The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to bring cheer to others and yourself through acts of giving. Gratitude strongly correlates with positive emotions, improved health and greater happiness by helping people recognize the goodness in their life and what they can do for others. Showing gratitude allows people to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves while lifting their overall happiness and wellbeing.
In a study conducted by two psychologists, people who wrote a few sentences each week about gratitude were more optimistic and had a more positive outlook on their lives than those who wrote about irritations that displeased them. Not only were attitudes more positive overall, but there was also a relationship between gratitude and health. People who reflected on gratefulness exercised more and experienced fewer visits to a health care provider than those who recounted negative experiences.
The employees at UnityPoint Health have been overwhelmed by the spirit of gratitude throughout their acts of generosity. By sharing their time and talents with people in need across the globe during this holiday season, these employees have a new appreciation for what they have and a new perspective on life.
Amy Mikos Gives Back to Hospice Patients
For Amy Mikos, home care and hospice site manager at UnityPoint at Home, life was put into perspective when her husband, Bob, sustained a catastrophic injury in 2012. After receiving lifesaving care at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s, Bob’s condition was stabilized and he began the road to recovery. Through partnership with a care navigator, Bob’s health and mobility progressed.
After reflecting on her husband’s survival a year later, Amy and Bob decided to give back to their community by becoming hospice volunteers in 2013. “Volunteering helps you put everything into perspective,” Amy said. “End of life care makes things crystal clear when you think about what is important.”
As a hospice volunteer, Amy enjoys bringing her dogs to long-term care facilities to visit patients. “The look on their faces when they get to pet and snuggle with the dogs is priceless,” Amy said.
Bob also enjoys interacting with patients through his hospice volunteer work. Whether he is reading to patients, bringing them flowers from his garden or simply sitting at a patient’s bedside to give their family respite, Bob is present for whatever the patient may need. “Bob is very engaged in his volunteer work,” Amy said. “He reflects on the joy of life and the beauty of giving to those at the end of life’s journey.”
For Amy and Bob, volunteering at hospice is a way to express their gratitude for Bob’s survival. “Every day, Bob and I are grateful for what we have,” Amy said. “Bob’s horrific accident made it clear that life can change in the blink of an eye. We are both blessed to be able to give back.”
Cindy Kail Gives Back to Kenyan Youth
As a pediatric nurse with a heart for children, Cindy Kail of UnityPoint at Home felt led to give back in a way that would forever change the course of a child’s life. For seven years, Cindy and her husband have been sponsoring a young Kenyan student named Purity. “We were first connected to Purity through Door of Hope Ministries in Jefferson,” Cindy said. “Our sponsorship paid for two meals a day, school tuition, books and uniforms. We also sent her gifts for special occasions and have financially supported her family.”
Purity successfully passed her national exam at the end of eighth grade and was given permission to attend high school. However, due to her family's lack of finances, they prioritized sending their sons to school and had no funds left to provide Purity with the same opportunity. “We were able to connect with the high school principal and sent funds for her school tuition and books so that she could attend high school last January,” Cindy said. Purity has now completed her freshman year of high school and placed 17th out of 115 students in her class.
Through her sponsorship of Purity, Cindy has developed a sincere appreciation for the opportunities that she has been blessed with. “I think I have taken education for granted and did not firmly establish its value until I sponsored Purity,” Cindy said. “It certainly makes me stop and pause to think about all the riches our family has in contrast to Purity’s family and their struggle to feed, clothe and educate their children.”
Among the many goals that she has for Purity, Cindy’s greatest hope is that Purity would be able to continue her education. “My hope is that Purity will be one of the few privileged girls in her country to be educated,” Cindy said. “Education is the key to fighting poverty and improving health. Often if one person in the family is educated, they are able to benefit generations.”
Much like Cindy, Purity has developed a heart of thankfulness for education, as well as aspirations of becoming a nurse as she expressed in a Facebook post to Cindy. “I thank God for you,” Purity said. “You are not my relatives, yet you are helping me reach my dreams. If it was not for you, where would I be? I want to keep working hard to finish high school and be a nurse. I hope to be like you."
For Cindy, giving back stems from a deep conviction to bless others as she has been blessed. “We have been so blessed by God, even though we did nothing to earn it,” Cindy said. “I believe the Holy Spirit put this opportunity in front of us. What we have is not truly our own, it is a gift from God. Therefore, we are really sharing His blessings with others.”
