Hometown Hero

Fauquier County nurse Stacy Mason, founder of Team Cupboard food pantry, appears on ‘The Rachael Ray Show’

By Tracy Bell

Stacy Mason isn’t comfortable with attention, but she was overwhelmed with it after creating a “take what you need, give what you can” food and essentials pantry at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg. 

The Fauquier County resident, who works in the hospital’s intensive-care unit and with COVID-19 patients, appeared Dec. 15 on “The Rachael Ray Show” to discuss the pantry, affectionately known as Team Cupboard. 

“We’re much appreciative that our tiny little hospital sparked enough interest” for ‘The Rachael Ray Show,’ said Mason, a nurse for more than a decade. “We’re grateful and it’s been wonderful.”

Mason, who lives in Remington, has worked at Mary Washington Hospital for the past seven years, four spent in the ICU. She became a hometown hero last summer, achieving local appreciation for making a difference during an unprecedented time. Then word spread with the help of social media and news outlets, and Mason ultimately gained attention nationally and even around the world. 

Mason said she is the primary shopper in her family, so she knows that many people working long shifts at the hospital don’t always have time to shop and doing so has been made more difficult during the pandemic. 

The pantry is a way for colleagues to support one another during this time, she said.

Team Cupboard not only exists at Mary Washington Hospital, but there’s one at Stafford Hospital and another at the corporate office of Mary Washington Healthcare, which oversees both hospitals.

Because of the pandemic, said Mason, many people are struggling, with some seeing their household grow or double in size, needing to take in other family members. 

Sharing makes life easier, she said, noting a few sought-after pantry items including goldfish and other snacks, hygiene items and children’s staples like wipes and baby food.

She told host Rachael Ray all about it during a Zoom call that aired live on Ray’s show. 

That day, Mason was at the hospital on a work day when she spoke to Ray. First, the show aired pre-filmed background footage of Mason working at the hospital and then cut to the live Zoom call with Ray interviewing Mason. 

“I wasn’t comfortable at all, said Mason, with a laugh, wondering aloud how people appear on talk shows in person. “I’m not one for attention and this was a very big deal. Rachael was fantastic, kind and nice, but even on Zoom I was anxious — I was a nervous wreck.”

Ray, who temporarily renamed her show, “#StayHome With Rachael,” currently has no live audience due to COVID-19 precautions. Instead, she’s been airing the show from her upstate New York home during the pandemic, with the help of her husband, John Cusimano.

On the show, Ray surprised Mason with a $10,000 donation to the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation from Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and 1,000 bottles of product, including hand soap, dish soap, multi-surface cleaner and hand lotion.

Xavier Richardson, president of the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation, said: “It is deeply humbling for the sacrifice of our dedicated healthcare professionals here in Fredericksburg to be recognized on a national level. Our associates and their families will benefit from these gifts many times over.”

It also meant a lot to Mason and her fellow front-line workers in healthcare. 

“I am incredibly grateful to Rachael and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day for sharing this story and supporting us when we need it most,” said Mason, who later saw a video of the show she appeared on, since she had to work that day. 

She enjoyed watching it with her family, including her son, Sutton, 6; daughter, Lila, 5; and her husband, Chad Mason, who was born and raised in Fauquier County. 

In Remington, “everyone knows everyone,” Mason said. 

So, do residents know all about the attention she’s received over the pantry?

“It’s known a fair bit, but, I don’t want special recognition for something that’s just meant to help people,” she explained. 

Maybe that’s because caring for others seems to come naturally to Mason. 

The day she spoke with Warrenton Lifestyle, Mason was busy delivering meals to senior citizens in Fredericksburg through a program that partners with restaurants to get food to 40-50 seniors. Mason said she volunteers to do so once a week. 

Much of her time is spent donned in full protective gear as she cares for COVID-19 patients. So, while she appreciates kind community gestures directed at front-line workers, there’s one surefire way that people can help the most. 

“They can do what they’re asked to do. Stay home, wear masks, and social distance,” she advised. “We all miss family, we all want connections with people, but those are sacrifices we all have to make. Stay home and stay safe.”

As for Team Cupboard, all donations will help stock the pantries and make them permanent fixtures, Mason said. 

“We do intend to keep it going; hunger is a very real need,” she explained.

Mason said the pantry is really helping people — and while she never sought the attention the pantry brought, she’s very appreciative, noting an anonymous note left thanking her for starting the pantry. 

As word spread about Team Cupboard, the community began to donate money and pantry items.

Tamra Wheeler, public relations coordinator for Mary Washington Healthcare, said that monetary donations for Team Cupboard can be made online by visiting Donate.MWHC.com and following a dropdown to select the pantry — or by writing a check and indicating “pantry” in the memo line. 

For more information or to arrange a drop-off of pantry items to Team Cupboard, email teamcupboard@mwhc.com. 

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