Over the course of two weeks in mid-to-late September, hundreds of AMLI residents were nominated by their fellow neighbors and loved ones as AMLI Heroes in our annual nationwide contest.
What makes an AMLI Hero? It's someone who has selflessly given back to others and their community, despite the obstacles of the pandemic and the new normal that is now our everyday lives. This year, AMLI strove to empower our residents with the opportunity to recognize others who have gone beyond the ordinary during this extraordinary time.
Each and every AMLI Hero had such a compelling story to tell. There were nurses, teachers, essential workers and community volunteers. Some heroes battled the wildfires in the West and others put themselves at risk to deliver food to our grocery stores and into the trunks of cars. Other heroes were kind neighbors, always ready to lend a helping hand. We hope stories like these continue to be told and added to with time, so that they may join the larger story of what it means to be kind, caring and human in the ongoing struggle of 2020.
It's with great pleasure and thanks that we announce our AMLI Heroes. The following are the AMLI Heroes winners and the stories submitted by those who nominated them. The Grand Prize Winner will take home $1,000 for their efforts, and each Regional Winner will receive $150. These prizes are a small consolation for the daily sustained effort these individuals have mustered. Thank you again to all who shared their stories and, especially, to all the heroes out there doing the good work.
Grand Prize Winner: Elizabeth from AMLI Lindbergh
"My AMLI Hero is my girlfriend, Elizabeth Martin. She has worked for the YMCA for six years. When the Y shut down due to COVID, she and her team truly stepped up for the community, working every day on the front lines to meet community needs. While the world stopped, Elizabeth and the Y stepped UP. She worked HARD, helping to serve weekly meals to thousands of families who were struggling with food insecurity and providing hundreds of children of essential workers and first responders with a safe place to continue virtual school while also having fun. She drives a bus out to an extended stay hotel to provide meals and child services each day to the children living there. She makes sure these kids are fed, clothed, registered for school, and are having fun - making water balloons for hours and making up other games for these sweet kids who I also have come to love. She has been up before sunrise every day and works all day long to make sure our community had the resources it needs during this terrible time. When many parents had to go back to work, Liz continued to support kids and families through hunger relief and virtual schooling. She raised more than $50,000 for emergency funds for kids in need to have these services for free. She is amazing and I would love for her to receive this honor."
Regional Prize Winners
Atlanta Regional Winner: Glenys from AMLI Decatur
"A true hero is a person who is there when we need help at our weakest whether we have a close bond with them initially or not. Having no family within close proximity after major surgery, my neighbor Glenys checked on me every day. She brought me my mail, groceries, and made pharmacy trips for medical supplies. When I encountered a serious post operative infection, she drove me over 45 miles one way for 2 doctor appointments in addition to a lab for blood work then another for CT scan all within the same week. The sincere kindness and compassion that Glenys showed to me during my time of need has proven that being a hero starts one person at a time right where we live. I am truly thankful to have such a wonderful neighbor and a new forever friend."
Austin Regional Winner: David from AMLI 5350
"I would like to nominate my dad, David, as my AMLI hero. He lives part-time at the AMLI 5350 in Austin, and part-time in The Bahamas. Right now in The Bahamas, he is spearheading a meals on wheels program that six days a week provides a well-balanced nutritious meal to 67 elderly members of the community. The program is run on donations so if my dad were to win, he would donate all the money to helping other people. That is what makes him a hero."
Chicago Regional Winner: Hannah from AMLI River North
"Hannah has been driving around Chicago during this global pandemic to drop off meals at hospitals all across the city. While it would be easy to donate meals to just Rush and the dozens of hospitals in our area, Hannah has challenged herself to further help the community by going to those really in need. Hannah has committed her mornings to drive sometimes an hour away as south and west as she can go, just to reach those communities that are really struggling even though they may be further away. Hannah has also been very active socially, helping to inform herself on the inherent struggles the BIPOC community faces, while strengthening herself as an ally to see how she can further give back. Overall, Hannah is the most positive, inspirational and amazing young woman I've ever encountered, and fully believe she deserves any recognition you can give her! Hannah has donated over 300 individual meals and over 100 gift cards in total to front line workers, while simultaneously helping local restaurants. Hannah continues to look for new avenues of how to help the less fortunate every day!"
Dallas Regional Winner: Diana from AMLI Campion Trail
"This nurse is a true hero! She provides medical and emotional support to special needs children and their families. I have heard Diana describe her experiences and believe she is fully committed to providing the best care. Especially during these uncertain times, I have seen Diana help parents navigate the fear of COVID with their medically fragile patient. She has shown up on her days off and completed tasks outside of her job specifications. She has described how families have invited her to sit at the dinner table to eat with them due to the strong relationships she builds. I truly feel Diana is a passionate individual who is changing lives every day!"
