MCVILLE, N.D. – Cars honked, cow bells rang and sirens blared as a parade to honor Nelson County Health System employees and the people who live there passed in front of the care center in McVille on Tuesday, June 23.

The parade was part of the NCHS care center’s Silver Linings Day celebration. Last week North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum proclaimed that Tuesday, June 23, would be set aside to honor long-term care workers who deliver essential care and other services to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 16,000 employees work in the 218 assisted living, basic care and nursing facilities across North Dakota, caring for the more than 10,000 residents who live in them.

In McVille, population 320, the Silver Linings Day parade and celebration at NCHS care center, included both staff and residents. About 50 people work at the center and 39 live there.

“If you read the governor's proclamation, it is for long-term staff, but we wouldn’t be staff if we didn't have these residents so that's why we kind of turned it a little bit and said it’s for both staff and residents,,” said Cindy Oien, a nurse at NCHS care center.

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Joe Chappell, a care center resident, and Jodi Rae Ingstad, NCHS care center activity worker, were near the front of the Silver Linings parade, riding in a three-wheeled Chat rickshaw-type bicycle. Tina Lamphere, a certified nursing assistant, provided the pedal power for the Chat rickshaw, as Chappell and Ingstad held signs and waved to the residents watching the parade.

The $11,000 rickshaw, purchased with proceeds from fundraisers and donations from care center staff, area businesses and community members, is a comfortable, pleasant way residents can spend time outdoors, said Anna Walter, Nelson County Health Services Foundation executive director. The Nelson County Health System long-term care center is the first facility of its kind in North Dakota to have the rickshaw.

Sharryn Beckman, who lives at the NCHS care center, enjoyed watching the parade from a chair on the lawn in front of the nursing home. After being unable to be outside for the past few months because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, Beckman was glad to sit outdoors, under the blue sky.

“Fresh air in the lungs,” she said.

Beckman appreciates the care she gets at the center and attention she receives from the staff.

“I like it here. They’re good to us,” she said.

It’s common for NCHS staff to participate in events such as Tuesday's parade and the lunch served afterward, because they know that will brighten the residents’ days, Oien said.

For example, Oien brought her miniature horse Buttercup, and the mare’s week-old foal, Snowball, for the parade. Afterward, residents petted the two tiny horses and also stroked Bruno, a half Labrador Retriever half St. Bernard dog belonging to Sharon Maertens, NCHS care center dietary manager.

Besides being in the Tuesday parade, Bruno is a regular visitor at the care center.

“He’s well loved when he’s here,” Oien said. “He's pretty special.”

The participation of NCHS staff members in the parade also included Dr. Erling Martinson, NDHS Hospital medical director, who drove one of the green Oliver tractors he collects.

“I think it’s because we're one big family. We do a lot of things for our residents to make them happy,” Oien said. “We have a good time. Laughter is the best medicine. When we're having a good time, they’re having a good time.”