El Paso Inc. is honored to announce this year’s El Pasoans of the Year: The COVID-19 frontline health care heroes; and the Community Spirit Award: Susan Goodell.

As I sit down to write this, I’m struggling with what to say. How can I say anything from the comfort of my home office with a fridge full of food that doesn’t sound trivial or trite?

This year has been trying for everyone. We have all been affected in some way. Some deeply. What is more significant than a lost life? Then there are lost jobs or entire businesses, maybe a life’s work, and the fallout therefrom.

Some impact is not as deep – there are worse things than working and learning from home to avoid this virus. Not that it doesn’t have its challenges, and only time will tell what sort of lasting impact it will have on our youth.

But it pales in comparison to the alternative: To run into danger and meet this virus head on, not just in a single moment, but day after day with no end in sight. Surely this virus has tested all the covenants of the Hippocratic Oath or Nightingale Pledge so many health professionals take.

Maybe the best thing is to simply say, “thank you.” And much like last year’s award for our Aug. 3 first responders, to formally acknowledge and recognize El Paso’s frontline health care heroes for their courage, their determination and their never-ending care for our health.

“… Under the current circumstances and demands on their time around the clock the frontline caregivers are in my mind the 2020 El Pasoans of the Year,” a previous El Pasoan of the Year honoree told me. We ask our previous honorees to help us select the award recipients each year.

Another said, “… the award should go to our community’s health care professionals. They have taken on the brunt of this tragedy.” Other honorees simply agreed, without contest or explanation, for it didn’t need any.

The frontline heroes is a large group that we’ve narrowed down to those working the COVID-19 hospital floors: the doctors, nurses, technicians and supporting staff. And includes the nameless who traveled to help El Paso and will probably never know that we honor them, too.

It has no clear leader, unlike the 2020 Community Spirit Award winner, Susan Goodell, CEO of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank.

“I can’t imagine the pressure on a non-governmental agency and its leader to feed the hungry in your community and how Susan recruited to help for the cause and stood up for that,” a previous El Pasoan of the Year said.

“She did a fantastic job running the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank during these trying times,” said another.

Behind Susan is an incredible team – almost an army – that also embodies El Paso’s spirit. “There are hundreds of people working tirelessly, many of them volunteering, at the food bank and the many food pantries throughout the entire county,” a reader emailed me.

From the board of directors to the volunteers, the effort to meet a demand that has tripled in a short time is massive. We are grateful to have Susan, her knowhow and leadership, as well as the support from so many who’ve helped to address this very important hunger gap.

It has been a tough year. We know there is still a long road ahead, but it shouldn’t stop us from closing the year with a bit of positivity and gratitude.

Our tradition is to honor these awards with a luncheon. We still hope to do so later in 2021. We’re not quite sure what that will look like, but we’ll announce definitive plans in late spring.


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