‘When I’m there, Novant Health is there, too’
James Blount serves hope, one meal at a time
When you walk into the kitchen of Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center, you might find a cup of coffee, a cookie or a sandwich. But if James Blount is there, you’ll find something else when you need it most: a friend.
As a chef and a cashier, Blount ensures all customers are greeted with a warm smile and a helping hand. Because many of his customers are patients and loved ones of patients, he knows they are often experiencing challenging circumstances, which for some could be the most emotionally trying time of their lives, too. Blount does what he can to get to know each person and make everyone feel at home.
“I have to make sure their experience is the best that it can possibly be,” Blount said. “I need to talk to this person face-to-face, and I need to let them know I am here. Because when I’m there, Novant Health is there, too.”
Blount has long understood the power of a good meal. Growing up Black in Greensboro in the 1960s, “you didn’t have much,” he said. But that didn’t stop his mother from sharing what she could with the community around her.
“She would even feed people who didn’t like her,” Blount said. “That taught me compassion.”
Blount has carried on his mother’s acts of goodwill in his own way. Every so often, he will pick up the tab so customers can get a warm meal regardless of their ability to afford it.
“How can a person be comfortable knowing a fellow neighbor down the street has nothing?” he asked. “That bothers me, and I can’t deal with it. So, I might only have $10 left to my name, but guess what? I’m still going to pay for that person’s meal.”
Other times, he will do it when he sees a customer for days on end.
“Nobody comes to hang out in a hospital for five days, so whatever is going on must be pretty serious. Let me add my prayers to yours,” he said.
Recently, Blount’s work has grown complicated. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, safety protocols were implemented, including reducing the cafeteria’s access and hours. Just as all team members did, Blount understood and embraced the changes, but the impact to him was significant. He didn’t know how he was going to pay the rent.
But help was right around the corner. A co-worker introduced him to the Novant Health Hope for Remarkable Aubergine Fund (formerly the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund). This fund provides financial assistance to team members affected by the pandemic. Blount applied and was unsure if he would hear anything back. But to his surprise, he received enough funds to cover his rent for a month. He said he was honored and grateful.
“One more month gives me a fighting chance,” Blount exclaimed. “I can go to battle for one more month. I can make it.”
The support Blount gives to those around him extends outside of work, as well. As a young man, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 years, and today, he considers himself a family man. His son, James III, will soon attend a doctoral program in geography at the University of Delaware. His daughter, Neah, works as a certified nursing assistant in the Miami area. With his children now grown, he does his best to mentor a young boy in his neighborhood named Eli, and he supports Providence Baptist Church in Greensboro.
“I don’t think my gift is to cook,” Blount explained. “As I’ve gotten older, I believe it is to feed. The feeding can be nourishment, a cheerful thought, a word of encouragement, or it could be a simple prayer. Either I’m feeding the heart, I’m feeding the body or I’m feeding the soul. When they leave, I want that person to feel better than they did when they walked in that door.”
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A donation to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund goes a long way toward lifting up Novant Health team members in need as they work to keep us safe. Make your gift now.