By Regan Vanevenhoven, Lead Care Coordinator
Just over 3 years ago, I transitioned from the program side of Hammer into the Care Coordination Department which is located within the Customized Support Services, or what we like to call Hammer West. For those of you who may not know, Hammer West is the home of both our Care Coordination and Case Management departments. Our Care Coordinators and Case Managers are often out in the community meeting with the individuals that we support on a weekly basis, at minimum, and often even more frequently.
As I got further into the job, I was taken aback by the number of homeless individuals I would drive past on my way to and from visits with members. There is a certain helplessness that I would feel as I wanted to do something to help, but wasn’t sure what. Shortly after this, I started keeping Car Care Kits in my car. I would fill up a gallon Ziplock with essential personal items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, chapstick, gloves, etc. and be able to give them out at intersections or stoplights to folks who were homeless.
On and off for 6 months, I noticed the same man who would stand on an intersection that I would take on my way into the office each morning. We’d make eye contact and I’d stop and give a bag, or a sandwich from my lunch and sometimes cash if I had it. One morning, I stopped to roll down my window and introduced myself and shared that I would love to know his name. He introduced himself and as he waved, I noticed his coat was ripped. A week later, I saw him out again and handed him a coat that I had rounded up that was about his size. He had one sleeve on before I could even get the whole thing out the window!
Another week or so passed when I saw him again, rolled down my window and asked, “what size shoes do you wear?” He shouted back his size and we agreed to meet in the same spot two days later. I swung by two days later and there he was, big smile and two fingers up in a peace sign. For the next few months, we’d make eye contact and if I didn’t have anything to give, I would still get that smile and peace sign.
Recently, Hammer West and the Central Office were able to round up over 500 individual items to put towards Car Care Kits. Just last week Hammer West was able to put together 60 bags for our Case Managers and Care Coordinators to keep in their cars to hand out to folks that we may see on our drives out to our members and individuals!
Seeing the two departments come together for something as simple as Car Kits was very encouraging and rewarding for me. While not everyone will run into the same people, or get a smile and a peace sign, the opportunity to help out in the most basic ways is so meaningful. In that 1-minute interaction, we can look another person in the eye, not knowing their story or what they’ve been through and be able to say “I see you. You matter.”
Thank you to all who helped with donations and packing the bags. Because of you, we are able to catch a glimpse of the beauty that can exist within humanity.