As part of its annual Caring Heart Celebration, the Houston-based Institute for Spirituality and Health (ISH) is honoring frontline professionals and first responders, with a special focus this year on those helping serve local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring ISD’s Dekaney High School – represented by Principal Alonzo Reynolds III – was among those honored during a special online celebration on Thursday, Feb. 25.
“I want to thank the Institute for Spirituality and Health for recognizing us and honoring us with the Caring Heart Award,” said Reynolds in a message commemorating the award, which in part recognizes the school’s success in implementing safety protocols to keep COVID-19 case numbers low, among both students and staff.
“Our team, during this pandemic, really came together and put in systems, processes to ensure our staff and students were safe upon returning back to school,” said Reynolds, who from the beginning of the return to in-person classes last fall expressed hope that the measures would help staff and students feel safer returning to campus. “We want to do whatever we can to ensure that our families are safe and feel comfortable, because we really miss our kids, we really do miss them.”
The Caring Heart virtual awards ceremony – rescheduled due to Winter Storm Uri – featured organizations and individuals being recognized for their service to the community with the Rabbi Samuel E. Karff Caring Heart Award. In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, interfaith clergy from a range of faith traditions offered special blessings for frontline workers, and ISH shared testimonials over social media highlighting representatives in each of the award categories.
Several Dekaney staff members recorded video messages about their experience as educators this year, including Ninth-Grade Center Principal Brandi Rodney, Building Operations Coordinator Mary Branch, CTE Teacher Kandra Gunter, and Assistant Principal Richard Hoard.
“These stories illuminate the resilience of our community and the unique nature of service these exemplary organizations have provided to the Houston community throughout the pandemic,” the group said in a press release announcing the event.
In addition to Principal Reynolds and Dekaney High School – representing the education field – additional ISH Caring Heart Awards honored representatives from sectors including nursing, healthcare providers, food service, retail, hospitality and emergency first responders. Additional honorees included the UTHealth Cizik School of Nursing, UTMB School of Nursing, Prairie View A&M College of Nursing, UTHealth McGovern Medical School, Baylor College of Medicine, Southern Smoke Foundation, H-E-B, Westin Houston Medical Center, the Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department.
Since its founding in 1955, the Institute for Spirituality and Health has worked to strengthen and encourage exploration of the relationship between spirituality and health. As a Texas Medical Center member institution, ISH was first founded with a mandate to train chaplains for work in hospital settings. The nonprofit group’s offerings have evolved and expanded over the years to include educational workshops and panels; various outreach activities; support groups; and services to scholars, healthcare professionals, religious leaders and the public.
More information on ISH can be found at the organization’s website, spiritualityandhealth.org.