ELYSBURG — Kelsey LeVan was in her family home Wednesday evening when she heard the sounds of approaching fire trucks, but what waited outside came as a pleasant surprise.

The 29-year-old Southern Columbia Area graduate was greeted by nearly two dozen neighbors and firefighters, who gathered near the Grande Avenue homestead to wish the nurse a safe journey to California to assist with the pandemic.

LeVan, a daughter of Michael and Beatriz LeVan, was presented with cards, gifts and best wishes during the unique sendoff.

Later that evening, she and her father began the long drive to Geyserville, California, where she will reside in a cottage for three months while working at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center.

Helping others is LeVan’s way of life. She previously assisted staff at hospitals in Alaska for nine months, donated blood and, two years ago, provided a kidney to Andrew Yurkanin, of Dickson City.

“I figured if I can get through that, I can get through anything,” she said of the kidney donation. “Nursing is definitely my calling. It’s something that I just love to do, especially with all that’s going on. I can’t think of anything else I would want to do.”

LeVan said a travel agency notified her of staffing shortages at medical centers throughout the country. She was originally offered a position in Milwaukee, but could not accept because the start date was prior to her contract expiring with Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

“I am expecting a lot of COVID patients. I know the facility I am at now is getting hit hard,” she said of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa. “That’s what I am expecting and I am OK with that. (Treating people) is something I love to do. And I’ll take the risks with that.”

LeVan thought there was an accident when she first heard the sirens of Elysburg Fire Department’s squad and tanker and was prepared to assist.

She said the sendoff was unexpected, but said the community has empowered her more as a person and a nurse to make a difference.

“I feel sometimes nurses aren’t appreciated that much. We really do take a lot of crap,” she said. “It’s nice to be appreciated and it makes you feel empowered. I think it’s awesome that the community and the United States finally recognizes us.”

Among the well-wishers were nearby resident Harvey Boyer, former president of the Elysburg Fire Department.

“She was part of my EMT class. And (the community) is just so very proud of her and her accomplishments,” Boyer said. “To go to Alaska was one thing, but now, amidst all of this, to go to California is unbelievable. I am very happy to see her continue to flourish and grow as a nurse and be dedicated to her profession.”

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