Pam Blais is first-ever Only In America® Hometown Hero

July 16, 2021

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The National Museum of American Jewish History held its inaugural Only in America® Hometown Hero contest earlier this summer. Tidewater’s Pam Blais was among the nominees and ultimately selected as the first ever Hometown Hero in the Museum’s Ed Snider Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame.

Inspired by this year’s JAHM theme of supporting one another in the face of adversity, Blais’s accomplishments reflect her heritage, traditions, and values, and embody the ancient Rabbi Hillel’s famous quote, “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Blais was nominated and chosen for the significant positive community impact she made during the COVID-19 pandemic with her initiative, the Pantry Box Project. She will be invited to participate in the museum’s annual Only in America® induction ceremony later this year.

A registered nurse for 27 years, Blais understands firsthand the physical and emotional toll of emergency nursing. When the coronavirus pandemic began, she immediately thought of her former hospital coworkers. She wanted to bring them whatever they needed most, starting with masks, then meals. The response from the community was so strong that she expanded the meal service to other hospitals and first responders in Virginia Beach, Va., launching the Pantry Box Project to deliver snacks (something healthy with a sweet treat) and notes of encouragement (courtesy of Blais’s youngest daughter and her classmates) to exhausted hospital staff in need of a quick pick-me-up and moral support. One year later, the initiative is now a nonprofit organization which she helms to support frontline healthcare providers, doctors, nurses, and other critical personnel working during the pandemic, and especially to serve their emotional and mental health needs.

Most recently, Blais and her team were able to mobilize resources the week of June 28 for a Virginia Task Force FEMA team based out of Virginia Beach who were deployed to Surfside, Fla. to support the emergency effort there following the devastating building collapse. Blais and her team provided more than 200 nutrient-dense bars along with trail mix, peanut butter, and other pocket-sized snacks that will provide much needed rapid energy.

“Their work is often treacherous, psychologically difficult, and painful, especially when there is loss of life,” says Blais. “Just like the 30,000+ meals we delivered to the frontline healthcare providers in Hampton Roads during the pandemic, we want to support and provide hope and encouragement to this team.”

Blais notes that help is needed to build the pantry. “Every grocery store sells Clif Products! You can drop them off to us at 1232 Auburn Hill Drive, Chesapeake, Virginia 23320 and when we have enough to fill the storage unit we will deliver to them,” she says.

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