There’s no denying it: What Jody Hughes and Joy Johnson did for the St. Luke’s Patient Assistance Fund makes for a very sweet holiday story.
With an emphasis on sweet.
The story begins not so long ago, when Hughes, a St. Luke’s nurse, and Johnson, a medical assistant at St. Luke’s Internal Medicine, were attending a sermon at the Kuna Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Our pastor (Jim Bollin) … started talking about kindness and giving of yourself and making a difference in your community,” Hughes said. “He said, ‘If you really want to do that, then stand up.’”
With her daughter poking her in the side and telling her not to, Hughes stood up. So did Johnson.
“He handed everyone an envelope with 100 dollars in it,” Hughes said. “And he said, ‘OK, now you have to make a plan.’”
It didn’t take Hughes and Johnson long to hatch a plan.
“Joy came with me – we were like a team – and when we were done we looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do?’” Hughes said. “And Joy said, ‘Let’s make jams and jelly.’ I said OK, and that’s what we did.”
Lots of it. Jars and jars and jars of it.
Word began to spread that Hughes was selling jars of jam and jelly out of her “store” in the Surgical Services Department of Boise’s main operating room.
Hughes asked people to pay whatever they wanted for each jar. And people gave generously.
Hughes and Johnson (with help from their families) ended up making almost 250 jars of jams and jellies and raising about $1,500.
“I had no idea it was going to grow into this,” Hughes said. “My goal was like 300 dollars. I thought 300 dollars was going to be amazing.”
The two ended up raising five times that.
“It was very much a grass-roots effort,” Johnson said. “Everybody has been incredibly supportive.”
Johnson said they knew from the start that they wanted to raise money for the Patient Assistant Fund because they have both seen firsthand the impact the fund can have.
“It’s a cause near and dear to both of our hearts,” Johnson said.
Hearing about their efforts warmed the heart of Michele Betts, the director of Social Services at St. Luke’s.
“Honestly, it just about brought tears to my eyes,” Betts said. “That’s knowing the on-the-ground needs of their patients, and knowing the difference that makes. It might mean a young mom can buy tires for her car, so she can get to her radiation treatment. That’s a big deal.”
Betts admits that she wouldn’t mind if other people heard this story and decided to help the fund themselves.
“We are honestly struggling with the increased needs across the Treasure Valley,” Betts said. “As more and more people – from outpatients to clinics, EDs, the Nampa hospital – find out about these resources, it’s wonderful that they’re advocating for their patients, but we’re running out of money like nobody’s business.”
But that’s not to say there aren’t people trying to help – people like Hughes and Johnson.
“There are so many stories out there, but this one is just so wonderful,” Betts said. “It’s just so sweet.”
And it might be a story without a final chapter.“It has been incredibly fulfilling, and I would do it all over again,” Johnson said. “After the holidays we might decide we need to get our canners out and do some more.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.