Americans are brainstorming with neighbors, posting questions on social media, and Googling for tips and advice.

The question at the center of all the hand wringing and head-scratching: How do you thank the essential workers who remain out in the world, exposing themselves to greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, so that we can buy our groceries, receive our mail, travel by public transportation, and get health care if we need it?

“I think people are just yearning for a way to thank people,” said Anne Dolin, 48, of Lisle, Ill.

Sometimes the best answers are the simplest. CTA bus driver Chris Bade told the Tribune that what he really appreciated was the old-fashioned verbal thank-you’s he got last week.

“Just simply saying the word: Thank you for moving the city; thank you for coming to work. That’s all I need to hear,” he said.

But if you want to go big, grand gestures abound, according to interviews and social media posts. Think flowers, coffee, gift cards and meals. In late March, an anonymous donor gave Aztec Dave’s Food Truck $10,000 to feed local hospital workers, according to president and co-owner Ramon Torres. That has allowed the truck to temporarily bring 11 employees back to work, and deliver more than 1,800 meals to those on the front lines of the epidemic, with plans to deliver 2,500 total.

And if you’re craftsy, this is your moment. Volunteers are sewing masks for essential workers, making posters and signs, and chalking up the sidewalk with thank-yous for the mail carrier.

Among our tips for meaningful thank-yous, culled from interviews and local social media posts:

Work with what you have: Dolin, owner of a local horse products business, the Infused Equestrian, is using her insider knowledge and contacts to help health care workers. When Dolin found out that nurses’ ears were hurting from wearing masks all day, she put out a post on social media: Would headbands with buttons sewn on (to hold the mask straps in place) be useful? Requests began to pour in immediately. Another equestrian business donated headbands, and Dolin has made about 100 of her ear protectors so far. Last week, an emergency room nurse cried when she picked up her free headbands, Dolin, said. She’s received thank-you cards, and requests for gender-neutral headbands for male health care workers.

Don’t forget the classics: Sarah Hargot, an infectious disease nurse in Joliet, said the clinic where she works has gotten a lot of very much appreciated thank-yous: pizza, flowers, cakes and cookies. Coffee is a good idea, too, she said.

Get craftsy: If you can sew, there’s a demand for your skills. Check out Facebook groups such as Chicago Mask Makers. Knitters are also making a statement with colorful oversize butterflies.

Tip like you mean it: Tips and gift cards are easy and practical; in a local Facebook moms group, one grateful online grocery shopper said she was giving 20% to her delivery person.

Consider a grand statement: This doesn’t have to take a lot of work. People throughout the Chicago region have been pausing at 8 p.m. to appreciate essential health care workers, with some stepping outside to clap on front porches or balconies. Or you can do what a block of Oak Parkers did, and festoon the street with thank-you’s for the mail carrier, using sidewalk chalk and notes on mailboxes. Some participants also put out gifts of hand sanitizer.

Donate: Have money but no time? Donate to a local charity, or find a coronavirus thank-you effort.

Say something: “Our days kind of suck right now,” said Hargot, the infectious disease nurse, so even a simple “take care” goes a long way. “None of it goes unnoticed,” she said. “We feel the love.”

This article is written by By Nara Schoenberg from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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