We are so very thrilled that our clothes closet made the “Best of” stories on GDA. This newsletter goes to all Ascension associates. Our clothes closet is a much needed ministry and numerous people contribute regularly or it would not be possible. Thank you to all who make this work!!!
BEST OF GDA 2017: A Gift of Shoes Sparks the Idea for a Clothes Closet in Birmingham
Originally published 6/22/2017
More than two and a half years ago, Kim Crawford, a chaplain at St. Vincent’s Health System in the Ascension Birmingham Ministry Market, noticed something a bit odd as she watched her colleague, Elaine Brown, a social worker, walk down a hospital hallway.
“She has on the strangest looking shoes,” Kim remembers thinking.
And then Kim realized that Elaine was barefoot. Elaine had given her shoes to a patient who had lost everything at the hands of someone who should have been her caregiver. The woman had nothing. And in that moment of Elaine’s giving, the idea of a clothes closet at St. Vincent’s was born.
“I remembered how I felt after I lost everything in a tornado,” Kim said. “The difference was that I had insurance to replace items. That patient didn’t.”
After contacting a few trusted people about the woman’s need, Kim had comfortable clothing, an outfit for job interviews, pajamas, a purse and more shoes. Kim delivered the clothes to the patient at a shelter, where Kim and the shelter director collaborated to find the woman a safe haven that included protection, counseling and fresh start in life.
Unfortunately, that woman is not the only patient in need, Kim said.
“We continually have patients in our care that only have the clothes on their backs, which may be too soiled or torn to salvage. We have patients that enter without even a pair of shoes. We also have patients who need to transfer to a boarding home, but they are not admitted without a sufficient wardrobe,” Kim said. “We are able to give patients the items they need, and allow them to leave comfortable, and also with dignity, as they face the world once more.”
The clothes closet program at St. Vincent’s Health System, called “Hannah’s Love,” is named after Samuel’s mother from the Bible. Hannah prayed to God for a son and vowed to give him back to God in service if her prayer was granted. After her son, Samuel, was born, she celebrated by making him a new robe each year.
Kim said that the clothing for Hannah’s Love comes from associate donations. Before accepting them, she ensures that all items are free from damage or stains and that all undergarments and socks are new and still in the package. Donations are stored in rubber totes with lids and stacked neatly in a section of a storage room designated specifically for Hannah’s Love. Kim said the Director of Nursing Services, Charles Lacey, and one of the unit managers, Joseph Newcomb, collaborated to make the closet work.
“The clothes closet is an expression of our core Values, especially Service of the Poor: generosity of spirit, especially for persons most in need, and Reverence: respect and compassion for the dignity and diversity of life,” Kim said.