NO MORE FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN SLEEPING IN CARS...I MEANT IT!I know many of you think it was a one-time event when I said I found it alarming that a family with children who comes to UVA Medical Center are sometimes left with no alternative but to sleep in their car. It was that first exposure which made it evident that we needed to make sure this seldom, if ever, happens. This charity's presence has practically eliminated that from happening.
It is worth reminding everyone why and how this happens. And it happens monthly that someone is spared the uncomfortable and degrading circumstance of not having a place to sleep with a child or children while waiting and monitoring another child or relative in the UVA Medical Center. It happened again last night.
The social worker called at 2 AM concerned that a couple with an infant in the hospital was too late for entering Ronald McDonald House (RMH) and that the next available entry time would be 1 PM. The UVA Hospitality House (HH) does not take in people with children under 18, and this couple had a toddler with them, in addition to the infant in the hospital. They live hundreds of miles from Charlottesville.
The social worker said, "I'm concerned that they have this child and they've mentioned that they will sleep in the car until RMH has an opening later in the afternoon. That's eleven hours, and I just wanted to know what you can do."
Please remember that a UVA Social Worker already knows the situation with each patient and family regarding their financial status. This is not a guessing game. So - the answer was simple. This was no ordinary night. It was blowing rain and humid and a miserable night under any circumstance. This is exactly the kind of situation which should alarm all of us. I made contact with one of the three hotels which works with us, and booked a room for the family immediately.
This intimate and immediate working arrangement with the social staff and our availability 24/7 is the most effective way to remove an immediate need for lodging and food. NOW - all we need is your generosity to help us pay for the rooms and keep this safety net strong.
Regarding Food Supplies
The family above also had access to a frozen dinner or microwavable meal which we supply several times monthly for monitor Teresa Bevins, clinical social worker. Food access for all social workers for those with little or no funds to balance their stay has become a vital assist. That includes the 24-hour social workers in the Emergency Department (ED), who can access a few meals as he or she determines is needed immediately.
Last week we delivered up to 60 meals on Monday, and then again 60 on Friday. Teresa said it had been a particularly active month. We received some really needed assistance from the Pinnacle Foods Corporation in New Jersey with manufacturer coupons of 100 frozen meals monthly through December 2010. This represents about 25% of the frozen meals needed at this time. This was a really big deal, and we are so appreciative for this assistance from this giant corporation, which seldom reaches out so far for a very small charity. Yet - the people at Pinnacle heard the appeal and responded for this set period of time.
It would really be nice if you would send a thank you to Mr. Bob Gamgort, CEO, Pinnacle Foods Group, 1 Old Bloomfield Avenue, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046. This is a multi-billion dollar firm. They took the time to read our appeal for assistance and actually committed to 500 Hungry Man dinners. This was so heartening. Does your note or thank you card count? YOU BET IT DOES!
A local lady heard the call also
I have never met Margaret Gorman, but she sent an e-mail and made a wonderful suggestion. She said, "My friend Alyson Ball of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) gave me your information card recently."
(Margaret is referring to the IHS card which is about our last blog entry regarding the excellent article written and seen at the CNE website. If you missed it, please see the last blog entry.)
Margaret continued, "I am a volunteer at our church and am designing some religious education lessons for the elementary school children. We are the Unitarian Universalist congregation on Rugby Road near the University of Virginia. For the month of November I'd like to have the children create gift bags to give to people who could use them. We think we could make between 50-75 zip lock gallon plastic bags with granola bars, dried fruit, and so on. The children could create greeting cards with messages of friendship and caring to tuck into the bags, and we could put them in a box for you to distribute."
I wrote back that this was a grand idea, and suggested some items which make for a really nutritious balance to include microwavable soups such as Healthy Choice and Campbell's Chunky meals, just as suggestions.
Then Margaret came back with an update yesterday. "This morning I sent an e-mail to my neighbors, asking for money and some of the foods you suggested. So far, two have responded, and I expect more will help. Patrick, my 17-year old son will help scour the stores for the sales next Saturday. I have invited neighborhood children to help pack meal bags, and I think some of them will participate. This is aside from the food drive project for our Sunday School. "
Thanks to Margaret, Patrick and all their participants. I hope this will give each of you an idea of what one person can do to assist in the elimination of hungry visitors to our community in a time of great stress. Also to those of you who can simply send a small check of $5, $10 or more, we will use the funds to balance all of the needs which are presented.
Please note that we are still actively funding the co-pay fund
During the last 30 days, we have twice added to the co-pay fund in the Office of Social Work. Some of you may not know that we supplement this needed social work program as requested for Pay Grade 1 category patients (indigents). Just sharing.
In closing, allow me to make special mention
Since April 2009 when we first needed those initial donations, two contributors have never missed sending a significant donation every single month. Others have sent significant periodic donations. But - I just wanted to thank Dr. Jean B. Lee of Madison, Wisconsin (soon to be a Charlottesville resident), and Pope and Cassandra McElvy of Asheville, North Carolina for their consistent giving to a charity which is so far from them, yet so close to their hearts.
YOU are ALL our strength in this very important effort. We are ALL volunteers in this project. We just happened to be at a time and place in our lives to funnel some of the giving.
Blessings ... Chaplain Elisheva