Commitment to community is St. Joseph Hospital’s longstanding mission

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Commitment to Community is St. Joseph Hospital’s Longstanding Mission

St. Joseph Hospital is committed to serving patients, employees, and the community. 

Written by Michelle Martin for St. Joseph Hospital.

For more than 100 years, St. Joseph Hospital has provided the highest-quality medical care for people throughout the Greater Nashua region. But in addition to being a leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, the hospital remains committed to its mission to serve everyone in the community.

“Our mission is core to everything we do,” said Tara Collins, Manager of Mission Integration at St. Joseph Hospital. “We see the spirit of St. Joe’s though our activities and programs, all of which are in place to support the community — our patients, staff and even those who are not our patients.”

Through programs and services like the Grey Nuns Thrift Shop, the employee food pantry, Arts in the Atrium, and Project SEARCH to the work of many community volunteers and staff, St. Joseph Hospital’s Mission Department helps to fulfill that role, living the mission set by the hospital and the Grey Nuns more than a century ago.

Commitment to community a top priority

One example of how the hospital serves the greater community is through The Grey Nuns Thrift Shop; a 501(c)3 non-profit thrift store run by hospital staff and volunteers.

“We partner with multiple community resources so people who are in need can bring in a voucher and pay nothing to get what they need,” said Michele Canto, who manages the Grey Nuns Thrift Shop and oversees other mission-based services at the hospital. “We just had two people who were sleeping on the street get sleeping bags.

“Sometimes, we help new moms who have left abusive marriages and didn’t have the time to pack clothes,” she explained. “We’ve helped people rebuild — do they need pots and pans? Bedding? We can help set them up with vouchers. We’re very proud of what we are able to do.”

All items in the thrift shop are donated, and approximately 30% of the transactions are supported by vouchers. In similar thrift shops, vouchers comprise 10 to 20% of transactions.

In addition to the Thrift Shop, the Mission Department also runs an employee food pantry which has been open for over nine years and provides a variety of fresh and frozen foods.

“It’s my personal belief that any large corporation should have a food pantry available for staff,” Collins said. “We employ people in entry-level jobs who have families to feed, as well as people making a nurse’s salary but have circumstances beyond their control. When we hire new employees, we don’t know what their circumstances are. Sometimes, their circumstances are beyond what they are paid, and the food pantry has proved to be a valuable resource.”

That was especially true during the early days of the pandemic, when other hospital systems were trying to set up similar food pantries.

“When the pandemic hit, someone from the state asked me to be on a call to share information on how hospitals could get temporary pantries,” she said. “Facing such a crisis, no one had one except for us.”

Helping Others: ‘A very important part of St. Joseph Hospital’

The Arts in the Atrium program is yet another way in which St. Joseph Hospital supports both the community and its patients by bringing local artists of all types to the atrium of the hospital.

“It’s about healing through art,” Canto said. “No matter what a person’s situation or battle is, this is another outlet to help them in their journey. Whether they’re having a difficult day or a difficult time, they can participate in these events at no cost.”

One recent artist offered a Zentangle class to serve as a form of meditation for patients. On Veterans Day, Symphony New Hampshire performed to honor the veterans who work at St. Joseph Hospital.

Canto also manages the hospital’s Project SEARCH program, a school-to-work internship program that gives young adults who have physical or cognitive challenges an opportunity to work at the hospital and learn valuable skills to build their resumes. Interns spend part of each day in the classroom, followed by a series of rotations over the course of 9 months throughout the hospital allowing them to receive the training and skills needed to become employed after completing the program.

“The interns help out by working in laundry, materials management, volunteer services and other areas of the hospital,” Canto said. “It’s also an amazing touchpoint for staff to become connected to them.”

But many of these programs wouldn’t be possible without the hospital’s volunteers, who have kept many of the programs and activities running — even during the height of the pandemic.

For example, volunteers helped to keep the hospital’s gift shop open to employees during the early months of the pandemic, when everything else in the area was shut down.

“We’re proud we were able to keep the gift shop open,” Canto said. “It gave employees a chance to buy a few items, and if we didn’t have volunteer power, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Lastly, the hospital’s staff members carry the spirit of St. Joe’s not only in their everyday work, but also through their volunteer opportunities. Staff chaplains, who are available 24 hours a day, offer a spiritual presence and are joined by volunteer Eucharistic ministers.

“The chaplains services have been especially vital during the pandemic,” Collins explained. “They are able to connect people with any spiritual resources they need in their journey. They’re an important part of our mission.”

The hospital’s Mission Activities Committee, which is comprised of more than 80 employees, oversees six drives throughout the year that support the community. They include a sock and pillow drive, personal care products drive, a back-to-school drive and Title 1 snack drive. The drives are 100% supported by staff.

“The hospital’s senior leadership team understands the value of being involved in the community and helping employees. Especially under the dire state of health care the last two years, they haven’t lost sight of that,” said Collins. “It’s a very important part of St. Joseph Hospital.”