Community Building, from the Bottom Up
Despite the growing economy, millions of Americans are just one missed paycheck away from homelessness. It’s not something most of us want to think about. But the Environmental Services, Food & Nutrition, and Patient Transport teams at Alabama’s Mobile Infirmary is doing more than just thinking.
They are working overtime to make a difference in the lives of Mobile’s homeless “because together, we are great.”
In 2018, they created Project Kindness, to bring some relief to the streets of Mobile, Alabama. “We have bake sales, candy sales, we solicit vendors, we do a lot of fundraising,” says Sherry Patrick, the Assistant Director Environmental Services at the Mobile Infirmary. “Often, our associates do it on their own time.”
We are family here at the Mobile Infirmary, and it is an absolute labor of love to work together, along with our partners, to coordinate donation efforts for homeless community while raising awareness.
Project Kindness has created several programs to help their homeless and struggling neighbors. On Saturdays, for example, they set up a unit that provides snacks, canned goods, toiletries, over-the-counter medical items, linens, towels, and clean clothes to people in need.
They also have special events throughout the year, such as an Angel Tree at Christmas. “It was set up by our employees to help children in an economically depressed part of Mobile, Pritchard,” says Sherry. “The employees wanted to do it—they set it up. They aren’t wealthy, but they wanted to make sure these children had a real Christmas.”
Their efforts have earned the community’s gratitude and respect, as well as support from local businesses, including Dade Paper, Standard Textiles, and Greer's Downtown Market. Though it’s not quite as important, we are proud to announce that Project Kindness has also earned the 2019 Crothall Healthcare Compass in the Community (CITC) Award, plus a Compass Group over-all Silver Award.
Although the U.S. homeless population has declined slightly since its 2007 peak, approximately 3,500 Alabamans are going without shelter on any given night, some 400 of whom are veterans. Many grew up here in Mobile.
“You can’t go out there with a judgmental attitude or mindset,” says Sherry. “We all know people from our communities who are in the same boat. Not everyone has the opportunity to flourish like we have here at Compass. Our team members step back and say, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ We take this to heart. We say that it doesn’t matter why you’re here, we’re here to help you.”
What motivates your team to spend their own time and money to help the least fortunate in your community?
It’s the atmosphere here. In our capacity as housekeepers, we have a lot of people who help. We intervene on behalf of people in that manner. We are trained to be aware of our environment.
Healthcare attracts a certain kind of person, people who have a helping mindset from the first day they’re here, from the first day that they join us. I don’t have to browbeat them or say “please.” They are like, “What are we doing next.” This is just one of the things we do.
What are some of the other things you do? Do you work with other teams at the Infirmary?
We have an appreciation day for the psychiatric care team because they take care of the homeless. It’s one of the last psych wards in Alabama.
You said earlier that the blessings go both ways. What do you mean?
Being a part of this project has taught me a lot about compassion and arrogance and how resilient people are. It’s incredible to me.
When you stay in a homeless shelter, they kick you out at daybreak. You have to walk everywhere, to places where you’re allowed to sit without being removed. By the time they get back to the shelter for meals, a lot of times, they are already full. People go for days without eating, sometimes without water, the churches and shelters can’t keep up. There’s not a lot of opportunities or care out there.
We hope to ease their plight for just one day.
Do you ever have the opportunity to do more?
Last year we were lucky enough to find a great candidate while handing out supplies, and we were able to assist him in gaining employment at our Crothall Linen plant here in Mobile.
Your video is set to Des'ree's “You Gotta Be,” which says that “love will find away.” Why did you choose that song?
We have our huddles every day before work. One young lady always ends it with “love one another; pray for one another.” It’s the Bible Belt.
The homeless plight is ongoing and we’re not sure if there’s any end in sight. What we know for sure is that doing nothing is not sustainable. To quote Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
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