Hometown Health employees bring fun and food to Libby Booth Elementary School at one of the many events they plan to do with the school’s students this year.
One recent family and faculty meeting at Libby Booth Elementary School in Reno exceeded everyone’s expectations, mostly thanks to volunteers at Hometown Health. The usual Data Night — where academic results for students are shared with children and their families and at-home activities are suggested for families to help strengthen a child’s progress — was transformed into a truly special evening including a catered meal prepared by Renown chefs and a mascot dance-off.
“It was really great to see the families all together,” says Stephanie Brooks, Manager of Self Funded Operations at Hometown Health and one of many volunteers at the insurance company helping Booth students this year. “They didn’t just eat and leave. They were lingering there and had a lot of great family time.”
Booth Elementary is one of the Partners in Education schools that receive support from Renown Health and its entities such as Hometown Health. Since January, dozens of Hometown Health employees have contributed to efforts that directly affect children and families in its district.
That help is greatly needed. About 30 percent of Booth students are considered Children In Transition, a school district designation for those who are homeless or live in a temporary hotel unit, an RV or who may be doubling up with other family members.
“The idea is to provide as much stability as we can to these students, so they can be the most successful they can be,” explains Vanessa Olivera, Community and School Site Coordinator for Booth Elementary.
Lending a helping hand
Hometown Health’s group is led by Stephanie and fellow employee Brenda Grace, Supervisor of Sales and Support. Both say they had concerns with time constraints to pull off an event of this caliber — until Brenda met Steve Tucker at a Renown leadership event. Steve, a Supervisor for Food and Nutrition Services, was enthusiastic to help and carried that over to other members of his team, plus Rehabilitation Hospital and Retail employees at Renown.
The whole volunteer crew, including Tucker and his fellow chefs at Renown, ended up serving dinner at this very successful Data Night — there were more than 350 attendees when it is typically closer to 200.
There was also a dance-off as Bruins Bear, the Booth mascot, faced Thumper, the giant heart that is Hometown Health’s mascot. “Thumper ended up signing autographs and handing out stickers,” Brenda continues. “When they had the actual dance-off, it was so much fun. The entire auditorium went crazy, the kids and the families. It was really a highlight.”
The extra effort from Hometown Health employees is definitely appreciated by those at the school.
“When the community gets involved in our school, it gives the students and families a sense that someone cares for them,” says Vanessa. “I go out there quite a bit, and the kids are getting to know us,” Stephanie says. “The kids are giving us hugs when they see us, and that means a lot. That’s one of the reasons why I took a job at Hometown Health — to help the community.”
Creative ways to build community
Hometown Health employee are more than happy to help, and in creative ways. They worked with the Reno Aces to provide tickets and food for 40 children and 30 adults from Booth at the team’s first exhibition game against the University of Nevada, Reno at Aces Stadium. A local company, Fuel Promotions, also donated Aces baseball shirts for the children.
The group is also bringing an art teacher from local company Make Art Lab to Booth classrooms and is working towards providing more physical education classes. A Career Day has also been planned in May.
“One person at Hometown Health was in the military and wants to talk about his military career,” Brenda says, adding that Hometown Health leader Dr. Linda Ash-Jackson would also talk about her career in medicine. “We also have access to other people, including policemen and firefighters. We’re very lucky that so many people have come forward and offered so much.”
Hometown Health also participated in a spring clothing drive for Booth children and families, and has hosted bake sales and raffles for its “cushion fund” for immediate or emergency needs a student may have. They also have some grant funds from Renown Health Foundation.
The group also has several ideas they’d like to pursue over the year, including donating iPads for the sixth grade class to strengthen the transition to junior high school, bolstering the school’s playground equipment and providing scholarships for the UNR Kids University.
“We’re not just about one person but an entire community,” Brenda says when asked why she and her employees are pursuing so much for Booth students. “We want to be out in the community and want to improve it and give people opportunities for that. It also makes a difference to the employees who volunteer. It brings them closer together and allows you to see another side of life and being able to reach out to someone in the community.”