Heroes of the Outbreak: On the Frontline of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tom Kulinski is far too humble a man to see himself as a hero. He just loves his job – a job that’s never been quite as important as it is during this time of crisis.

As a maintenance supervisor for National CORE, Kulinski is a key member of the National CORE team helping to meet the housing needs of thousands of senior citizens, working families, and individuals with special needs. For many of them, the world has never been a scarier place than during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It is times like these when heroes step up in a big way. Especially, it seems, even reluctant heroes like Kulinski, who throughout this crisis has been a lifeline for the communities and residents whose buildings and living units he helps maintain. Whether it’s loading up his truck and delivering food to seniors on a Saturday or dropping off activity books for hundreds of children isolated at home, or simply being a friend to a resident who is frightened and alone, Kulinski works tirelessly to provide comfort to those who need him.

“It is that human connection and the ability to provide stability and security. I tell my kids, not everyone comes home to food on the table. Not everyone comes home to a home,” he says. “We serve so many residents, and whatever I can do to help, I’ll do it – knowing that I’m making a difference.”

Kulinski, 46, has worked at National CORE pretty much all of his adult life. He started as a security guard more than 26 years ago but was quickly able to put his handyman skills to good use as a resident service technician (RST).

“National CORE was my third job, and once I found it, I was here to stay,” he says.

Working for a nonprofit organization, and to do so for as many years as Kulinski has, requires a special kind of world view and commitment to mission – in the case of National CORE and the Hope through Housing Foundation, to transform lives and communities through affordable housing and life-enhancing social services.

“National CORE and Hope through Housing have always done amazing things for residents. Helping senior citizens. Helping kids. When this epidemic hit, we knew we had to do even more,” Kulinski said.

One recent Saturday morning, he got a phone call that a shipment of free food was available and needed to be picked up that day. Kulinski got in his truck, picked up the food and delivered it to residents. For many of the seniors, seeing his friendly face at the door – albeit at the appropriate six feet of social distancing – was more important than the food itself.

“A lot of seniors don’t have families nearby, and they’re looking for someone to talk to,” Kulinski said.

They’re also eager to share the generosity shown them – turning down extra food, such as bread, in order to give it to someone else.

Kulinski’s compassion and ability to connect with the residents he serves is part of who he is. The father of four is happy to serve as a male role model to a young resident in need and to make sure the seniors and families he has come to know as family can call on him at any time.

Heroes, it seems, don’t work on the clock.

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