During this unprecedented time, with the community taking unusual steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many are going above and beyond to help their friends and neighbors. In a series called "Heroes Unmasked," The Pioneer will be featuring local people, nominated by their peers, who are making a difference in their community.

REED CITY -- A firefighter with the Reed City Fire Department as well as an EMT with Osceola EMS, Trisha Johnson has been doing her part to keep the community safe and informed during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are taking as many precautions as we can," Johnson said.

While keeping others safe is her main priority, Johnson said the best part about being a first responder right now has been using her position to try to spread joy during uncertain times.

"My favorite part is doing things for the community," she said.

Johnson typically connects with the community through the fire prevention program she runs through Reed City Area Public Schools.

However, while schools are closed, she said the fire department still works closely with the community and recently began driving their fire trucks to residences to surprise children for their birthdays. So far, the department has been able to surprise more than 15 kids.

"It's the best thing," she said. "The kids see all the fire trucks and they get super excited and then they realize they're stopping for them."

While enjoying many aspects of both positions, Johnson said there are also many challenges, such as lacking protective gear and worrying about bringing illness back to her family after work.

Her main challenge, however, is working toward her degree in nursing while working many long hours as an EMT and firefighter throughout the week.

Johnson is in her last year of the nursing program at West Shore Community College and said she can't wait to be able to help locals in a new way once she becomes a registered nurse.

"All the nurses have earned a gold star in my book," she said, noting the hard work area nurses are putting in during this time as well.

Being a first responder while in nursing school, Johnson said it has been an eye-opening journey for her, but one she is excited to continue pursuing.

"It's scary to see all of this stuff, but I'm ready," she said.

While Johnson said it is not always easy to be a first responder, area residents make it worth the hard work.

"I just want to say how proud I am of our community," she said, noting the general support as well as the many individuals who have gone above and beyond to donate masks and other supplies to essential workers.

While grateful for community support, Johnson noted she was also there to aid locals and anyone who has questions should feel free to contact their local first responders as they are there to help.