For big-hearted Regional One Health employees, taking care of the health and wellbeing of Mid-South residents doesn’t stop when they’re off the clock.

As the holiday season neared and the specter loomed of families having nothing on their table, approximately 75 volunteers gathered in the Regional One Health cafeteria to pack nutritious and hearty meals that will feed some 10,000 vulnerable families in the area.

About 75 Regional One Health employees volunteered to pack meals that will be distributed by the Mid-South Food Bank to families in need.

Angela Hughes, Regional One Health Manager of Community Affairs and Engagement, noted, “As a healthcare provider, Regional One Health sits in perfect positioning to collaboratively work with organizations throughout the Memphis area to focus on key healthcare concerns for the community. Events like meal packing for the Mid-South Food Bank on the surface is a fun, team-building event – but below the surface it tackles the food desert problem in Memphis.

“Many in Memphis go to sleep every night hungry. Because we care for them when they’re ill doesn’t mean that we should ignore their hunger or their needs when they are healthy enough to leave our hospital. We want them to continue to heal and live healthy lives.”

This is the fifth year Regional One Health has hosted the event, partnering with Outreach for Kids to provide the meals to the Mid-South Food Bank. The Mid-South Food Bank then distributes the meals – one of which will feed a family of six – to families in need in Memphis and surrounding counties.

Packing meals was both charity work and a team-building exercise, as employees engaged in good-natured banter over which table could finish the most boxes.

Employees were excited not only to have a chance to give back, but to work side-by-side with colleagues who they may not get to interact with on a daily basis. “I wanted to volunteer because I like giving back, and I think it’s important that we help someone besides ourselves,” Tamika Jackson, RN, said, “Also, it’s an opportunity for fellowship and charity work at the same time.”

As employees teamed up at tables and engaged in good-natured banter over which group was turning out the most boxes, Melanie Wood, Nurse Manager for Trauma Acute Care, said, “It’s a really great team-building exercise between the different departments, and I feel like it’s important to represent our organization not just by doing this, but out in the community.”

Joey Omedeo, an RN in the Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center NICU, agreed, noting helping the community not only serves the immediate need of giving families a healthy meal, it builds bonds on a larger, lasting scale. “We want to serve the people in the community so when they’re in need they know our service is available to them,” Omedeo said. “It’s important to build that reputation, because if we can get a rapport of trust we can go far in the future.”

For many employees, the idea of kids having nothing to eat was motivation enough to take time out of their busy day to scoop, measure, weigh and package.

“It’s for the kids!” Tyler McFarland, IT Senior Desktop Support Tech said. “It’s a great cause.”

Employees were all smiles as they lent a helping hand, with many saying Regional One Health’s responsibility to help the community extends beyond medical care.

Darnesha Jones, Patient Care Assistant, agreed: “I like to volunteer and help people, especially kids and families. I’m looking forward to doing more volunteering.”

While Jones, who is new to the Regional One Health family, was volunteering at her first event, others were coming back for more after helping at meal packing events in previous years.

“I love this event,” said Sheena Freeman, Patient Relations Coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community. It’s unfortunate that so many families go without during Christmas, and it’s important to me to do my small part to help.”

Lisa Lewis, Special Procedures Tech, agreed. “It’s just something that I like to do every year,” she said. “Sometimes the dollar isn’t there, so at least I can give the service.”

“It’s a wonderful event that Regional One Health provides each year,” added Keith McClendon, EVS Manager. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community. Just to be able to volunteer and make a positive difference in those individuals’ lives is a wonderful thing.”

Hughes said that’s the whole idea behind Regional One Health’s volunteer efforts. “An event like meal packing allows us to help those who are vulnerable. When they leave us, we still care.”