Warmth on a Cold January Day

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rush’s MLK drive helps the underserved in Chicago

By Anthony Giornalista

Some Rush University students will be well-served by their alarm clocks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Then they’ll provide plenty of service in their own right.

Starting well before dawn at 3 a.m. Monday, Rush will kick off its annual MLK Day of Service, when approximately 200 students from each of the University’s colleges — Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the Graduate College and the College of Health Sciences — participate in service events on their rare day off.

Students will be joined by Rush faculty and staff members to provide health education and screenings at nearby health clinics, food and other outreach services to the homeless, veterans outreach, and work with high school and elementary school students at Rush’s campus, among the many initiatives.

“This is really who we are at Rush. Service is such a big part of our culture,” said Sharon Gates senior director of community engagement at Rush. “Our students want to know, ‘How can I make some kind of impact on the community with the talent I posses?’

“It screams of one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s messages: Everyone can serve,” she said. “You don’t have to be a PhD. Everyone has a role.”

At 3 a.m., the volunteers will make their way to the Franciscan House of Mary & Joseph on Chicago’s West Side to serve breakfast to 250 men and 35 women who receive shelter there. Students and physicians at Rush provide physical exams and distribute medications each week at the Franciscan House, one of the largest overnight shelters in Chicago.

Helping LGBT homeless youth

New this year, Rush is also collecting personal care products for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, who account for 40 percent of the homeless and at-risk youth population. Rush is partnering with the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, and the Broadway Youth Center — a program of the Howard Brown Health Center, an LGBT organization.

Rush is organizing a donation drive for items, including hand warmers, lotion, body wash, shaving cream and toothbrushes. Christopher Nolan, project manager of population health at Rush and co-chair of Rush’s LGBT Health Committee, will be at the Broadway Youth Center on Saturday along with Rachel Kirsch, RN, case manager and a member of Rush’s LGBT advisory panel, to pack up the materials that come in from the supply drive.

Including the Broadway Youth Center in the day of service spirit comes from a last-minute request to Brad Hinrichs, director of facilities planning at Rush and co-chair of Rush’s LGBT Health Committee.

“What’s so incredible about the response is the collaborative effort to get everyone involved across campus,” Nolan said. “Brad brought in an opportunity from the LGBT community, which in turn brought in Rush’s Diversity Leadership Council. So everyone rose to the occasion, which makes sense.”

Added Gates: “We like to think of it as a ‘day on’ rather than a ‘day off.’”