Some heroes are on the front line for all to see and admire, while other heroes operate in the shadows

Joe Pant, Employee

I wanted to share an amazing story of someone stepping up and helping Bronson and our communities in an outstanding way.

On Friday, March 13th, Michigan residents awoke to a reality that starting Monday, March 16th their school aged kids would not have school until at least mid-April. For many employees at Bronson this move was understood and necessary but resulted in many employees with young children that no longer had a place to go Monday through Friday.

This task came to Human Resources to problem solve and the HR leadership team instantly recommended Kendra Cook for a near impossible task, pop up Bronson child care facilities across the entire system. Without hesitation Kendra accepted this responsibility and for the next couple weeks worked tirelessly toward 1 goal – to provide childcare to Bronson employees who are needed to support our community and patients. Kendra is Bronson’s Performance Specialist and many would know her from our performance process. She has no training or previous experience in childcare, daycare facilities or starting them (except she is the lead for her church’s nursery). In no way did this stop, slow down or hinder Kendra. She brought the same confidence, tenacity and ‘get it done’ attitude she brings to everything thrown at her.

Kendra started reaching out to community resources and other areas within Bronson to see what options we had. She first started with the Bronson Athletic Club and Bronson Wellness Center. Next up was our counties’ ISD (independent school districts), area YMCA’s and a couple vendors. Kalamazoo and Portage schools were also on this list to see what type of food options they may have for us.

After countless hours, phone calls, emails and Bronson/Community help, the Bronson Wellness Center in South Haven and Bronson Athletic Club were opened on Wednesday, March 18th with a total capacity of 100 children. One day later, Thursday March 19th, our partnership with the Battle Creek YMCA was finalized, with a capacity of 30. On Monday, March 23rd, the goal Kendra set out to complete a mere week before had been completed. Bronson was able to finalize a contract with Kindercare to come to Downtown Kalamazoo and offer Child Care in the Bronson Gilmore building, with a capacity of 40 children. ALL of these locations are completely free to employees. The Bronson Athletic Club and Gilmore locations have breakfast and lunch provided by the Kalamazoo & Portage school districts.

There are so many people to thank for this outcome; the Bronson Athletic Club, Bronson Wellness Center, Purchasing/Contracting, several others within HR, the Battle Creek YMCA, Kalamazoo/Portage Schools and many more. Kendra was truly the catalyst for this outcome and spent every minute she had until her goal was realized. As a Bronson employee, parent of 2 young children and member of the Kalamazoo community I have had many, many proud moments and times of reflection of outstanding individuals. Kendra’s efforts and pure will to make this happen is something I will never forget. Few times in my life have I been more proud of someone, as I have been of Kendra throughout this process.

Some heroes are on the front line for all to see and admire, while other heroes operate in the shadows. In my eyes, Kendra is a hero and I guarantee there are dozens of employees, parents, coworkers, friends and peers that feel the same way. I just hope this story inspires others, in the shadows or the frontlines, to give everything they have to help support each other and our communities. Kendra deserves our recommendation, admiration and to be out of the shadows for this one.