Sara Robert shows one of the 100 lawn signs she made and sold to help those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The sign is displayed at her Lewiston home Wednesday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Sara Robert saw a sign during one of her routine runs that gave her the idea of honoring essential workers.

Without fanfare, the 17-year-old from Lewiston felt obligated to demonstrate her support for people who work in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was out on a run one day and I was thinking on how I could give back to the first responders and essential workers during the pandemic,” she said. “I have so much respect for all that they do for the community every day. So as I was on my run and I saw a sign on someone’s front lawn because they have been really popular during this pandemic.”

Her 2-for-1 endeavor not only allowed her to show her gratitude toward workers but also support local restaurants that are experiencing lean times during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“So I thought I could design a sign and sell them to show support toward essential workers,” Robert explained. “So I set a goal to sell 100 signs at $20 each and purchase 80, $25 gift cards from local restaurants and donate them to environmental service staff at hospitals, as well as a few other essential workers. So in the envelope with the gift card, there was a note attached containing the names of every family who donated.”

She posted the sale of her signs on Facebook and the response was swift and overwhelming.

Robert saw people purchasing multiple signs, as well as donating money or additional gift cards. She said about $1,700 was raised.

“There are people in our community who came together to support these essential workers and need to be thanked,” said Robert, a junior attending the prestigious Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts. “I sold my goal of 100 signs and I got additional money from people in the community who donated more, and the restaurants who donated additional gift cards when I went to purchase them. So it all worked out really well.”

Robert began the project in early April.

“I started to create the signs and the signs took a little while to get shipped to me,” she said. “It took me about a week for the community to help me reach my goal of 100 signs.

“It just made me realize that we are so lucky to live in this community of truly caring and giving people who want to support the essential workers that are working for all of us to stay safe,” she said.

She turned to her father, David, and his boss for help and they directed her to a website where people can create their own signs. The company also prints the signs.

“I went on a Google slide and I added a Google clip of essential workers, and at the top, I wrote thank you and I put bullet points with just some of the essential workers that needed to be thanked during these crazy times.

“It is not easy to put everybody on the sign, but I tried my best to include all the essential workers I could think of. It is a pretty plain sign, but it is a ‘thank-you’ to those who serve us,” she said.

She distributed the signs and gift cards, and in return, she received grateful thank-yous from workers.

“I gave some gift cards to the trash men, some people who worked at gas stations, pharmacists in the local pharmacies, just so everyone knows that they are appreciated for working and helping us stay running during this time,” she said. “I gave 55 gift cards to the environment service staff at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center so that everyone of them could receive a gift card.”

Robert also wanted to help struggling businesses such as local restaurants hit hard by the pandemic.

“I did this for myself, but my parents, David and Jennifer, really helped me,” she said. “My dad helped me drive around and deliver the signs to people’s houses, but I did the advertising and really the rest goes out to the community, who gave and donated. Those people really needed to be thanked as well.”

Her parents are beaming with pride seeing their daughter understand the sadness unfolding across the globe.

“We were having dinner and she started to say, ‘You know what, I don’t have classes for two or three weeks and there is a pause in school. There is something I can do to give back,’” David said.

An employee for The Fortin Group funeral business, he said his daughter was writing gratitude cards to his colleagues in New York City, who were overwhelmed by the high death rate from the coronavirus outbreak.

“She was getting some satisfaction from that, but she wanted to do something greater,” he said. “She felt, ‘What can I do to impact my own community?’ Then she came up with this idea when she saw a sign. Jennifer and I just kind of said, We’ll support you and help you if you need guidance, a little bit of traction, so we’ll get you started.”

David said his daughter’s efforts impacted 100 people in the community.

“We’re proud of her,” he said. “She had a goal set; she accomplished it. She feels good about it. So I think part of her is saying, ‘What can I do next?’”

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