Lorrel Boughton, RN, a nurse in Chilton Hospitals operating room in Pompton Plains, N.J., has dedicated seven years of her time to Bridges Outreach Inc. The nonprofit organization provides food, clothing and other items to the homeless and less fortunate. Boughton spends some of her free time, often in extreme weather conditions, to help others.
It all began when Boughton, who lives in Kinnelon, N.J., read about Ginger and Geoff Worden, who started Bridges. The couple gave sandwiches and Thermoses of soup and coffee to a group of homeless people in New York City on a Friday evening in 1988, and have been doing so every Friday since.
Their stories motivated Boughton to become involved. She now dedicates her free time to helping the homeless in Newark and Irvington, N.J., as well as New York Citys Battery Park. Its a family affair in the Boughton household. Her husband, Keith, their 23-year-old daughter, Kenna, and 21-year-old son, Kyle, also are involved. Kenna is in her third year of nursing school at Rutgers University. Kyle also is at Rutgers as a business major.
“I feel that its very important to give back, especially since I was once someone who was less fortunate while growing up,” Boughton said in a news release. “I always felt that if I ever got to a point in my life where I could give back and volunteer, I would. I wanted to teach my kids that philosophy at a young age, as well.”
Boughton, who has been a Chilton employee for 34 years, recently inspired other staff at Chilton to help. On Jan. 21, Halina Miller, an RN 2 in the OR, joined Boughton during a Saturday snowstorm for her first run at Newarks Penn Station.
“I always wanted to stay busy in the community and help out any way that I can,” said Miller, who has been with Chilton for 25 years.
“One day when Lorrel and I were having lunch together, she mentioned to me about an upcoming run involving distributing coats to the homeless,” Miller said. “I thought that was just so unbelievable, and I was so inspired that I asked to join her.”
Soon, Miller asked other people in the OR to help by donating coats for her first run. Many generous colleagues donated their spare coats.
Miller said her first experience in Newark was incredible. “We gave a coat to a young man who had nothing. His face is still imprinted in my mind. He was wearing just a fleece in the freezing weather,” she said. “Another gentlemans hands were so frozen that he couldnt even button up the jacket we gave him, so we had to help button it up. He actually felt that we gave him too much food. They were just so humble. It was such an unforgettable experience.”
Boughton said there are many safety rules to follow when going on the runs. For example, never wear jewelry or take phone numbers. “For the most part, I havent seen any problems, and theyre very appreciative,” she said. “Theres a general misconception about the homeless. Many of them are good people who have hit hard times. Perhaps a fire destroyed a whole apartment building leaving many homeless. Sometimes people lose their jobs because of the economy and then cannot afford their homes anymore.”
Boughton recently was asked to be a core volunteer. The job entails arriving 15 minutes to a half-hour earlier than others to speak with the homeless before volunteers begin handouts. “Its very rewarding when they say ‘Nice to see you today,” she said. “I know some of my homeless friends by name now.”
Above Boughton are run coordinators who tell the volunteers where to go and what items are to be delivered. Sandwiches are delivered with drinks, snacks and fruit. On certain runs, toiletries, shoes or coats are distributed.
Boughton said she plans to collaborate with Bridges Coalition of Services, which offers medical services such as HIV testing, on-site medical treatment and referrals for screenings including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Bridges has more than 1,500 volunteers delivering more than 100,000 bagged, brown lunches, 40,000 breakfast bags and tons of clothing, toiletries and other necessities each year.
For information, visit www.BridgesOutreach.org.