Feb. 7, 2024 | iCare Newsletter, St. Mary's Foundation
by Bullseye Media

It’s Not Just a School, It’s a Family

It’s Not Just a School,

It’s a Family

The food pantry at the St. Mary’s Center for Education (CFE) will celebrate its fifth anniversary

this fall, which the spokesperson for the project says

is a credit to Dr. Joey Trader and volunteers who helped establish it.

“It’s his vision and mission and we’re glad we’re able to be part of it,” said Heather Streets, one of four nursing instructors helping coordinate distribution. The others include Amy Baise, April Parsons and Mikaela Neal.

Dr. Trader, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE, Vice President of the Schools of Nursing and Health Professions, and Director of the School of Nursing at St. Mary’s Medical Center, discussed organizing a pantry with several faculty members prior to the launch in September of 2019. They held off because of logistical concerns, until a student asked why they were required to do community service.

“We tell them as professionals and human beings it’s always better to give back to people and serve your community,” Dr. Trader recalled. “After putting out a request to help another agency, one student came to me and said, ‘Sometimes the needy are right under your nose.’”

“Tell me about your situation,” he replied.

That’s how he learned this student was a single mother struggling to put food on the table.

With school about to begin, she couldn’t

afford clothing for her child, either.

Dr. Trader and another executive sprang into action, getting the child’s sizes so they could buy shoes and clothing—and followed up by launching the pantry. They started by asking faculty for help. Bags of food, toiletries and personal care items poured in; when someone at the hospital heard about it, they donated food and money.

Then, someone from another health organization purchased a freezer so the pantry could stock

frozen foods.

“It’s grown by leaps and bounds,” Dr. Trader said. “We also work with New Baptist Church. Every week they bring five to 10 meal boxes over, which have meal prep items. Every so often at the hospital they’ll have drives to help stock the pantry.”

After Dr. Angela Graham, who helped oversee the project, left for another job at the end of last year, Streets and her fellow instructors stepped

into the void.

“It’s a collaboration between the four of us,” Streets said. “We did that so we would have the ability to reach out to more businesses and be more available to the students.”

While some may wonder why students who can afford tuition and expenses need such assistance, Street said the three schools (Nursing, Imaging, and Respiratory Care) have a lot of non-traditional students. Many are older because of returning to school or are in a second career, with families

and other obligations that prevent them from

working fulltime.

“Being able to do this makes your heart feel good,” said Streets, a Huntington native and part of the first-ever graduating class at Spring Valley High School. “It’s an intrinsic reward. This is all part of being a nurse. It’s so much more than passing out meds and checking charts. It’s about caring

for people as individuals.