Frankford Hospital nurses are community champions






By Tom Waring
Northeast Times Staff Writer

About five years ago, the nurses at Frankford Hospital’s three campuses formed a group primarily geared toward professional development.

Nurse Champions, as the organization is called, decided about 18 months ago to redirect most of its efforts to the community.

"We felt it was something we should be doing more of," said Bea Leyden, a registered nurse who works in staff development.

Since then, the health-care providers have conducted food drives for local churches and organizations during the Thanksgiving, Easter and Passover seasons and gift-giving events for needy families and foster children at Christmas and Hanukkah. They are also busy preparing for the upcoming fall community fairs at the Frankford, Torresdale and Bucks County campuses.

Most recently, the nurses coordinated "Pack the Backpack," a venture to collect supplies for students returning to school in September.

The collection ran from July 24 to Aug. 3. Organizers were hoping to match the support received during the food and gift drives.

"It was our first time doing it. We didn’t know what to expect," Leyden said. "We didn’t know what we would get or how much we would get."

At the end of the 11-day period, the nurses collected a nice variety of items — pens, pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, glue, tape, scissors, calculators, copybooks, loose-leaf paper, index cards, folders, binders, weekly planners and more.

They also collected a huge volume of items.

"We were all so shocked," said Mary Walsh, who heads Nurse Champions with Leyden.

The nurses placed boxes in the lobbies of the hospitals and at their individual stations so the general public could contribute. Also, they hung up posters and sent out e-mails to encourage co-workers to donate. And some of them bought items on their own. The collection benefited in other ways, with Sam’s Club providing a gift certificate and the physician-assistant students at Philadelphia University making donations.

"It was nice to see how generous people can be," Leyden said. "We’re really thrilled with the response. People were really thoughtful."

The flurry of donations forced the nurses to have to empty the boxes frequently and to have to find the space to store the items.

"That’s a good problem to have," Leyden said.

Last week, a couple dozen nurses gathered in a conference room to place the items into backpacks and prepare to personally deliver them to charitable organizations.

The bulging backpacks were donated to an American Red Cross homeless shelter, Frankford Group Ministry, Stephen Decatur School, Wissinoming Bible Fellowship Church, St. Vincent’s Home for Girls in Tacony, the Children’s Choice adoption center in Oxford Circle, A Woman’s Place domestic violence shelter, and Bethanna, a facility for abused and neglected kids.

The nurses don’t get to make the deliveries to needy children, but they get satisfaction from the comments and smiles from staffers at the nonprofit organizations.

"It’s nice to be able to impact a lot of people being the go-between," Leyden said. "The agencies are in touch with people. We’re the liaisons."

Hospital administrators are proud of Nurse Champions, which represents the thousand or so employees of Frankford’s nursing department. In all, the roughly 4,000 hospital employees are known for their charity, having responded to a recent drive to collect supplies for overseas military troops.

"The employees are so generous," said hospital spokeswoman Maria Cerceo-Slade. "Bea and her group are great."

Agencies interested in becoming a beneficiary of the charitable efforts of Nurse Champions can call Bea Leyden at 215-612-4928.

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@phillynews.com