Denver Regional Winner: Andrea from AMLI at Inverness
"Andrea became disabled in 2009 due to a neurological disorder and was bedridden for months at a time. She continued to pursue her dream of becoming a chaplain and graduated with her masters degree in May this year after 11 years of on-and-off classes as she was able. She just started her internship as chaplain at Centura Health and has already been able to help others through devastating illnesses, grief and loss. I'm so proud of my wife for never giving up and pursuing her dream to help others with spiritual care."
Houston Regional Winner: Greta from Houston
"I wasn't sure whether to share this story, but I feel like my sister deserves this. When we were little my father left us for another family and we never saw him again. Since then our goal in life was to keep looking forward and never give up. Two years after my father left us, my sister began to suffer from a deformity in her feet that restricted her from standing for a long time or even walking sometimes. The only way to remove this and help with the pain was through surgery. But since money was a problem, my sister made the decision to work two jobs that required standing up for at least eight hours a day. She always comes back with smile on her face, but you can see that the pain is unbearable. She’s been trying to save for the surgery for almost six years, but circumstances keep happening and there’s always something that keeps her for having the surgery. One of the things that she has surprised me the most was that even tough she needs help, she still managed to go to Africa and help children for eight months! She gives it all when she has almost nothing, after work she buys food for a homeless man that stands by a traffic light near our apartment. She really brings joy to every everyone she meets."
Seattle Regional Winner: Jasshan from AMLI Arc
"My husband is an ICU doctor who was finishing his training and getting ready for a very well deserved vacation with his family when COVID hit. He cancelled all his time off and was back in the ICU and on the frontlines to help save lives. Even until now, he’s been working hours around the clock, risking his own health to go into work. He tells me about how hard it's been to see patients and family members go through this, but how rewarding it feels when they have someone walk out of the ICU alive and healthy after weeks of fighting. He graduated with a fellowship and moved across the country (with myself) to Seattle and has continued the fight here. He's never once complained of long hours, working endless nights or having to risk his own health. He is always smiling and gives his patients his all so they can keep their health and hope alive during such a tumultuous time in their lives. We’ve sacrificed a lot of our first year of marriage and designated year to travel so he could fulfill his duty and true calling and we're both happy to do so. He's a true life hero and I'm so proud to call him my husband."
Southern California Regional Winner: Alyssa from AMLI Uptown Orange
"Alyssa is one of the 'invisible' essential workers during these times. As a mental health professional, she has turned our home space at AMLI into her office where she meets with her clients who are struggling with mental health issues and especially the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. My wife is deserving of this recognition because she, along with many, are the invisible workforce emotionally and mentally supporting our frontline workers and many of us who are navigating these tough times."
South Florida Regional Winner: Alejandra from AMLI 8800
"Where to begin on who is Ms. Alejandra. To me, she is my daughter. But, she is so much more. When I first found out she wanted to be a teacher, I had no doubt in my mind she would be one of the best to ever be. The passion and energy she has for math and teaching is immeasurable and radiates out of her like rays of sunshine. 'Sunshines,' that is what she calls her students. Like many, when the pandemic closed schools, she was worried and devastated. She spent hours watching videos and doing self-training on new technologies and software to be able to provide her middle school students with the best she could from home. She dedicated hours during and after school to ensure all her students could have access to their class content and education. She teaches eighth grade, and many of her students were terribly sad that they wouldn't get to have graduation or their school dance. What did Alejandra do? She decorated every inch of her car and stood in the blazing sun for six hours to scream and celebrate with her students who drove through the 'Graduation Parade.' She decorated her own bedroom with as many balloons, posters, confetti and colors she could find, and played music for them and had lights going for an 'I Survived Middle School' dance party. In her own little room, she danced and sang and made the students feel a little less alone for an hour and 20 minutes. And she did it all over again three more times for her three other classes. She kept the same energy every single class. She said the same jokes with the same humor and surprise. I would often hear her say to them, 'If I have made at least one of you laugh and smile today, I'm doing something right.' At the beginning of this year, she made the decision to teach from her classroom while her kids were home, to give the students a feeling of normalcy. She shows up an hour early and most days stays behind 3-4 hours after the end of the last class helping students with their homework and listening to their concerns, whether they're about the class or about the current situation we face. She starts every class the exact same way, never changes tone, never without a smile from ear to ear. She turns on her microphone, she flips the camera on and says, 'HELLO, MY BEAUTIFUL BOYS AND GIRLS! It's beautiful day to learn some math!' But that is the thing. She doesn't just teach them math, she teaches them compassion. She is a role model for them to see someone who understands that things are not okay and it's okay to say it. Her past students have sent her countless emails and letters giving her thanks for all that she has done and continues to do. I couldn't be prouder of her. She may call her students her 'sunshines,' but she is the ray of joy and energy that they consume. Ms. Alejandra is an inspiration to all."