When the coronavirus pandemic hit locally, William Hankins, of Baton Rouge, was more worried than most. His wife is an emergency room doctor, so he feared she’d come in contact with the virus, and he has health issues that make him more vulnerable.

Thanks to a benefactor he’s never met, he has his safe space. Tiny, but safe.

Mim Aretsky, also of Baton Rouge, had made her camper available through the RVS 4 MDS Facebook page, a national outreach that helps medical personnel on the front line of the coronavirus fight avoid spreading the disease to their families.

“I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have a safe space and for someone who doesn’t even know me to basically say, ‘Here’s my camper. You’re welcome to use it. I won’t charge you anything,’” Hankins said. “I would have paid to use it, but it’s like, ‘Here, just take it.’”

Medications Hankins takes for a chronic kidney disease compromise his immune system, and he was following news about the coronavirus as early as December. His wife works at Baton Rouge General Hospital, and the likelihood that she would encounter COVID-19 weighed heavily on him.

A sales vice president with Abbott Labs, Hankins began doing his job remotely. Although he owns a home in Alys Beach, Florida, staying there for the duration wasn’t desirable.

“I didn’t want to be away from my wife,” he said. “She’s on the front line. You want to give her moral support as well. I would go back and forth to Florida and here … but that was a very, very short-term solution, especially with Florida shutting down Louisiana people coming in.”

When a friend told him about RVS 4 MDS, Hankins applied for a camper. Within a week, one was sitting in his driveway.

Aretsky has owned the Scamp camper trailer for a little more than two years and uses it a lot. 

At 13 feet long and 6 feet high, it’s a tiny space and doesn’t have a shower, Aretsky said, but it was just what Hankins needed. He's able to use a separate bathroom at his home, and his garage has a refrigerator, freezer and microwave so he can feed himself. He does a lot of his work on the front or back porch. He just needed a place to sleep.

“It’s my safe space knowing I can go in there, and I know it’s a corona-free area,” he said. “It’s comfortable. What’s been great up until this point is the weather has been perfect. … I won’t say for two years I could live in it, but up until now, it’s been a godsend.”

The RVS 4 MDS program is still trying to match doctors with campers, said state director Bill Young. Hankins hopes more families get matched with one.

“It’s small, but it’s been huge, the effect it’s had on our life,” he said.

Happy 90th birthday

Friends and family organized a socially distant parade to wish Lenora Truxillo LeBlanc a happy 90th birthday on April 24.

The West Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office escorted more than two dozen cars down Sixth Avenue in Port Allen to wave, shout "happy birthday," honk and even bang on pots and pans.

Cooking up kindness

Irene Sanders has missed attending Mass followed by visits to Coffee Call with her friends. Judy Simoneaux has baked treats and delivered them to the group.

"What a wonderful and generous gift from our friend," Sanders said.


Email George Morris at gmorris@theadvocate.com.