WEST SUNBURY — His business is closed.
His heart is very much open.
Jason Fannin — and his wife, Danielle — own Artisan Metal Shop in West Sunbury. The business was shut down March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fannin has faced much greater adversity in his life.
“A personal tragedy,” he said. “Ten years ago, my parents were brutally murdered. The pain of reliving that stayed with me for years.
“I turned to my church family for support. Their help was immeasurable. Just the signs that they cared meant so much to me.”
So Fannin decided to pay that caring forward.
Four days before his business closed, he constructed a yellow sign with the red letters RN — for registered nurse — inside a Superman-like logo sitting on top.
“I wasn't sure where I was going to put it,” Fannin said. “I heard that a nurse in Italy had killed herself. Then, when the first person died from the virus at Concordia at the Orchard, I knew where to put it.
“I know about personal stress and the effects it can have. These nurses don't leave it at the hospital. They're dealing with this every day, and they bring it home with them.”
Fannin drove to Concordia at the Orchard in Center Township and planted the sign in front of the facility. He then made another one and put it in front of Butler Memorial Hospital.
“I had the materials and I had the time,” he said. “I wanted to keep going.”
The Fannins attend First United Methodist Church in Butler. They are good friends with Joyce, Ashley and Alycia Brehm — all nurses — through the church.
Jason and Danielle have done mission work with them.
“Obviously, we went through a lot with what happened (to Jason's parents),” Danielle Fannin said. “The quiet support from the church helped Jason through those struggles.
“Just knowing people cared ... Jason wanted to let the nurses know that he cares, even if they don't know who he is. That part doesn't matter.”
Fannin said it takes him about 90 minutes to construct one of the signs. The approximate cost is $110 each.
He said his business will reopen when permitted. His five employees, currently laid off, will be back. Much of his business is conducted over the internet.
“Our business will be fine,” Fannin said.
Nurses on front lines
He wants to help make sure nurses will be the same.
“When 9/11 happened, the firefighters were on the front lines,” Fannin said. “During war, the soldiers are. With this current crisis, it's the doctors and nurses.
“This kind of experience stays with you.”
The Brehms were the first family to receive a sign in their yard. Fannin received five addresses of fellow nurses from the Brehms. Those addresses received signs as well.
Christine Bagley of Butler Township was one of them. She is a nurse in the emergency room at Butler Memorial Hospital.
“Absolutely, it was nice to see it, that somebody would take the time and expense to do something like this,” Bagley said. “It meant a lot.
“Gestures like this help you keep going. This whole thing ... It gets a little overwhelming at times.”
Fannin made 15 signs before running out of material.
“He received some addresses through Facebook and nurses have responded favorably,” his wife said. “His efforts have touched people. That's all he cares about.”