Grady parents work essential jobs


Shawn Gillespy

Real estate agents and Grady parents Lee and Darlene Gillespy take proper safety precautions when showing houses.

Stella Mackler

Essential workers are living and working on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. Many of those still going to work amidst the chaos are Grady parents.

Cindy Ragan, mother of freshman Jenna Ragan, is the operations manager for the laboratory at Northside Hospital where she oversees COVID-19 testing daily. Cindy Ragan is constantly working both in and out of her department and ensures that the lab is running smoothly.

“Safety is always a priority. If they do not have the proper masks, if they are not under a hood or anything to protect them from the aerosol [transmission of COVID-19], they can potentially get the infection,” Cindy Ragan said. “We are trying to make sure that they have what they need to be protected.”

For Ragan, being an essential worker right means 13-hour days filled with meetings, phone calls, conference calls and keeping up with constantly changing information. She says even when she tries to take a day off, her mind must always be on.

“We are trying to stay on top of it, trying to make sure we are giving the best care to the patient that we can by getting them the quickest results we can,” Cindy Ragan said. “It’s been chaotic and busy and exhausting.”

The influx of changing information due to the COVID-19 outbreak has affected workers of all jobs and careers. Josh D’Agostino, father of freshman Elena D’Agostino, is the president of Mighty Distributing System, a company that primarily distributes automotive products and supplies. Amid the crisis, D’Agostino has watched his days transform from traveling and working on projects to conference calls and crisis management.

“The time of day and night and weekend and weekday doesn’t matter right now. When people need help, need thoughts, need ideas, they need to email, need to text, need to call, they need responses right away,” D’Agostino said. “So, I don’t care if it’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday or noon on a Sunday, we are kind of in the environment where days and times don’t matter.”

D’Agostino says that realistically he could do his job from home, but as a leader of his company, showing up is important.

“We are asking employees to show up everyday and work, and in the case of our two company operations and franchisees, they are delivering products to customers everyday,” D’Agostino said. “So, I feel that asking them to do that every single day while I am at home is not appropriate.”

Elena D’Agostino shares her father’s thoughts about the importance of him showing up to work and setting an example.

“It’s important to and for him, and all the auto parts are important in getting supplies to healthcare workers,” she said.

Elena D’Agostino is happy that her dad is still working, and with the majority of his traveling cancelled, she is appreciating the time she has to spend with him.

Real estate agent Darlene Gillespy, mother of junior Shawn Gillespy, is also enjoying the extra time she gets to spend with her family. Gillespy is still showing homes, both virtually and in person, but her days spent going into the office are over for now.

“I miss going out and seeing all of our clients and agents that we work with, but the positive part about it is that I do get to see Shawn a lot more,” Gillespy said. “I’m really enjoying that because as an 11th grader, she only has one more year of school, and I’m trying to be like ‘wow I get to see my kid a little more’.”

Darlene Gillespy and her husband Lee Gillespy work in real estate together, and they must be extremely cautious when meeting with clients and potential buyers, she said.

“We are being very careful when we show homes. Lee and I are wearing gloves and masks, and we are telling our clients just not to touch anything,” Gillespy said. “We are opening up all the doors, opening up closets and cabinets so they don’t touch a thing.”

These extra precautions are necessary to protect Gillespy, her husband and their clients.

“Mentally and emotionally, make sure that you find your way to deal with it and de-stress and not let it get to us because we have a ways to go before we get through this,” Ragan said.