Rush Volunteering in Times of COVID-19

Rush Volunteering in Times of COVID-19

Learn about volunteer events employees of Rush University Medical Center and Rush Oak Park participated in to support our West Side community during COVID-19.

Learn about volunteer events employees of Rush University Medical Center and Rush Oak Park participated in to support our West Side community during COVID-19.

The Rush Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement has several initiatives that support the community but also engage members of the Rush community. Our Rush Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) is one of them. The EVP supports volunteer activities that enhance and serve the communities where Rush employees work and live.

As an anchor institution on Chicago's West Side, Rush has made a highly visible commitment to working closely with the communities surrounding Rush University Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital to address the social conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes. Part of our Anchor Mission Strategy to support this community includes providing a way for Rush employees to volunteer in these communities.

Through EVP, we have created a volunteer opportunity where Rush staff and faculty make outreach calls to West Side patients and community members who are in need during this health crises. During these calls, volunteers do the following:

  • Identify individuals experiencing food insecurity
  • Provide information on nearby food pantries
  • Link community members to food-relief application assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or City of Chicago Home Delivered (CCHD) Meals (for seniors ages 60+) are just a couple of examples of food-relief programs.

The employee volunteers receive guidance and training so they can best advise individuals on how to receive requested resources. Once individuals are identified as being food insecure, Rush volunteers deliver emergency food relief as a second component of our EVP opportunities.

Delivering More Than Just Food

In partnership with Top Box Foods, our goal was to deliver food boxes to 350 Rush employees, patients, ALIVE parishioners and individuals identified through the Rush Social Worker Helpline as being food insecure in the three months prior to each delivery date. Our most recent delivery was on Aug. 21.

The experience is fulfilling for both the volunteers and the community members. These are just a few experiences shared by volunteers:

This was a blessed and grace-filled experience for me: the best I have felt about this entire crisis in weeks and a perfect way to honor Good Friday. I hope to do this every Friday from now on. Everyone was so grateful, so kind and patient; I was constantly greeted with "Be Safe!" and "Peace to you." I have been seeing scared patients and parents (children with cancer) in-person and by video in a nonstop, stress-filled environment. Today, I got to see people in their homes (from 6 feet) showing the courage and resilience that makes me know we are all going to get through this by coming together and loving one another. I went back for a second run of six people after the first run. This time my daughter was driving. She got to feel and understand why working with others, and trying to help where and when you can, can be the ultimate solution to fear and stress. You reminded me of one of the golden rules of medicine, "To care for people, you have care for people."

In case you believe in fate, one of the families I dropped food off to is the mother and twin sister of a patient I took care of who died 14 years ago. I remember them, and they remembered me.

Thank you Rush for this wonderful opportunity.

Paul Kent, MD

I signed up for the Top Box food delivery last week, and I'm so glad I did. I headed out on a sunny Friday to pick up the food to deliver. The loading of my car was quick and efficient. I then had five families to deliver food to, all on the West Side. I was able to say hello in all cases (from 6 feet away) and found the patients and families were extremely happy to have the food. Each delivery consisted of a large amount of fresh, healthy food, which I felt would make a big difference for people's lives. One of the families lived close to a large West Side homeless shelter, and I saw many homeless people sitting outside. I thought how glad I was to work at Rush, which helps so many of these individuals, and relieved to be doing something tangible to help our West Side neighbors.

Thank you.

Stephanie Bailey, LCSW

I know I am an IT guy and a project manager, but doing this made me feel great. Sadness and all, I felt different. I have almost the feeling I get when I complete a project that helps our hospital patients and families. I get the fulfillment and feeling like no other, but doing this felt so different. I really connected with it. Keep me in mind for future needs; I would be honored to help our communities any time you need the extra hand.

Jorge Urdaneta
Capital Projects: Technology Project Manager