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Compassion Closet, Cupboard, offer clothing, food, to discharged patients in need

Compassion Closet, Cupboard, offer clothing, food, to discharged patients in need
Sometimes, healing is more than receiving excellent medical care.

Sometimes, it’s also clothes to wear home and food to eat when you get there.

The Compassion Closets at Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal and Carle Eureka Hospital offer new, donated clothes for people who need something to wear home when they are being discharged from the hospital.

The new Compassion Cupboard at BroMenn offers a bag of nutritious food and a list of food pantries for discharged patients who are returning to a home with little food. The cupboard, which opened in May, began after BroMenn staff detected in the past year an increase in patients who are food insecure.

Carle Health Methodist Hospital in Peoria is considering starting a program later this year offering clothes and hygiene products to people who are being discharged from the hospital and are in need.

“The closet and the cupboard each serve our patients and families through the generosity of donors and we see how it makes a difference almost daily in someone’s experience and healing journey,” the Rev. Christine McNeal, M.Div., BCC, senior staff chaplain and coordinator for Faith Community Relations at BroMenn, Eureka and Carle Cancer Institute-Normal, said.

The need for the Compassion Closet was identified in 2012 when a chaplain resident, while making her nightly rounds, noticed a patient sitting in the Emergency Department waiting area. The patient had been discharged and was waiting for a ride to go home. The patient’s clothes had been torn on the way to the ED so she was wearing paper scrubs given to her by the ED staff. It was winter and the paper scrubs offered little protection from the weather and inadequate coverage. The chaplain resident observed that the patient was struggling to keep the paper garment from splitting.

“The scrubs offered little dignity and the chaplain resident realized that the hospital needed to do something better,” McNeal said. She brought her concern to her supervisor, who worked with the interdisciplinary team and student volunteers from Illinois Wesleyan University to develop and present a plan.

“This resident’s care for a patient in need inspired the Compassion Closet, which is supported by our Faith Community Partners,” McNeal said, referring to the 90-plus faith communities, formerly called delegate-churches, that support BroMenn and Eureka with donations and other shared ministry.

The Faith Community Partners and hospital team members donate new clothes. This time of year, it’s mostly shorts, socks and T-shirts. During cold months, it’s sweatshirts and sweat pants. Light jackets, flip-flops and inexpensive shoes also are donated.

When people arrive at the Emergency Department, sometimes their clothes are damaged or they become torn during treatment. In other cases, they may experience swelling, which means they may not be able to put on the same pants that they wore to the hospital.

When hospital team members at BroMenn and Eureka identify patients being discharged who can’t put on the same clothes they arrived in and appear to have no other readily accessible clothing, they contact the hospital on-call chaplain. The patients may have no other accessible clothing because of their financial circumstance or because they don’t live close to the hospital or because there are no family or friends nearby who can bring clothes to them.

Team members determine the size of clothing needed and inform the on-call chaplain, who goes to the closet and brings a set of clothes to the patient, McNeal said.

During the first six months of this year, 648 articles of clothing were donated.

Team members at BroMenn may place donations in a basket in the first-floor Chapel. Team members at Eureka who wish to donate may contact the chaplain or email McNeal at Members of the public who wish to donate also may email McNeal.

The Compassion Cupboard traces its roots to a basket under the Chapel altar at BroMenn. The basket, initially placed by members of the public worshiping in the Chapel, holds donated food for anyone in need.

“What we’ve experienced is an increased need and more people who are food insecure in the past year,” McNeal said. The hospital chaplains considered how they might help.

They assembled a group that included several BroMenn team members, including a dietitian, as well as a representative of a local food pantry. The group came up with the idea of the Compassion Cupboard.

When a BroMenn team member discovers that a patient will be discharged to a home with little food, the team member contacts the on-call chaplain, who provides a bag of food for the patient.

The amount of food in the bag is enough for the patient for a couple of days. It includes fruits and vegetables, proteins, grains and snack foods. Each bag also contains a list of food pantries where the former patients can get longer-term assistance.

The Compassion Cupboard opened at BroMenn in May and already has given away 21 bags of food. Again, the donors are faith communities and team members.

The program is in a pilot phase and has not yet expanded to Eureka.

Anyone – whether a team member or a member of the public – who wishes to donate to the Compassion Cupboard should email McNeal.

“This is a mutual ministry, with our Faith Community Partners, that benefits our patients and communities,” McNeal said. “It’s all a blessing.”

At Carle Foundation Hospital (CFH) in Urbana, help is provided to patients but in another way. When care managers or social workers become aware of a patient in need of clothing, they reach out to Carle Auxiliary Resale Boutique.

“There are times my team will also contribute from their own personal funds to obtain items that we commonly see,” David Roberts, MSW, LSW, CFH manager of inpatient social work, said. “These items can often be something besides clothing, such as hearing aid batteries, common reading glasses, etc.”

Rev. Charlotte Hoffmann, M.Div., BroMenn staff chaplain, gave a recent example of the value of the Compassion Closet. Earlier this month, nursing staff paged her to provide clothing and food for a patient who had experienced a house fire and lost their home and belongings. Hoffmann was able to provide food, paper plates, utensils, bottles of water and summer attire.

“This person was astounded by the wonderful care they received from, not only nursing staff, but also from Spiritual Care. ... They had been thinking about what clothing they needed to buy and we brought exactly what they needed,” Hoffmann wrote.

“The biggest impact was not in the material items themselves but in how they were received,” Hoffmann wrote. “In the most challenging of times, this was yet another instance where this person perceived people and organizations showing up to provide before they even knew this was a possibility.”

Categories: Community

Tags: BroMenn, clothing, Eureka, faith, food, philanthropy, team