Penn Medicine staff help those in need throughout the year but the “giving” reaches new levels in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
Outreach efforts started early this year when nearly 80 Penn Medicine staff and their families and friends volunteered at The Great Gathering, a Thanksgiving feast for the homeless and disadvantaged, organized by Compassion Community Development Corporation. They helped serve dinner to more than 3,000 adults and children from local shelters. And, when Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell asked for volunteers to help out at her 15th Annual Holiday Party for the Homeless and Disadvantaged, nearly 50 staff helped wrap almost 2000 gifts and close to 100 served dinner to the thousands who attended this year.
In addition, Penn Medicine’s Information Services collected a whopping 11,700 food items for Philabundance. And several Penn Medicine volunteers took part in the annual Turkey Toss with the South of South Neighborhood Association. The group distributed 500 frozen turkeys to families and seniors so they too could enjoy a delicious holiday meal.
At the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, staff reach out to those less fortunate through the hospital’s annual Holly Days program. Departments throughout the hospital “adopt” families from a local shelter that helps women and children in transition. Staff could also donate clothing, books, and other items to The Veterans Group, which helps displaced veterans. This year, HUP employees provided gifts to 25 families (with a total of 60 kids) and 29 veterans. “This is the first year we’ve donated to veterans. They were overwhelmed with the amount of gifts they received…. and very appreciative,” said Phyllis Murray, who takes the lead for Holly Days. In addition, staff contributed over $3,500 worth of gift cards from Target, Walmart, and supermarkets to Covenant House, a crisis center in Philadelphia, which provides a continuum of services to meet the complex needs of homeless and runaway youth.
Holly Days recipients weren’t the only ones to benefit from Penn Medicine generosity. HUP’s Nursing Network Center held a toy and clothing drive for the People’s Emergency Center. Donations poured in for the moms and their kids who are trying to make better lives for themselves. And staff from a patient care unit with a large transplant patient population paid a visit to the Clyde Barker Transplant House, baking holiday cookies for – and with – family members of transplant patients staying there.
HUP staff go out of their way to bring holiday spirit into the hospital as well, through the annual tree-decorating contest, sponsored by the Abrahamsohn Christmas & Easter Committee. Each unit decorates an artificial tree in a specific theme to not only make the unit more festive but also be chosen as one of the five top trees. This friendly competition among units has been ongoing for 20 years, and each year the decorations seem to get better and better!
This year, three of the winning units used the competition as way to help those in need. One collected three big boxes filled with books, warm mittens and hats, shoes and boots for Cradle to Crayons. This nonprofit provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, school or at play. Another unit, which cares for patients with cystic fibrosis, focused on that as its theme and raised over $640 to purchase gift cards to supermarkets, Target, and other stores for 15 of its patients in need. The “Fight for a Cure” theme for the third winning unit was dedicated to members of their staff who have been touched by cancer. The $150 prize money (which all five winners receive) will go to the American Cancer Society.
Not only humans benefited from HUP’s holiday outreach. Members of Emergency Medicine raised $1,000 for the Pennsylvania SPCA and also held a drive for toys, treats, blankets, and beds for the organization. The day before they made the trip to the shelter to deliver the boxes of donations, “we made homemade treats for the dogs --oatmeal, water, cinnamon and a lot of peanut butter!” said Heather Matthew, who led the effort. Two other clinical areas collected toys, treats, bedding, and food to help inner-city animal rescue organizations save more cats and dogs and find them forever homes.