Vols Served Meals to Front-Line Workers During the Hardest Days

Category: News

As Tennessee prepares to gradually open back up, it becomes clear that Vols across the state have been there all along supporting the humans behind a health system facing enormous pressure.

One need look no further than St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Murfreesboro to find examples of such goodwill. There, a committed group of community members, many Vols, has spent the past weeks making sure the hospital’s medical staff does not have to worry about the most basic of human needs: food.

On April 15, Lucie Piggott Burchfield, associate director of development for UT in the region, decided to rally local Vols to join the effort and help provide hundreds of meals to the hospital staff.

She was joined by Gordon Ferguson (’82), president and CEO of the hospital, and his wife Cindy (’84). Alumni Ivie Burns, Tracey Binkley, Patty Marschel, Lee Moss, Carol Bragdon, and Gina DeJean also played key roles.

Chef Mitchell Murphree (’99) prepared many of the meals in the kitchen of his Five Senses Restaurant in Murfreesboro.
One hundred and twenty of those meals were donated by the University of Tennessee Foundation, and they sustained front-line health care workers in hospital units from the cardiac catheterization lab to the COVID-19 command center and the emergency room.

Gordon Ferguson was one of the group’s main supporters within the hospital administration.

“Our staff was extremely grateful for this show of support from local business leaders and the UT Foundation,” Ferguson said, adding that as his term on the UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors winds down, he could not be prouder of the spirit in which Vols throughout the state are leaning into the COVID-19 crisis.
“As trying as this situation has been, it really has brought out the best in our community in terms of those who have been willing to give their time, treasures, and talents to help us through the pandemic,” he added.

In addition to the “Big Orange Lunch,” alumni and community members worked to keep the staff’s spirits up in other unique ways.

“Local kids have come by to chalk the sidewalks with encouraging messages and others have donated face masks, including UT-themed ones,” Ferguson said. “Our dedicated group of Volunteers worked together to make sure our staff know their efforts are appreciated by the community.”

Ultimately, Ferguson hopes that the darkest days of COVID-19 are over and that the world may begin to find a new normalcy. He takes comfort in the state’s leadership and the fact that Vols stepped up to help where they could.