Public Launch of COVID-19 Story Collection Project Shares Personal Experiences of Fear, Hope and Resilience

Story gallery to be featured by Spady Cultural Heritage Museum as a reflection on one of the greatest crises of our time.
Posted on the Palm Health Foundation website on June 10, 2020

West Palm Beach, Fla. – Realizing the historical significance of Palm Health Foundation’s COVID-19 SenseMaker project, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is working with the foundation on a virtual gallery exhibit that will launch on June 3, 2020 to share the community’s collective experience. 

County residents have shared over 700 stories about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives through the new story collection website. The SenseMaker® COVID-19 site was designed to aid Palm Health Foundation and its partners in providing relief to those with urgent needs and as a data collection tool for current and future community health planning. Once the foundation saw the outpouring of experiences, it knew the stories had to be shared with the public in real-time and saved to posterity. 

The story gallery reveals a wide array of experiences and emotions across every region and demographic in the county. A story titled “Grieving Alone” shares, “My father passed away on March 31 of heart failure. We should have all gathered at our parents’ home and held each other and grieved. Instead, we stood 6 ft. away from our mother on her porch while she sat there and cried.” 

While many stories are of emotional strain, the positive stories far outweigh the negative by over 2.5 to 1. One recent story shared an experience through the eyes of a young child: “The three-year-old put his mask on and instead of seeing himself as a fictional hero character, he said he was a doctor. The real heroes of their time.” Story collection began in March 2020, conducted by Palm Health Foundation’sHealthier Together communities, BeWellPBC,Pathways 2 Prosperity  and the EJS Project to understand how the outbreak and community interventions are affecting residents. Through story and data collection, promotion and interpretation exercises, residents and youth become researchers, replacing the usual “experts” who assess communities from the outside.  

Individuals who share a story of personal crisis of hunger, mental health and other emergency situations receive support through the Volunteer Nurse Corps, a program of the School of Nursing at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Community Partners of South Florida. Palm Health Foundation’s new Neighbors Helping Neighbors Fund is inviting contributions to match its own committed $200K to provide immediate financial support for those with urgent needs. A recent story that prompted immediate response and continuing follow-up began with, “I ran out of food yesterday after going five days on one meal.” 

Studies have shown that putting feelings into words can have a positive impact on a patient’s mental health as well as physical health and immune system. “Residents are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and isolation brought on by COVID-19,” said Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Health Foundation. “Our story collection project lets residents express themselves in a safe environment and shows other people that they are not alone in their feelings. Rarely, if ever, do we have the chance to share common emotions and experiences across our widely diverse community from every race, ethnicity and income level.” 

Spady Cultural Heritage Museum will feature the stories in a gallery alongside other musings, thoughts, prayers, perspectives and recollections from the community during COVID-19.  The museum plans to launch a video recorded virtual tour of the exhibit on its website on June 3, 2020. 

“There is so much for us to learn now and in the future from COVID-19,” said McNamara. “While our foundation will develop a greater understanding of how we can assist our most vulnerable residents, we as community members can also learn from one another about finding resilience within ourselves.”  

About Palm Health Foundation Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $83 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit or call (561) 833-6333.

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