Spring is in full bloom and Saint Paul is blossoming with both palatable change and the return of familiar comforts.
The social-thawing of the vaccine is bringing families back together, patrons to restaurants, and fans back to stadiums. It feels good to bask in the warmth of spring and the best of what the country’s most livable city has to offer.
We may have a lot more to go but the moment requires a bit of reflection – it is special. We’ve all turned a page, peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setbacks into strength.
To get through this challenge Saint Paul residents displayed qualities such as generosity, innovation, and duty.
The folks at Thomson Reuters had this in mind as they created the “Thomson Reuters Award”. This is an annual award for employees chosen as making significant innovations at the business to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
Thomson Reuters rewards employee for innovation with funds for charitable giving
Thomson Reuters would award $10,000 to the charity or nonprofit organization of the award recipients choosing. Employees were nominated for their performance and teamwork during the year.
Rachel Torgerson, who will have been with Thomson Reuters at their MSP location for 20 years in June, was the recipient of the generous award.
As a customer success strategist, Torgerson, like many other business professionals, had to think of innovative ways to build economic immunities against the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
With everyone working from home, including Thomson Reuters customers, the company needed a digital-first means of doing business.
“I migrated customers to electronic invoicing to ensure they received their invoices timely and could continue doing business with us without having to worry,” said Torgerson of her innovative approach to the new normal of doing business following the pandemic.
We spoke with her about why she chose the St. Paul Fire Foundation
“I had to sit and think about it long and hard because $10,000 is a lot of money and that could help a lot of people,” said Torgerson.
Saint Paul has felt the loss of loved ones, businesses, and so much more. Though everyone has worked hard to carry on, if not for the first responders like Saint Paul’s firefighters and their bravery during a global pandemic and social unrest, our community would look much different than it does today.
Torgerson recalls that her husband, who is a Captain with the Saint Paul Fire Department, first told her about the St. Paul Fire Foundation and she realized how the mission of the Foundation aligns with her values of safety and well-being for her family and the community.
“My husband is a firefighter who puts his health and his safety in jeopardy every day. I asked myself ‘What can we do to enhance the safety for firefighters?’ So, I started thinking about all the firefighter organizations out there,” said Torgerson.
Public health was a primary motivation for Torgerson.
The St. Paul Fire Foundation’s commitment to cardiac, cancer, and mental health was decisive
“My heart is with a firefighter, so obviously, I want to ensure that all firefighters have safety, wellbeing, and health front and center,” said Torgerson.
Like many spouses to firefighters, the sacrifice to help the community can be felt at home.
“The journey of being a firefighter’s wife is an interesting one. When we started our life together and he joined the St. Paul Fire Department, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But as our family started growing, you tend to feel like a good share of your life is tied directly to the community as well,” she said.
The health of her family and the community is very important to her.
Torgerson said the SPFF commitments stood out, “The information on the SPFF website really resonated with me. I appreciate the dedication to heart disease and installing more workout equipment inside of the stations, and even bulletproof vests and PPE.”
She has a meaningful connection to the SPFD.
Speaking to her role as a firefighter’s wife, she said of her husband’s colleagues, “They become this family unit outside of your own and so therefore they become your extended family.”
“We’re close friends with several people in the fire department,” she said.
She shared her deep concern for the unseen dangers facing firefighters. Fire is only one danger firefighters face. It is the unseen dangers, namely cancer, heart disease and mental health that are important to Torgerson.
“You see the rise in cancer among firefighters and it hits close to home. We lost Mike Paider, Captain of the St. Paul Fire Department, who passed away from cancer last summer. My kids would refer to him as Big Mike because of how tall he was. He would always greet us at the station and show the kids the trucks. Mike was a dedicated firefighter, father, and husband. Mike’s passing really struck a chord as to how real the risks for firefighters can be.”
Unseen dangers facing firefighters
Another unseen danger ever present in Rachel’s mind is the dangers associated with the pandemic.
“I can tell you that when the pandemic came on, followed by the civil unrest through the summer, it’s a little nerve-wracking and stressful,” she said.
Adding, “People talk a lot about the dangers of healthcare workers being exposed to coronavirus, but firefighters and paramedics can’t just put up glass between them and the patient in a nice sterile environment. They have to be right there in the infected patient’s home treating them at all times.”
“They’re the ones who are there to help in any situation, who are always going to answer that call for help as big as a burning building or a car wreck to something as small as an old man who just wants to move from his chair to his bed,” she said.
A perfect example of what firefighters do for the community
“Giving to the firefighter community means you are giving back to your own community,” she said.
To Rachel, firefighters are exemplary members of the community who are ready to help in any situation. They do so much more for people in need than just fight fires.
She shared an example.
“A couple years ago, my father was losing his battle with cancer rather quickly, and he wanted to be at home with my mom. He was spending his final days at home and in his favorite recliner.
One day he decided that he wanted to move to his bed. My mom, being a small woman, was not able to move my dad on her own,” she said.
Rachel remembers that her parents had good relationships with the neighbors, but none were at home to help. As her father continued to express his increasing discomfort, her mother was in a tough spot, unable to move her spouse to a more comfortable setting.
She told her mother to call their local fire station and explain to them what you need and that it is not an emergency.
Just minutes later, four firefighters showed up at her mother’s door. Rachel said they chatted with her mother and made her feel very comfortable, improving the situation and her father’s mood.
Smiling fondly Rachel said, “They were laughing with him.” They moved my dad gently and eased him into his hospital bed. And then they stuck around and chatted for a few minutes more before going on their way.
That is a perfect example of what our firefighters do every day. They are there to help. They are there to serve the community in any need,” said Torgerson.
Appreciate a firefighter
“As a community we need to support our firefighters and ensure they know that we appreciate what they are doing.”
“It’s important in times like this that we remember that the St. Paul Fire Department is there to help the community, to help ensure its safety, to ensure that everybody is taken care of and supported.”
She had advice for community members.
“When you see a firefighter, don’t be alarmed. Make sure you thank them because they are there taking time away from their families and obligations to support the community,” she said.
She wanted to point out that the generous donation from her employer should be incomparable to the generosity of the recipient.
Torgerson said, “I want to encourage people to appreciate a firefighter. They’re here to help.”