VUMC employees partner with community agency to provide Thanksgiving meals
The boxes were packed full of ingredients for side dishes, and recipients were also given a plump turkey ready for roastingNovember 24, 2021
Individuals who assisted with distributing Thanksgiving food boxes include VUMC employees Dan Kassis, Manuel Cortez, Angelea Presti-Yoder, Selina Staub, Michelle Robins, YAP Program Director Marcel Hernandez, YAP participant Xavier, and Kristy Sinkfield, associate vice president for Diversity and Inclusion for VUMC’s Office of Diversity Affairs. Photo by Marcel Hernandez
One hundred and twelve food boxes packed with all the essentials for a complete Thanksgiving dinner were provided to Nashville families this year, the result of a collaboration between Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees.
Established in Davidson County just this year, YAP is a national nonprofit that partners with youth justice, child welfare and other systems to provide community-based services as an alternative to youth detention. A local YAP participant, a 16-year-old named Xavier, knew many in Nashville’s Edgehill community could not afford or would not have access to a table loaded with turkey and all the side dishes, so he approached YAP’s Nashville program director Marcel Hernandez about organizing a holiday food drive.
“It’s important for Vanderbilt to do this for the community so people will know that we’re not insulated – that we’re not about just caring for people who come in to us, but we’re interested in going out and doing things to make a real difference in the community.”
Hernandez quickly reached out to his friend, Kristy Sinkfield, MEd, Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for VUMC’s Office of Diversity Affairs, to see if the Medical Center would be interested in helping. Sinkfield met with leaders of VUMC’s seven Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and their enthusiasm generated an immediate call to action.
“It’s important for Vanderbilt to do this for the community so people will know that we’re not insulated – that we’re not about just caring for people who come in to us, but we’re interested in going out and doing things to make a real difference in the community,” said Sinkfield. “Our Employee Resource Groups were the perfect vehicle to help us do this. We had people walking up with baskets and people lined up in their cars starting at 9:30 in the morning for boxes. It was truly amazing.”
A flurry of emails to ERG members, which expanded to include additional groups on the Medical Center’s campus, led to more than 100 of the 112 food boxes being purchased by VUMC employees. The $30 boxes were packed full of ingredients for side dishes, and recipients were also given a plump turkey ready for roasting.
“It was a great bonding opportunity for all – old friends and new friends – to come together in support of the Edgehill Neighborhood.”
On Nov. 21, VUMC employees, Xavier and his family, and YAP representatives gathered at the Melrose Publix to load the hefty boxes into their vehicles to shuttle them over to Progressive Missionary Baptist Church on 12th Avenue South for distribution. Pastor Bobby Nichols, members of his congregation and other community members met the group there to greet and give blessings to their neighbors as they came to pick up food boxes.
“VUMC’s ERG members were supportive, and many went above and beyond by coming out to Publix, offering to load and transport the items, and staying to assist at the event itself,” said Hernandez. “It was a great bonding opportunity for all – old friends and new friends – to come together in support of the Edgehill Neighborhood.”
Hernandez added, “Xavier was both humbled and overcome with gratitude for the large amount of support he received for his initiative. He appreciated the opportunity to help bring smiles to people he knows personally through this effort.”
Angelea Presti-Yoder, co-sponsor of the HAAPI: Healthcare Alliance of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders ERG, was one of the VUMC employees volunteering for the food drive, and she even grabbed her camera to document the event as it unfolded.
“Along with my other colleagues, I was grateful for the opportunity to not only lend a helping hand to others, but to also represent the caring spirit that each employee at Vanderbilt University Medical Center holds,” Presti-Yoder said. “The holiday season isn’t always the happiest time of year; it’s important to remember that a little kindness goes a long way.”
ERGs are employee identity- or experience-based organizations whose goal is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace. Also known as affinity or network groups, ERGs are intended to build community, provide support and contribute to employees’ personal and professional development. At VUMC, there are seven ERGS: the United Voices of Vanderbilt Choir, a LGBTQ ERG, a Veterans ERG, an African American ERG, a Hispanic-Latino ERG, a HAAPI: Healthcare Alliance of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders ERG; and a Disability ERG.
More information about VUMC’s ERGs, including contacts, membership links and upcoming events is at https://www.vumc.org/Diversity-and-Inclusion/54885.