Strength in Pulling Together

    Writer Rachel Curry
    Photographer John Williams

    During COVID-19, Professionals Across York County Champion for the People

    All of York County’s 449,058 people have been affected in some way by COVID-19. Meanwhile, some have realized that their own impact echoes much further than they thought.

    Kimberly Brister, Sr. Director of Talent Acquisition, Diversity and Inclusion at WellSpan has been working with the York community to create change for more than 14 years. For Brister, a community’s strength has a lot to do with a willingness to learn.

    “It’s a willingness to hear different perspectives and leverage those viewpoints to positively impact our communities.”

    Last year, Brister helped launch unconscious bias training for WellSpan employees. This year, one of her areas of focus was finding staff to help support a growing need for care. As for WellSpan as a whole, the organization has given more than $270,000 in community grants across their locations. One of those grants went to Crispus Attucks.

    Mike Jefferson has spent the last 34 years in his role as Director of Employment & Training at the non-profit Crispus Attucks Center, where he develops the workforce and builds opportunities for minorities. He’s also a board member for the York County Economic Alliance, where he’s witnessed the good that can come from working together.

    “You cannot operate in a vacuum,” says Jefferson. “Without partnerships and community support, we wouldn’t have been able to provide services to people who need help the most in the midst of a pandemic.”

    It’s impossible to separate the interwoven crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice. The pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, including Black and Latino people. Organizations throughout the county are doing on-the-ground advocacy work to close gaps in equity.

    Thaís Carrero serves as Pennsylvania Director at CASA, an organization that advocates for Latino and immigrant people. She works to amplify voices that are typically left out of the conversation. Carrero says, “If something good came out of the pandemic, it’s the ability of us to connect the issues that are affecting our families directly with the systems and structures of power that are in place in a way that we didn’t connect before.”

    Among other initiatives during the pandemic, Carrerosays CASA opened a COVID-19 hotline in four languages, continued work building financial literacy and created a solidarity fund that raised over a million dollars to provide cash assistance for more than 1,000 Pennsylvania families. CASA worked in tandem with organizations like YCEA, York County Community Foundation and more.

    Brister, Jefferson and Carrero are only a fraction of the population, but they’re representative of the binding force that holds York County together. They’re evidence that partnerships and a willingness to learn from one another get you so much farther than going it alone.

    For Jefferson, not even a year wrought with unexpected circumstances — COVID-19 included—can shake such sturdy ground. As he says, “York County still has a strength in pulling together regardless.”