Adventist Health: Faith in Action

October 03, 2016 | Mollie Hawkins

Not only does Adventist Health care for its patients’ spiritual, mental and physical health, the organization also creates a strong, nurturing bond with its own employees by sharing God’s love and providing care when they need it the most. At Adventist Health, we believe we also should go that extra mile for each other. Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes we find ourselves facing challenges that require assistance.

A featured giving opportunity spearheaded by Oregon's Tillamook Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is the Employees Helping Employees (EHE) fund. This is an invaluable resource for team members who face severe emergencies and need financial assistance. These resources are not loans, but gifts given from funds donated by fellow Adventist Health employees.

Employees can choose to have regular payroll deductions to support the EHE or make one-time cash donations. When a team member applies for assistance, a committee reviews the circumstances and releases the donations as quickly as possible. And as one employee at TRMC found out, sometimes the response is more than you could imagine.

Melody Ayers, TRMC development director, received a request for help from Julie*, a fellow employee. Melody and the EHE committee jumped at the chance not only to help financially, but also emotionally. Julie, a billing specialist for TRMC, is the sole caretaker of her ill brother, so she was already stretched thin financially. Then her 9-year-old great-niece, Anna,* landed on her doorstep with nowhere to go other than Julie’s house or foster care.

“She arrived at my house with the clothes she was wearing and a pair of PJs — nothing else,” says Julie. “She is a sweet, innocent little girl who’s been uprooted from everything she’s ever known. Besides losing all her belongings, it just breaks my heart to see her have to go through all of this.”

After providing Julie the financial assistance she needed, Melody’s committee wanted to go one step further by rallying others within the Tillamook community to help this little girl as much as possible. Melody asked Julie what size clothing Anna wore and what other things she might need.

“I know there are people who would be delighted to help in a situation like this,” Melody told Julie.

Julie was blown away by the warm response, and team members were eager to help out. In fact, Melody herself said she enjoyed taking her daughter Sara, also an employee of TRMC, to Fred Meyer to shop for Anna. “We asked ourselves, 'What would a 9-year-old want?' My daughter is very much a girly-girl, so it was fun to do that together, to help in this way.”

Spiritual Ambassadors

While the EHE fund’s primary focus is on financial assistance, the chaplains offer their services when someone needs prayer, counseling, a friendly ear to listen or support in a time of crisis. TRMC also features spiritual ambassadors, which are hospital staff who volunteer to be part of a group that furthers the mission of spreading God’s love.

Danny Parada, known simply as “Chaplain Danny,” is the TRMC spiritual care director. He is also in charge of the Spiritual Ambassadors program, which until now has run primarily through word of mouth; if an employee or a member of the community needed a little extra assistance, Chaplain Danny found out about it typically through email. He’d start a chain request to rally as much help as he could, and he says he's always blown away by the responses from employees willing to help in any way they can.

When employees at TRMC want to become spiritual ambassadors, all they have to do is sign up. “We already have nine or 10 people signed up for the next training session,” Chaplain Danny says. They then go through a four-hour session (offered quarterly) during which they are given the tools they need to embrace the mission and reach out to the community. These employees can be doctors, nurses or anyone wishing to volunteer their time. The hospital currently has 40 spiritual ambassadors and more on the way. “They are giving hope to the needy. They go beyond,” says Chaplain Danny.

TRMC isn’t the only Adventist Health hospital in the region participating in its own employee-driven initiatives that benefit the community. Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, has a back-to-school drive, through which employees can “adopt” a student in need and provide school supplies. They also have a Christmas adopt-a-family drive.

Walla Walla General Hospital in Walla Walla, Washington, has a similar donation programs during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Julie and Anna are a perfect example of how Adventist Health employees go above and beyond in reaching out with God’s love in times of crisis. In addition to Julie's receiving financial relief in her time of need, a little girl’s joy was also restored. “It was so much more than we ever imagined,” Julie says. “Everyone was so generous and took a little girl who was feeling out of sorts and made her feel cared for — and part of a loving family. It has been quite the journey, but one that God knew would bring much happiness to Anna and I."

Everyone is on his or her own journey, and sometimes we need a “family” to reach out to in a crisis. Thanks to people like Chaplain Danny and Adventist Health employees, it’s comforting to know that they are there, ready to ask the question, “How can we help?”