National Smokeout Day took on a whole new meaning for several residents at Healthcare, Inc. in Ashville recently.

    Thanks to nine residents who stopped smoking for a day, 102 homeless people were fed a Thanksgiving meal at the Jimmie Hale Mission in Birmingham.

    The certified activities director at Healthcare Inc., LeeAnne Goray, said Kelli Smith, who is the activities coordinator, wanted to encourage residents to kick the smoking habit just for that day.

    "None of the residents who smoked liked the idea," Goray said. "They did not want to give up their cigarettes because that's one of the things they really enjoy during the day."

    Goray said she and the healthcare administrator Pam Penland got together and decided to make it a marathon and give the residents a purpose.

    "We like to make sure our residents are still active members of society," Goray said. "We like to promote self-worth and make them feel like they are making a difference. Just because they are in here, they are not forgotten. We like to keep them involved and make them feel good about themselves."

    Goray said the marathon made it more meaningful. The residents made ‘No Smoking' tags and once they put the tags on, they were in the game to play.

    "We told the residents this was something we were not forcing them to do and it was their choice," Goray said. "For each person who did not smoke that day, Mrs. Penland donated $20 in their name and honor to the Jimmie Hale Mission to help feed the homeless. When we approached them with the idea of helping someone, they were all for it. We had 9 participants who went all day without smoking."

    With the $180 raised by the 9 residents, Penland threw in an additional $20 from the healthcare facility as a whole to bring the total to $200.

    Tony Cooper is executive director of Jimmie Hale Mission and he said it is quite commendable when you have people in a nursing home who are willing to make a sacrifice to give to others. Cooper had the chance to meet each resident who participated in person this past Monday.

    "Here they are dealing with their own issues yet they wanted to help others," Cooper said. "I know the nursing home is proud of them and we at the Jimmie Hale Mission are grateful and very proud of them as well. It is very emotionally and very moving for me to come in this nursing home and know and realize they are having a tough time themselves yet they still want to help others. That is quite commendable and should be respected. It is a great sacrifice these residents made. A non-smoker may not think so but it is."

    Goray said she wants people to realize that so many people take things for granted.

    "Things like eating out, getting up in the mornings or griping because we have to run out to the local grocery store," Goray said. "These are things some of our residents or disabled people dream of having to do. We are out in our community every day. What do we do to make a difference?

    "Here, our nursing home residents gave up a sacrifice to stop smoking to help others in need when they are in need themselves. Most of our residents do not have family and we as workers are their only family. If nine nursing home residents can feed 102 homeless people in one day, what are we doing that is meaningful in our lives? These residents were willing to look outside the box in order to help other people."

    It was Smith's idea to participate in the National Smokeout Day. She said there are so many people who die yearly due to cancer and a lot is smoking related.

    "We wanted to encourage our residents to set an example to other residents and staff by not smoking for one day," Smith said.


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    by Gary Hanner of the St. Clair Times 
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