Jewish Federation, Leanne and so many other frontline workers have survived this pandemic, protected their seniors and given these JAA residents hope and companionship in the direst of times.

Close-up of hair stylist Leanne and a client at Jewish Association on Aging.

*Federation support for JAA comes from diverse sources, including the Federations Community Campaign and Jewish Community Foundation, private giving specifically for COVID-19 relief, other foundations with which Federation works such as the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and more.

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