Healthcare CEOs join volunteers at Habitat Build

April 4, 2013 in Top Stories

By Peggy Hampton

Special to The Mississippi Link

Future homeowner Michelle Owens (second from left) with (from left) Duane O’Neill of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, Claude Harbarger of St. Dominic Health Services, Dr. James Keeton of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Alfred Carter, Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson Board president, Todd Lupton of Health Management Associates, Johnny Ray - Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson Board vice-president, and Mark Slyter of Baptist Health Systems.

Healthy homes build healthy communities. That’s why four major health care institutions in the Metro Jackson area are joining together to build a healthy home for a local family.

This is the first time health care institutions in the area have collaborated to build a Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson home. The partnering institutions are Baptist Health Systems, St. Dominic Health Services, Inc., the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Health Management Associates (River Oaks Hospital, Madison River Oaks, Crossgates River Oaks, CMMC and Woman’s Hospital).

Employees from the four health care institutions, plus students from UMMC, worked together that day and throughout the eight-day building process during March and April. The health care institutions provided an equal number of workers for each work shift, creating unprecedented collaboration.

According to the Jackson area health care leaders, the project represents cooperation for a common community purpose that can help build cooperation among the institutions in other areas.

“As we all work to improve the health status of Mississippians, we are all interested in supporting and improving our community,” said Baptist Health Systems President and CEO Mark Slyter. “I think partnering with these other hospitals is a great way to emphasize our collective responsibility to support the community and building a Habitat home is one way to do this.”

Dr. James E. Keeton, vice chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said UMMC employees and students have worked on Habitat Homes throughout the years and found that working together in service fosters teamwork.

“Taking care of people is what each of our institutions does on a daily basis, but we mostly do it in isolation from one another,” Keeton said “The opportunity to work side-by-side to help our fellow man is pretty special. I think this will be a catalyst to help us find other ways to work together in the service of the greater Jackson community.”

Claude W. Harbarger, president of St. Dominic Health Services, said the project shows unity of purpose among the Jackson health care community. “Administrators of the local health care systems have all expressed a desire to collaborate on efforts to create a safer and healthier community,” said Harbarger.

“We are excited to work collectively on this project which will not only provide a home for a deserving family but will also demonstrate unity among our community of caregivers.”

Todd Lupton, Jackson Market CEO with Health Management, noted, “We have the responsibility as a community to look after each other and to do the right thing. Building this house gives us a chance to come out from behind our desks and our hospital walls and meet a different kind of need. We are honored to be participating.”

Michelle Owens, the new homeowner is no stranger to the Jackson health care industry. She is a licensed practical nurse at Hinds Comprehensive Medical Center who holds an associate’s degree in the arts from Hinds Community College.

Owens and her two children, Carmen, 5, and Janelle, 10 months, currently live in a rented two-bedroom house with plumbing, foundation and safety issues. The present home is not insulated well, which means higher utility bills.

“Getting a Habitat home means peace of mind,” Owens explained. “There is a lot that comes with that – a feeling of security, being more comfortable, and a better sense of stability for my family. I want my kids to have a home of their own, not just something we are renting.”

Like all Habitat homeowners, Owens will join in with the volunteers to build her new home. Homeowners must complete 250 hours of sweat equity to be eligible to buy a Habitat home with a zero-interest mortgage.

The sweat equity can be earned through work on their own home and other Habitat homes, through community service, and by attending financial planning and homebuyer education classes offered by Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson.

“I enjoy helping others. I have already been doing sweat equity on other homes,” Owens said. “My favorite part is painting outside. I enjoy seeing the progress from the time we get there until we leave in the afternoon. I look forward to putting in time on my own home.”

Owens’ home will be located in Englewood Gardens, formerly a neighborhood of decaying and abandoned properties in west Jackson that has been transformed through the leadership of Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson.

This new vibrant neighborhood of 27 single family homes is located west of Woodrow Wilson Avenue off Bullard Street and is considered a model of neighborhood rebirth and restoration.

“The Healthcare 2013 Build will produce the 556th home built since Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson was founded in 1986,” said Cindy Griffin, executive director.

“This endeavor brings together this unique partnership from the medical community working to help restore a historical neighborhood, while creating a brighter future for a Jackson family. All of Jackson will benefit from the economic impact of this rejuvenated neighborhood. The outcome is truly a win-win for everyone. “

Duane O’Neill, president and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, said the collaboration shows commitment of area health care leaders to working together to

make Jackson a major health care destination.

“The joint endeavor among the area hospitals on the building of a Habitat Home symbolizes the greater scope of cooperation and collaboration taking place within the health care community,” said O’ Neill.

“These hospital CEOs have embraced the balanced concept of collaboration while still competing.  It is this formula that has led to great success in other locations such as the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

“Not only are our leaders in health care exhibiting community service with this wonderful Habitat for Humanity project, but they also are building a blueprint to successfully make Jackson, Miss. a destination for quality health care.”

Volunteers, CEOs of four medical institutions and future homeowner Michelle Owens.