These days, conversations don’t end with “have a great day,” but rather, “stay safe” and “we’re all in this together.” There are times during this pandemic when just saying these heartfelt and sincere expressions are enough. When more is needed, TSA colleagues selflessly take the lead.
Take, for instance, Boston Logan International Airport’s (BOS) Transportation Security Inspector Toby Rao. Rao’s giving attitude is evident on and off the job.
“Toby is often the first to volunteer to work undesirable shifts or tasks and assisting the Screening Department during critical times of high flight loads and low staffing,” said BOS Supervisory Transportation Security Inspector Kelly Iudice.
Outside work, for the past eight years Rao has been a dedicated Meals on Wheels volunteer.
“Some people want to talk, some ask for a little favor,” he says. “Can I go upstairs to change a lightbulb or can I take out the trash on my way back to the car? I’m happy to do it. I know I might be the only person that they see all day. They appreciate it and light up when I can stay for five minutes. For some, the interaction could be the highlight of their day.”
Recently, other Meals on Wheels volunteers stopped delivering because they’re at a high risk for catching COVID-19. Not surprisingly, Rao picked up additional stops on his route, which typically takes 90 minutes but now can last up to two and a half hours.
Extra delivery precautions are routine now. Not only does he wear a mask and gloves to make his deliveries, but he also wipes down the hot meal bags, meal packaging, door knobs, doorbells, and anything else he might touch during a visit.
Rao understands “we’re all in this together.” He advises to, “pick up the phone and call your grandparents, your elderly parents. Especially call people who live alone and staying indoors to remain healthy and lessen the likelihood that they will contract the virus.”
Four hundred and sixty miles to the southwest of Rao’s route, the same giving spirit has taken root. TSA employees at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) established a food pantry to assist employees in the airport community who may have been laid off or seen their work hours cut due to the dramatic drop in passengers as a result of the coronavirus.
TSA employees see it as “paying it forward” because last year during the federal government furlough, the airport community donated food, gift cards, diapers, among other items, to assist TSA employees who were working without a paycheck. The difference being that TSA employees eventually were paid for the time they worked. The airport contractors and airline employees who have been laid off or had their work hours reduced will not be paid.
“We were extremely appreciative for what the Airport Authority and airport community as a whole did for TSA employees during the furlough,” explained Lead TSA Officer Cissy Myers, a member of the Dulles Morale Group, who has been working at IAD since 2006.
Myers’ servant heart leadership is hard to miss at IAD. “The work she’s put into the food pantry is another in a long line of examples of how far Lead TSA Officer Myers will go to support the people around her,” said Kyle Martin, with IAD’s communications and media team.
When noting her leadership, he said, “she’s an ambitious leader who takes on multiple projects like the food pantry. The care and attention to detail she has given to the food pantry ensures that everything is well stocked, and that people who really need help have someone reliable looking out for them.”
Additionally, Supervisory TSA Officer Hai Ho commented on Myers’ ability to put people at ease, saying “[she] makes anyone who visits the food pantry feel welcomed.”
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority provides a space with shelves for the pantry on the arrivals level of the terminal and ensures the room is clean. Hand sanitizer stations are located just inside and outside the pantry’s entrance. One TSA officer staffs the pantry, with up to four individuals permitted to enter at a time to ensure social distancing. Pantry visitors are encouraged to wear a mask.