Charting a new path forward

In the midst of a pandemic, priorities have shifted, but this community’s generosity remains the same

Back in February, well before the COVID-19 pandemic created our strange, new reality, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation hosted a disco party.

More than 250 people turned out, decked out in bell bottoms and sequins, all in support of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation’s A Path Forward campaign, which is raising funds to support behavioral health initiatives and programs in the community. In total, the event raised over $40,000, said Cindy Cheatham, development program manager for Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation.

“It was wonderful, so fun and such a huge success,” Cheatham said.

Then came COVID-19.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things in and around Brunswick Medical Center. There are fewer people around the hospital every day, with elective procedures canceled and nonessential staff working from home. Telemedicine visits and face masks are the new normal. Any in-person events have been canceled, and fundraising priorities have shifted to support the hospital’s front-line workers through the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the community’s desire to support Brunswick Medical Center, any way they can.

Cheatham tells the story of a local church that took up an offering recently, which it used to purchase 300 meals from Hwy 55. The donation provided enough hot dogs and hamburgers to feed the entire hospital.

“So many people are buying food for our team, and restaurants have been sending meals. They’re suffering, too, and their willingness to donate to those on the front lines has been a testament to the generosity of our small community,” Cheatham said.

Shelbourn Stevens, president of Brunswick Medical Center, has seen a similar outpouring of support as the community rallies behind healthcare workers.

One community member with a 3D printer at home has been making face shields and delivering them to the hospital as he can, Stevens said. In addition, the volunteer team at the hospital has been routinely making cards and other gifts to thank front-line workers.

“One day, they went out and put them on the windows and windshields of team members’ cars. As people got off their shift, they found a note thanking them for being there,” Stevens said. “I had folks coming up to me after the fact with tears in their eyes. It’s those little gestures that go a long way.”

At the same time, many healthcare workers need more than thanks during this time. Some have spouses who have lost jobs. Others are struggling to find affordable child care or to find temporary lodging to avoid exposing their family members to coronavirus. That’s why Stevens and Cheatham have prioritized raising funds for the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund above all else. The fund was created to ensure front-line healthcare workers can pay for what they need now so they can focus on the important work of helping patients and saving lives.

“We call them our ‘healthcare heroes.’ They are the ones fighting the battles to keep us all well, and this community wants to help,” Cheatham said.

The community has stepped up to support its healthcare workers before, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence back in 2018. And it will happen again now, Stevens said.

“As a hospital team and as a community, we’re going to rally together and get through this. We continue to grow to meet the needs of the community, and this pandemic is not going to slow us down,” Stevens said. “We’ve proven time and again we’re stronger than that, and we’re going to be even stronger on the other side of this.”

While the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund remains the priority in the immediate future, the Brunswick Medical Center Foundation also believes the focus on behavioral health — the purpose behind the disco party just a few months ago — should not be lost. Brunswick Medical Center continues to offer virtual counseling sessions, and Cheatham said the need for increased access to that care will be more important after the pandemic than ever before.

“There are a lot of people out there who are right on the edge, and who knows what kind of job loss or financial loss has heightened those anxieties and those pressures,” Cheatham said. “On the other side of this, a lot of people are going to see the need for behavioral health services, and we want to be there to help”

You can help, too, by making a contribution

Either to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund or to support the A Path Forward campaign to increase access to behavioral health services throughout the community. More now than ever, our community must come together, for our front-line healthcare workers and each other.

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