Jackson Nurse Creates Homeless Closet to Clothe Patients in Need
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Oliver Castellanos has worked as a nurse at Jackson Health System for nearly 30 years. It didn’t take him long, however, to realize that many of the patients he came across were homeless.
“I kept seeing more and more homeless patients,” he said. “At times, all they were discharged with was the paper gown they were provided while being treated.”
Castellanos thought about different ways he could help Jackson’s homeless patients as they were being released from the hospital. He determined that they would benefit most from receiving clothes and shoes that they could take with them and keep.
Castellanos quickly went into action. He had a stack of clothing and shoes at home that he was about to give away. Rather than donating them to a charity, he Instead decided to bring them into work and hold on to them until the next time he came across a patient in need.
“It began with a small pile,” remembers Castellanos. “But it continued to grow bigger and bigger.”
As Castellanos’ family learned about his clothing collection, they began donating items to stock his “homeless help bin” at the hospital.
As time went on, others heard of Castellanos’ initiative, and also pitched in. He began to receive more and more donations – from family, neighbors, coworkers, even strangers. One of Castellanos’ biggest supporters are the people he attends church with at City Church in Homestead.
Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, so too has word of Castellanos’ mission spread throughout Jackson Memorial Hospital. It is not uncommon for Castellanos to receive calls and clothing requests from different hospital units.
“All floors know I have a stash of clothing ready to donate,” he said. “I cater to all areas at Jackson that have a patient in need.”
“My mission resonates with others.” Castellanos explains. “People contribute because it means they have a hand in bettering the community. They feel like they are doing something tangible to help others.”
With the approval of Castellanos’ director, Susan Lewis, what began as a small pile of clothing has grown into a closet in the Discharge Lounge Area at Jackson Memorial, overflowing with clothing, shoes and accessories such as belts.
Castellanos knew he was making a difference when he gave a pair of shoes to a man whose shoes had been misplaced.
“I saw that he got emotional,” remembers Castellanos. “The man smiled and explained that the shoes he was receiving were far better than the ones he had walked in with.”
For his part, Castellanos plans on continuing to stock the closet and helping those in need.
“We are all human beings – all brothers and sisters,” he said. “We have to help each other out.”
To read more of our Nothing Random About Our Kindness employee features celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week, click here.
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