Sense of Community

Our ongoing, 10-part Community Journalism series airs quarterly

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters come together to produce 10 stories, four times a year. Past episodes of our Sense of Community series are available below.

Rob Anderson

Rob Anderson teaches science to middle school students at Reed Academy in Springfield.  He spent six years in law enforcement and said he "hated every minute of it."  

During a short stint as a substitute teacher, Anderson fell in love with teaching.  So, while continuing to work in law enforcement, he took classes and earned a second degree, this time in education.

He's been teaching for 16 years, but this school year is different.

How has COVID-19 changed things in your classroom at Reed?

Provided by CoxHealth

In this segment of our Sense of Community series, "On The Front Lines," we hear the story of a young chaplain who comforts the grieving and dying in Cox South hospital in Springfield. 

As a chaplain, Landon Loftin provides emotional and spiritual support to patients, families, and now, also to co-workers struggling through a historic pandemic.

Listen to the audio feature below.

Courtesy of Freeman Health System

In December of last year, Jessica Liberty got a new job.  She was named Infection Prevention Manager in at Freeman Health System in Joplin.  She had no idea just how critical her job would become in the following months when the coronavirus pandemic began.

“It felt really big and overwhelming and very scary, I think mostly just because I felt really uncomfortable in my shoes,” Liberty said.

Courtesy of Sheri Bethmann

Nursing homes have been among the hardest hit places in the pandemic.

Dr. Sheri Bethmann has witnessed that firsthand. She was the medical director and attending physician at the Maranatha Village nursing home and assisted living facilities in north Springfield until earlier this month, after recently stepping down.

“Everyone was just very fearful because we knew that if it hit our building, that it would hit us really, really hard. And so, I think our initial goal was just, ‘How are we going to protect people?’” she said.

Austin Faulconer

It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. Most people are getting off work around this time and winding down for the day. But for officer Austin Faulconer, five o’clock means it’s time for him to start his shift patrolling the streets of Springfield in his squad car.

Faulconer says he works until 3 AM – a ten hour shift he fills by responding to 911 calls. He says he sometimes gets up to 30 calls a shift.

“You know that ranges from traffic accidents, stealing, assaults, domestic situations, really just the typical 911 calls,” Faulconer told KSMU.


While the coronavirus ground many services to a halt in Missouri, some jobs couldn’t stop. One of those jobs is looking after inmates in jails and prisons.

Jake Bass-Barber has worked as a detention officer in Greene County for the past two years. As part of his job he does security rounds around the jail every 30 minutes, and lets out inmates for recreational time three times a day. He serves meals in the housing units.


Dr. Terrence Coulter is medical director for critical care at CoxHealth, and he's on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, treating the sickest patients.

The 52-year-old has three subspecialty board certifications:  Pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine and sleep medicine.  He followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a physician.

"And growing up I'd seen his enjoyment and satisfaction of his job, the challenges he faced, the joy he had of helping patients feel better and just kind of contributing to the communities," said Coulter.

Update:  Tracy Hill was one of two Mercy nurses to get the first coronavirus vaccines in Springfield on Monday.

Tracy Hill works in the COVID-19 unit at Mercy Springfield.  The 51-year-old fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse just 11 months ago after working at Mercy for more than three decades.

Why did you go into nursing?

(Courtesy Citizens Memorial Hospital)

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Bryant's last name. This story has been edited to reflect that correction. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the category of front line workers that has received the most attention—and rightfully so—is the healthcare profession. The first ones you think of in that category are, of course, doctors and nurses. 

But there are hundreds of workers in the healthcare sector whose jobs are less visible, more behind-the-scenes.                                                                   

Cyrus Baty

We know that workers in the healthcare industry are truly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. (And you’ll hear from a hospital worker this afternoon at 4:44pm.) But there are many professions that require daily contact with the public, whether or not we’re in a pandemic. People who work in retail, for example, such as grocery store workers.  This morning you’ll hear from Cyrus Baty, who describes himself simply as a “clerk” at Meadowbrook Natural Foods on 2nd Street in Mountain Grove, Missouri, a store that supplies health food, supplements, minerals, and bulk groceries.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

In this tenth and final part of our series, Unsheltered, we look at how other communities are using federal CARES Act funds to shelter their homeless citizens—and ask whether Springfield might glean insights from their experiences.

Each community’s response to homelessness during the pandemic has been unique.  And in a year when extraordinary sums of money are flowing from federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding, this has led to some creative solutions nationwide.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

So far, Springfield has managed to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 in its homeless shelters. Not every city can say that. For example, San Diego and Colorado Springs are both dealing with outbreaks in shelters this week.

“We've been very fortunate. We haven't seen an outbreak in our population,” said Adam Bodendieck, the director of homeless services at Community Partnership of the Ozarks, which administers the local Continuum of Care mandated with orchestrating help for the homeless.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

“Get a job, you lazy bum!”  That phrase—or a colorful variation of it—is something many homeless people in Springfield have heard before.

So for this segment, we’re going to hear from three men who are trying to do just that:  get a job...while experiencing homelessness during a pandemic.

Struggle to obtain official documents

The first person is 21-year-old River Herron. On the night before Thanksgiving, he was huddled under a blanket with a friend outside a building downtown.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

On the cold morning of Monday, November 23, Laura Schaeffer was at a drop-in center for the homeless in central Springfield. The National Weather Service confirms the temperature dropped to 28 degrees overnight, but Springfield’s two emergency cold weather shelters did not open.

“I cannot disclose where I was [last night]. But it was in a community that fights for all kinds of things, including your life,” she said.

Schaeffer said violence erupted at the first location. One man ended up in the Emergency Room, she said.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Rhonda Galbraith knew she wanted her church to serve as an emergency cold weather shelter for homeless women. But there was a catch:  the church she pastors, Grace United Methodist Church in Springfield, was located near a school. And she knew that would make things delicate.

"But we made an appeal to Planning and Zoning and City Council three years ago. And we have a working relationship with the school across the street from us, and they gave us their blessing," Galbraith said.