Shelley Maynard Gives Back to At-Risk Elementary Children
Mondays often signify the start of a hectic and stressful week, but for Shelley Maynard, Director of Finance at UnityPoint Clinic, Mondays have a completely different meaning. Every Monday evening, Shelley volunteers at Freedom for Youth Ministries’ Whiz Kidz program in Urbandale.
Whiz Kidz is a program that targets at-risk elementary children, offering the love of Christ with educational and relational support. “Children in this program are at risk for a variety of reasons,” Shelley said. “They may go home to an empty house after school, they may come from a home where English isn’t the primary language, or they may struggle socially or academically in school and need an adult role model who will listen.”
The Urbandale Whiz Kidz program is held in the basement of Aldersgate United Methodist Church near a local elementary school where children come for games, tutoring and a Bible lesson. In addition, a community group generously provides dinner to the children and volunteers. “Dinner has been served to us by the police department, fire department, church members, neighbors and teachers,” Shelley said. “It’s powerful to see all the different groups in the community that want to serve this group of kids.”
As a program volunteer of three years, Shelley has developed close relationships with children at Whiz Kidz through mentoring and academic support. “A student I had for two years was picked on at school and would often act out at Whiz Kidz if she had a bad day. She had such a kind heart and would share her bad experiences in the classroom or on the playground with me,” Shelley said. “She matured so much over the two years and quit acting out when she had a bad day. I just tried to provide her with kindness and a safe place to talk.”
Shelley has also enjoyed assisting students with their schoolwork as a math tutor. “No matter their economic status, ethnic background or academic level, kids are kids,” Shelley said. “They are willing to learn and I truly enjoy helping and spending time with them.”
Through her involvement with Whiz Kidz, Shelley has felt privileged to help children experience God’s love and grow into confident and productive students. “The excitement and joy the kids have when they come each week is infectious and undeniable,” Shelley said. “For a few hours each week, the unassuming church basement is filled with the spirit of giving and I’m so blessed to be a part of it.”
Jody Miller Gives Back to African Fire Safety Team
Jody Miller, Clinic Administrator of UnityPoint Clinic - Family Medicine and Urgent Care at Southglen, not only has a passion for patient care, but for giving back to his community as well. With over ten years of service, Jody volunteers as Lieutenant Paramedic in the Indianola Fire Department and has used his experience to improve fire safety in the community of Katete, Zambia.
Jody first traveled to Katete in 2012 through an international outreach program with the Children’s Burn Foundation. As a member of the Fire Safety Team, Jody used his expertise to support the Katete Fire Brigade, a local fire department that was faced with significant challenges and limited resources when it came to maintaining the safety of their community.
When the Katete Fire Brigade was established in 2010, they were equipped with a faulty 1945 fire engine that worked only 25 percent of the time. During emergency situations, it was not unusual for the engine to run out of water or fail to start, causing the brigade to be late in responding to fires and the community to lash out in anger upon the arrival of the brigade. Upset by the devastation of the fires, bystanders pelted rocks at the brigade and the fire engine.
As part of his second outreach trip to Katete in May of 2014, Jody and the Fire Safety Team established the goal of providing a new fire truck to the brigade. The 2014 Fire Safety Team made their goal a reality when they worked to deliver a donated 1976 fire truck and raised $12,000 to cover the transportation costs.
Another goal of the Fire Safety Team was expanding fire and burn prevention education outreach programs in the community. “The contrast between western medicine and abilities compared to those in Africa are amazing and at the same time, very sad. We witnessed many deaths that would have been far from a fatal injury or illness here in the U.S. On our first trip back in 2012, we brainstormed ways to improve care at St. Francis Hospital,” Jody said.
One of the ways in which care was improved was by conducting fire safety and education to children in Katete classrooms. The Fire Safety Education team, along with the Katete Fire Prevention Officers, read coloring books with fire safety information to children and distributed the books to the pediatric unit of St. Francis Hospital. “The decision was made that it was much cheaper and ultimately more sustainable to teach prevention as opposed to trying to get millions of dollars of medical equipment shipped to the hospital,” Jody said.
