After-Shift Volunteering Signals ‘Wellness Starts with WE’, Health First Associates Foster Culture of Gratitude
By Space Coast Daily // February 24, 2023
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Bins of canned ravioli and vegetables, breakfast bars and other healthy snacks fill a large table, 80s music plays overhead, and laughs (and even some old-school dance moves) break out as members of the Health First IT Department volunteer in a food-item-packaging assembly line last month for the Children’s Hunger Project.
Since 2010, the Children’s Hunger Project has counted on the community’s help in providing weekend meals to Brevard County children in need. The charity boxes meals for kids who qualify for free or reduced meals at school to take home.
“More than 50% of Brevard’s students are part of the free and reduced lunch program,” said Cheryl Cominsky, executive director for the Children’s Hunger Project. “Some elementary schools have 80% or more of their kids in the program” – many are at risk for childhood hunger and malnutrition.
“Our goal is to help students thrive so they can be ready to learn when returning to school Monday morning.”
The need this school year has been unprecedented, Cheryl said.
“I’ve been with the organization for seven years, and it’s nothing like we have ever seen,” she said. “Last year, we were serving 2,900 children. Now, it’s over 3,700 Brevard County children. And the need just continues to increase.”
Fortunately, support from the community, especially Health First, has been huge, Cheryl said. Health First has been a longtime partner of the Children’s Hunger Project, supporting meal packings and wellness events such as the Fight Child Hunger 5K.
The Children’s Hunger Project hosts food-packaging events every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, but is currently booked through October, she said. But other volunteer opportunities and a list of food items can be found on the organization’s website, thechildrenshungerproject.org, and Facebook page.
“We had such a wonderful time,” said Nora Houser, an Automation Engineering Manager at Health First who attended a volunteering event last month alongside colleagues from the IT Department. She also brought her two children, ages 14 and 9.
“We worked hard but still had a blast singing, dancing, laughing. Everything was so well organized.”
Nora’s group from Health First packaged 1,110 food packages for the county’s most vulnerable children.
“I truly love the fact that I work for a company that encourages the idea of wellness,” Nora said. “And being ‘well’ can mean so many things, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Giving back allows us to create a culture of gratitude.”
The concept of giving back is encouraged year-round within the Health First community but especially this month as February marks the not-for-profit’s Associate Month of Giving.
This annual campaign, led by the Health First Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, provides Health First associates with an opportunity to financially support the work being done in various areas of the Health First healthcare organization, from Aging Services to the Cancer Institute and Hospice, to charitable gifts such as the Compassionate Care Fund and Nursing Scholarships, through a one-time or recurring donation.
“Our Associate Month of Giving may just be one month out of the year, but its impact is felt year-round in so many ways and in so many areas across Health First,” said Chris Kern, Vice President, Health First Foundation and Community Benefit.
“Every day, our associates show how much they care for our community through their excellent, safe and compassionate service for our patients and customers. The success of our Associate Month of Giving – their generosity and volunteerism – is a testament to their commitment to caring for our community.”
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