Hospital Associates Give the Power to Heal

Associates at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center donate to The Mission Fund, which provides clothing for their neediest patients.

October 7, 2015

“Not long ago, I gave a patient some new shoes because he had none to wear when he was discharged and no resources to buy any,” says patient relations representative Linda Walker. “Later, I saw him at a hospital event and he thanked me. He said those shoes gave him the dignity to walk out of the hospital with his head high.”

That wasn’t the first pair of shoes a patient had received from MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital, and – thanks to the Mission Fund – it won’t be the last. The fund supports our neediest patients, and one of their most basic needs is clothing.

Depending on the circumstances, such as an accident, a patient’s clothing must sometimes be cut off or discarded after they arrive at the hospital. Some patients have no resources to replace the clothes, some are homeless, and some have no one they can call to bring them something to wear. In the past, the only option for a few of these patients was to wear paper gowns when they were discharged.

“But now that we have the Mission Fund, no one will leave without clothes and shoes,” says patient relations coordinator Sundee Webster. The fund was created to distribute donations collected from our annual employee philanthropy campaign. MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital raised $36,000 from its first campaign in 2013. In 2014, we raised $54,000.

Sundee and Linda are using some of that money to maintain a supply of new and gently used clothes for any patient who needs them. They have dozens of T-shirts, socks, sweatsuits, underwear and sports bras for women, boxers for men, shoes, and slippers, in a variety of sizes. There’s also a supply of baby clothes available for mothers who don’t have the resources to clothe their newborns.

Every set of apparel comes with a story. Says Sundee, “The other day, a patient was cold and wearing just a gown and shorts. I brought him a T-shirt, socks, and shoes. He took off the yellow hospital socks, put on his new black socks, and asked,”I get to keep these?” Sundee assured him they were his. She later learned he had been homeless and often had to go barefoot.

“We distribute clothes every day – sometimes five or six times a day,” says Linda. “Our greatest challenge is making sure we keep enough in stock.

But The Mission Fund is an internal initiative, supported by associates who see firsthand how much their generosity means to individuals in difficult situations. Sundee is convinced that empathy not only makes a difference in patients’ overall health, but also speeds their recovery. “They’re so thankful to receive the clothing, and it provides them with a great deal of comfort. We’re not just giving them something to wear – we’re giving them back some of their self-respect.”

“We’re fortunate that the Mission Fund exists,” Linda says, “and that compassion can make such a difference in peoples’ lives.” She cites a quote, by Maya Angelou, that sums up their experience: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center's annual philanthropy campaign is now in full swing. Click here for more information.