Also distributed to children were soccer balls that had been decorated with fire safety messages by children from the burn unit at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and Clinics. “Surprisingly enough, the simple technique of “stop, drop and roll” was not known and difficult to teach because of cultural differences, but the soccer balls were a huge hit,” Jody said.
Jody also took on the task of training existing members of the fire brigade; focusing on basic firefighting techniques and helping each member understand their unique role.
While much improvement was made in Katete during his trip, Jody plans to continue his work by returning in the future. “We will continue to keep a close eye on Katete and St. Francis. We were greeted by the country’s government and asked to continue our efforts by expanding to other districts that are in dire need of help,” Jody said.
UnityPoint Health Employees Give Back to the Community
Improving the health of the people and communities we serve is the mission of UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home. During this holiday season, employees sought to live out this mission as they decided to give rather than receive. From adopting a family for the holidays to packaging meals for starving children around the world, UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home employees are choosing to give back to their community in meaningful ways.
Adopting a Pediatric Family in Need
Rather than planning a secret Santa gift exchange for their team, employees decided to do something different and put their funds together to provide for a UnityPoint at Home Pediatric family in need. “We wanted to give to someone other than ourselves and chose the Pediatric Department so that we could remember a family with children,” said Kim Messer, UnityPoint at Home regional office manager.
Kim’s team worked together to identify a family who would receive their gifts and created a plan to determine how they would support the family. “We met as a team to decide what to donate and then split into groups to go shopping,” Kim said. “Later we met as a team to show everyone the gifts that were purchased and broke into smaller groups to wrap them.”
Kim’s team focused on providing essential clothing and care items that the family was lacking and also included some special gifts. “We were able to buy a necklace for the mother in the family that included all her children’s names on it,” Kim said. Kim’s team also purchased winter clothing, games and a Christmas tree with ornaments. “This experience has been rewarding and inspiring,” Kim said. “We felt it was important to remember a family that is having a tough time during the holidays.”
Packaging Meals for Meals from the Heartland
Jessica Perkins, clinical assistant, and the team at UnityPoint Clinic – Cardiology – Penn Avenue, came together to make an impact for those in need. Joining other community members at the Meals for the Heartland packaging center, Jessica and the cardiology staff packed enough bags for 25,000 meals. “I don't think people realize that you can do so much in so little time,” Jessica said. “It makes you feel like you are really making a difference, which is why I wanted to volunteer.”
Jessica and her team were happy to have touched many lives, knowing that their packaged meals would be delivered to starving people around the world and in the United States. “I think that we all had a sense of accomplishment that we were able to make enough bags for 25,000 meals in just two hours,” Jessica said. “Each bag that is filled will feed six people and will be distributed to a local food bank or even to a place oversees, like an orphanage in Haiti.”
Reflecting on the experience, Jessica was glad to have developed camaraderie with her team. “With two groups bagging the meals, we had a blast,” Jessica said. “We loved spending time doing a good thing and having fun in the process of giving back to our community.”
Salvation Army Toy Drive
Staff at UnityPoint Clinic – Family Medicine – Cedarloo chose to donate to the Salvation Army toy drive. “We found out that the Salvation Army had a great need for toys this year,” said Jess Kinard, medical lab technician. “We knew that this would be a great opportunity to teach children about the importance of giving to others.”
Jess and the Family Medicine – Cedarloo team worked diligently to collect boxes of donations in just one week. Among the toys donated were games, cars, Barbie dolls, books and Play-Doh. “I wish we could see the faces of the children who will receive these gifts,” Jess said. “I know it will be priceless.”
With a service based mentality, staff and providers at Family Medicine – Cedarloo not only share a strong bond with their coworkers, but with their patients as well. “We are here to help others and have always had that mindset,” Jess said. “Giving back to our patients and community is a truly fulfilling experience.”
Regardless of how large or small the act is, giving back is a key component to a positive outlook on life. Even little acts of gratitude make a significant impact. If you are unsure of ways you can show gratitude, start by saying a simple “thank-you” to a colleague, family member or friend to let them know that you appreciate their hard work.
The employees at UnityPoint Health love to give back to their community and those in need. To them, being in the health care field isn’t just about treating people in the clinic or in their homes; it’s about changing the lives of others and making a positive difference in our world. UnityPoint Health encourages you to improve your health and happiness by showing gratitude this holiday season!