Heart At Work: Virginia Vannoy

The sign said: “Take what you need, donate what you can.” Soup, canned vegetables and shampoo crowded together on a table on Virginia Vannoy’s front lawn. Nearby, a refrigerator chilled eggs and milk.

In March, when the pandemic was at its peak in their small town of Homewood, Pennsylvania, Virginia, an Aetna Healthy Outcomes Supervisor, and her husband Brian, did something extraordinary – feed their neighbors.

“Many are elderly, some in poor health. At the time they were too frightened of the coronavirus to leave their homes and shop for groceries,” says Virginia. “We had to do something.”

The couple began by pulling food from their pantry and buying other goods. “The first few days nobody came and we thought, ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to work.’ Then we noticed people arriving early in the morning and later in the evening,” she explains.

News of their good deed soon got around.

“A butcher who went to school with Brian donated meat, others gave gift cards for us to purchase supplies. Someone, we still don’t know who, dropped off a ton of snack food. It was heartwarming,” Virginia says.

“Virginia always thinks of others and brings that same spirit to her job,” explains Healthy Outcomes Manager Michelle Bilgera. “Currently, her team helps provide Medicare members with home kits to screen for cancer and monitor diabetes – something that’s crucial, as many members are learning safer ways to access care in the pandemic.”

A table filled with food donations at Virginia’s house encourages visitors to “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can.”
A table filled with food donations at Virginia’s house encourages visitors to “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can.”

The Care Continues

In June, when weather was too hot for a table outside, the couple worried about shutting down but the Victory Family Church offered a solution. Each week, Brian drives a half hour to gather fresh produce from its pantry and the couple make deliveries around town – typically 70 or more crates. Brian then heads to his night shift as a store manager, Virginia returns to work.

“You just don’t see this kindness anymore, they won’t even take gas money,” shares Florence (not her real name). “My husband didn’t work for three months and couldn’t get unemployment benefits because he owns the business. This absolutely helps us.”

So, where does this great generosity of heart come from? “It’s simple, I grew up on a farm and we had the attitude, ‘If we have a loaf of bread and you don’t, we’ll give you half,’” says Virginia with a smile.

Thank you, Virginia, for opening your heart to your community at home and at work.