Some of Memorial Healthcare System’s top brass rolled up their sleeves at Washington Park Community Center in west Hollywood and showed nearly 2,000 neighborhood residents that “service” goes beyond the hospital boardroom.
“Our mission is to heal the community. Helping out today is absolutely in line with that mission,” said Laura Raybin Miller, Chair of the South Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners.
Miller and commissioners Doug Harrison, Karen Harrington and Frank Ledee helped distribute dozens of turkeys donated by Memorial and countless bags of string beans, peppers, sweet potatoes and spinach at the Community Enhancement Collaboration’s (CEC) 5th Annual Volunteers & Partners Distribution led by the organization’s founder and president Nadine McCrea, a longtime ally of the hospital system and Washington Park community organizer.
Memorial CEO Aurelio Fernandez and executive team members Zeff Ross, Nina Beauchesne, Ken Hetlage and Shane Strum also pitched in to nourish residents, body and soul, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Strum said serving local residents for more than six hours in the hot morning sun was just one of about 600 times per year that the hospital system connects with the community outside of individual healthcare.
“We know each other from being out here at health fairs, supporting other events, making rounds with patients,” Ross said after bagging hundreds of yams into plastic shopping bags and chatting with many residents. “It’s stupendous feeling to be out here helping people a little bit more to make sure they have a nutritious meal on Thanksgiving. What more can you ask for?”
McCrea said the community outreach effort could be one of the last for the organization that was born in 1982 when she started helping neighbors out of her tiny Hollywood home on Mayo Street. Back then, McCrea couldn’t say no to her immediate neighbors when they needed food, work, or transportation to healthcare. McCrae became so good at helping that her grassroots effort eventually expanded citywide with help from youth, faith leaders and community partners.
“But times are always hard here and CEC always has to pay bills. We had the phone turned off the other day and it’s not looking good for the future,” McCrea said about the organization that now struggles to support a small facility and a weekly feeding and social services program.
Miller, in her 17th year serving on the Board of Commissioners, said she volunteered at the CEC holiday food distribution for two years on her own. This year she encouraged Memorial to donate 150 turkeys and asked the board for manpower. Harrison and Ledee’s families also helped out.
“It's such a wonderful experience and I’m happy to lead. It’s a special time,” Miller said.
Harrington, whose family has owned Rickey’s Restaurant in Hollywood since 1955, said her personal community connection runs deep. She recognized several people who stood in line for many hours before the food distribution began and she’s been a friend of McCrea’s for decades.
“I’m honored to help. Some people simply need this to celebrate the holiday and they need to know that the community hasn’t forgotten them — and we never will,” Harrington said.
Other groups that donated time and goods included City of Hollywood, Feeding South Florida, Hollywood Woman's Club, Hollywood Police Department and Hollywood Kia.