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Shawn Cooper

An overview of the field hospital constructed at Central Park. Photo by Lisa Cooper

A Long Island couple recently did their part in the fight against the coronavirus.

Shawn and Lisa Cooper volunteered to help at the field hospital site in Central Park. Photo by David Beidel

Central Islip resident Lisa Cooper, along with her husband, Shawn, joined dozens who helped to construct a field hospital for COVID-19 patients in Central Park at the end of March. Cooper said she and her husband received an email from a friend telling them how the organizers, Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization that provides aid to people around the world, was looking for volunteers to pitch in and help.

The couple, who are the founders of the Long Island ministry Bridge Connection, talked over some of their concerns about traveling into the city during the pandemic, but Cooper said she started thinking about her son who is deployed overseas in Saudi Arabia, and due to her working with the National Guard Family Program, with many members now activated in New York. 

“If they can stand up and be willing to serve, how do I not stand up and do my part?” she said.

The couple traveled to the city March 30 for the second day of the build. They opted not to take public transportation and drove their car. Cooper said they felt comfortable knowing they were in control of who was inside their vehicle and where they could park. It took them just over an hour to get from their home to Mount Sinai Hospital in Uptown Manhattan, and they were able to find street parking near the site directly across from the health care facility. They couldn’t help but notice how empty the streets were. 

“It was not New York City on a normal Monday commute,” she said.

During the short walk to the site, they did see a few pedestrians, who seemed like health care workers, on the streets and many were wearing face masks. She said they also noticed there wasn’t anyone in the park walking or jogging like on an average day.

She said the day they arrived many of the larger tents were already erected, and only two or three more had to be assembled, though she wasn’t surprised.

“It’s a well-oiled machine how Samaritan’s Purse does things,” Cooper said, adding she volunteered with them in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy and has found the nonprofit to be dedicated and passionate with their outreach.

The Coopers were put to work right away, and the wife said she first helped to assemble cots, while her husband took part in laying down flooring outside of the tents. They also helped to lay down plywood planks across Central Park, she said, to protect the grass.

She was also able to help to unload some boxes with equipment and set up monitors along with other projects. Cooper said she was amazed that the volunteers were able to get the field hospital ready in two days, and while she had to get over some concerns about the virus, it made her feel better that patients would soon benefit from it.

“We only played a very small part,” she said. “When you think of it as a whole body, the whole body is needed to get the task done, but yet we were just such a very small part of it. I was honored that I would be asked to do that.”