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People donate RVs to front-line workers who fear bringing COVID-19 home

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Steve Lambert takes a selfie with Karen Lambert and the Katje family in the background. They stand in front of the Lambert's RV, which they are lending to the Katjes during the COVID-19 outbreak. (WWMT/Courtesy of Karen Lambert)

PLAINWELL, Mich. (WWMT) – As COVID-19 brings unprecedented challenges to the world, the West Michigan community responded with unprecedented kindness.

For Karen and Steve Lambert, that included lending their RV to a family 15 minutes down the road.

Patty Katje and her husband, who live in Plainwell, are both front-line workers in the COVID-19 fight. Patty works as a nurse inside Bronson Methodist Hospital's COVID-19 intensive care unit. Her husband is a sheriff's deputy.

The Lamberts' RV has created a buffer between the Katje's family and the potentially deadly virus. After their shifts, the Katjes head to the camper, now parked in their driveway, and use it as a decontamination station. During long stretches of work, they stay in the RV to make sure they don't unknowingly pass the virus to the rest of their family.

"When I’m working my stretches, I just stay in here away from my family all together, then wait a couple days before I start going into the house more again, just so that we can make sure I'm not bringing any of that in," said Patty.

The Katjes found the Lamberts on the RVs 4 MDs Facebook group. Nearly 15,000 people strong, the group helps connect healthcare and other front-line workers to people willing to lend them their RVs. According to its "about" page, the group started on March 24, 2020, and is run completely by volunteers.

"We decided that it would be the right thing to do to find a family hopefully near us who could use the camper," said Karen.

"It’s just sitting there, so it’s a huge resource that’s not being used," Steve echoed.

Patty said the RV has taken a huge weight off of her shoulders. She has two young sons, just five and six years old. Her mother, who lives nearby and babysits the boys regularly, received a kidney transplant, making her more at risk to get seriously ill from COVID-19.

"I couldn't imagine the feelings I would have if I brought it home to my kids, or my parents, or my husbands parents," said Patty. "So, this has completely changed and taken a whole giant stress load off of us."

The Lamberts said they sympathize with Patty's concerns. Several years ago, Steve underwent surgery, donating one of his kidneys to his best friend.

"We know how dangerous it can be for someone with a compromised immune system to be exposed to a virus like this," said Karen.

They said they're glad to have a way to help, laughing at the idea of trying to figure out how to sew homemade masks, as other community members have done.

"We’re not much into sewing, so this helped out," said Steve.

"Yeah," said Karen. "We weren't going to be mask makers, so we’re camper lenders!"

Patty said she's extremely grateful the Lamberts are helping keep her family safe.

"I think that’s one thing that a lot of healthcare workers and a lot of front line workers period are struggling with," she said. "We take care of patients everyday, we’re used to doing that.I think what scares most of us the most is bringing it home."

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