Within hours of the tornado strike the night of October 20, 2019 (which badly damaged her own home), Deborah had arranged for hot meals to be served starting early the next morning in the hardest-hit neighborhood. Lavon Drive Baptist Church served meals there the first 3 days, then various Garland restaurants stepped in to help. Numerous nonprofits, city officials and private citizens also showed up for weeks afterward to clear downed trees and debris and to help serve meals.
In mid-March 2020, sensing that the recommendations advising against mask-wearing were about to change, Deborah reached out to a local church about sewing cloth masks for free distribution. When the national recommendations changed on April 1st, the masks (made to CDC specifications) were ready--and Deborah personally delivered over 1200 of them to nursing homes, healthcare workers and vulnerable individuals in Garland who couldn't at that time find disposable masks to purchase.
The first city facilities to be closed in Garland were our two Senior Centers--which suddenly put many seniors who lived alone in a very isolated situation. Deborah immediately set up a Senior "Phone Buddies" program to match willing Garland participants with seniors who expressed a desire for someone to call and chat with them several times a week. Originally conceived as a short-term program, it continued as a lifeline for lonely seniors the entire time until the Senior Centers reopened.
When it became clear that public health messages were missing some of our non-English speaking Garland residents, Deborah asked for a GP&L insert to be urgently included in the April 2020 utility bill. It went out in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, and included the COVID-19 precautions and guidance at that time.
In early April 2020 the new public recommendations were announced for widespread mask-wearing. Deborah created and sponsored a series of humorous social media ads to encourage mask use, as well as other ads to inform people 65+ of their higher risks and to encourage them to exercise additional precautions.
In May 2020, Deborah received messages from several non-English speaking communities in Garland asking for clarification about how to stay safe on the job. Many worked in manufacturing. Deborah immediately provided Spanish and Vietnamese job site and personal safety guidelines, then worked through a translator to provide guidance to a community whose language was unavailable in written form.
When new COVID-19 cases started escalating in June 2020 among young people in their upper teens, 20s and 30s, Deborah partnered with other concerned citizens in Garland to finance and produce a series of video announcements geared toward young people, with the theme: "Spread the Word, Not the Virus".
After months of restrictions and scares, Deborah saw in late 2020 that many Garland residents were losing heart. She again partnered with concerned citizens to finance and produce an encouraging video announcement:
"COVID has impacted many families in Garland. It's time to be cautious, but not hopeless! "
- Deborah Morris, Garland City Council Member
When Covid vaccines started becoming available in early 2021, Deborah learned that some Garland residents were unaware that they could receive the free vaccine regardless of insurance or residency status. She had over 3000 flyers printed in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, and assembled volunteers to put them on doors. She also reached out to local media to help her spread the word: https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/north-texas-undocumented-immigrants-can-receive-covid-19-vaccine-for-free-11985024
Starting the day before the major power outages began on Feb 15, 2021 and continuing throughout the crisis, Deborah answered calls and messages, posted constant updates, and provided guidance to Garland citizens trying to navigate the severe cold and power loss--including helping locate firewood, warning against using gas stoves or portable generators indoors for heat, advising about how to save frozen food, arranging the loan of emergency generators (outdoor use) to power lifesaving medical equipment for several elderly residents, and more.
Early on Feb 19th, Deborah started hearing from apartment residents who lacked water due to frozen/burst pipes. She put out a call for water bottle donations and quickly set up teams of volunteers to deliver them to thousands of distressed apartment residents. She coordinated the delivery teams full-time for the next 4 days until additional help became available. Her teams delivered over 40,000 bottles to apartments citywide. In addition she arranged for food to be delivered to several properties with senior or disadvantaged residents, and for hot showers to be offered through a local church.
It wasn't only apartments that suffered burst pipes once the temperatures rose above freezing. Deborah provided distressed Garland homeowners with specific information about Emergency Home Repair Assistance, food assistance, how to apply for water leak credits, and more.
When restaurants and retailers were allowed to reopen under very limited conditions, Deborah worked to find ways to get feet back on the street in the downtown. She ran a series of ads to announce which businesses now offered limited indoor service and which still offered curbside.
After months of restrictions, many of our Downtown restaurants were struggling to survive. Deborah proposed a Downtown initiative to promote dining on the Square, using it as a large outdoor dining hall. Combined with prize drawings and "Square Meal" packets with tablecloths and dinnerware, it attracted new diners to come downtown to "eat out!"
Due to the pandemic, our restaurants suffered financial losses due to limited indoor dining. Deborah proposed a "Parklets" program to enable restaurants to create temporary outdoor dining areas on their own parking lots, or in some cases to get permission to repurpose several street parking spaces for that use. One downtown restaurant immediately opened a Parklet which has been very successful.
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