HILLSBORO, Mo. (CBS Local) — For Sarah Willie, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at a nursing home in Hillsboro, Missouri, coming home after a long day had become almost as stressful as work itself.
Willie lives with her fiancé and her ailing mother in nearby House Springs. Her mom suffers from underlying medical conditions that along with her age, make her highly susceptible to the novel coronavirus.
“She suffers from congestive heart failure and lung problems and she’s a severe diabetic so she has amputations and all those fun stuff,” she told CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “You know, I may be able to fight [COVID-19] off, but she won’t. She can’t,” Willie said.
To protect her mom, Willie considered leaving the house and staying somewhere else for the duration of the pandemic. Then she came across RVs 4 MDs, a Facebook group that connects frontline health care workers and first responders with free mobile housing — typically recreational vehicles and campers — so they can stay close to home while still distancing from their families.
RVs 4 MDs was launched on March 24 by Emily Phillips, a mother of three from Celina, Texas. She had posted on Facebook asking if anybody had an RV that her family could rent so her husband, an ER doctor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, could safely self-isolate at their home.
"Anything just to ease their minds a little bit." A Facebook group is connecting health care workers needing to self-isolate with people willing to offer their campers. https://t.co/VFa3Rpzwx2
— KDKA (@KDKA) April 10, 2020
“Within five minutes of my post, somebody offered their RV and I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled. “Her name was Holly Haggard, and she offered it for free and I thought that was amazing. So my husband and I drove over there, got it and on the way home, somebody else said that they needed an RV. And so I said to Holly, ‘let’s make this a thing.'”
With a network of volunteers spanning across the nation, Phillips says RVs for MDs has made approximately 900 matches and counting. The group, which has grown to an astonishing 30,000 members, has also expanded internationally to operate in places like Dubai and Australia.
“It’s unbelievable,” she says. “I’ve never seen so many selfless people get together to help a mission, especially with all the anxiety and depression and people that have been having it come together to join forces with us to help this, I’ve never seen anything blow up like this. It’s been divine.”
When Willie posted her request, she was prepared to wait a week or two to hear back. But within 48 hours, she was matched with a spacious, luxury RV donated by Marty and Donna Bondurant, a local couple.
“Complete strangers, total strangers and I feel it was a godsend in a way. I felt like I was sent two angels,” she says. “They have gone over the top for me, over the top.”
Willie moved in just before Easter.
“I get to sleep in a nice, big king-sized bed. I get food to eat. I get a washer and dryer to wash my clothes and dry my clothes. I mean it’s luxury in a sense because it’s better looking than my house, honestly, it’s so nice.”
The only downside for Willie is that the RV is so big, she’s not able to park it in front of her home and thereby see her fiancé and mother on a regular basis. Instead, she’s staying about 20-30 minutes away on the Bondurants’ property.
Willie says she feels a bit lonely, but says she’s staying strong by keeping busy and maintain a regular schedule an regiment.
“If it wasn’t for Marty and Donna for saving her life by offering me a place to go…” she tearfully says. “It has impacted my life. This group really has changed my life for the better.”