Medical Center of South Arkansas opens grocery store for employees, partners with local church to offer free childcare assistance

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (04/09/20) — The Medical Center of South Arkansas is providing assistance to its employees as they work during the coronavirus pandemic.

“For us to make sure that they are calm and for us to make sure that they are feeling valued at our hospital was very important for us,” MCSA Director of Human Services, Lakeitha Davis said. “That’s why we tried to find different ways to accommodate them during this time.

The hospital has opened a grocery store inside its facility for employees only. It provides them with a full stock of essentials including bread, milk, eggs and paper products.

“We decided to open the grocery store to take a little stress off our employees who have worked tirelessly to take care of our patients,” Culinary Director, Judy Fussell said. “We decided that we would get with some our vendors and purchase the items to help them out.”

The store “Judy’s Corner Grocery is named after Fussell who has worked with the hospital for 34 years.

It’s been open for the past several weeks now and employees are able to purchase items even when they’re not on the clock.

With schools out, the hospital is also going one step further for their employees by offering free child child care services to those who need it. They sent out applications to the staff and those were interested were encouraged to apply.

Douglas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church is hosting the program.

“It was perfect it was everything we needed for our children,” Davis said.

MCSA worked closely with the Department of Human Services and the Division of Childcare and Early Childhood Education to get the program up and running. The process took between 4-5 days because the agencies were able to expedite the process.

Senior Pastor Donnell of Douglas Chapel says they are grateful to be able to partner with the hospital and demonstrate acts of love.

“We knew we had the capability of doing it,” he said. “We were already a certified daycare center but we had not been functioning with our daycare in some years.”

They didn’t know in 2019 that they’re slogan “Take it to the Streets” would manifest to what it has now. The pastor says this goes well beyond that mantra for the year and even goes beyond preaching the word. They want to live it out the words they preach.

“We are to be the manifestation of Christ in the flesh and that is being there for the hurt, for the sick, for those who need shelter,” he said.

The church has 18 classrooms, a computer room and a large multi-purpose facility. They are currently keeping about 15 children between the ages of 7 months and 13 years of age.

Members of the church have been lending a helping hand in teaching and nursing the kids. His wife, a former educator, is the director of the program.

“We have members who worked at daycares,” he said. “We have a nursing ministry with registered licensed nurses.”

The kids have a full schedule of activities throughout the day. They receive two meals of which are provided by MCSA.

There is a computer room for those school-aged children who need to work on their AMI packets. There are separate stations for those who are engaged in virtual learning or have to watch the PBS broadcasts.

“They’re making sure their work is completed and then we have additional curriculum that they are working with,” Pastor Hegler said. “We have movie time and p.e. time and nap time for the smaller children.”

During this period of social distancing the church is also doing their part to keep the kids and the staff safe.

No more than three children are in a classroom the entire group of kids that attend are never together in one cluster, even when they eat lunch they’re all scattered.

The parents never enter the building. They and other visitors are met at the door by the nurses and they take their temperatures even though they are not allowed anywhere in the church.

“We are really working to make sure there is social distancing with the children. We’re training them on washing their hands appropriately and how long they need to do it,” he said.

“There’s hand sanitizer in every classroom and all around the building which is constantly being utilized. When they leave a classroom that room is sanitized before they come back in.”

Pastor Hegler says although they’ve had experience in childcare MCSA made sure they had everything they needed.

“The Medical Center of South Arkansas are wonderful. They made sure this wasn’t financial burden on the church,” he said. “They are employing the workers in the daycare. They’ve provided food and other assistance.”

When daycare facilities in the area heard about it, they called and offered equipment for the church to make sure the kids had what they needed.

Both services are for all employees in the building not just nurses and physicians. The hospital is asking the community to write inspiring messages to staff on the hospital’s Facebook page to encourage them during this time.

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