David Lawrence Community Service Award winners help their communities embrace healthier lives.
Two Kaiser Permanente employees have been recognized for their commitment to creating healthier communities outside of the workplace as recipients of the 2017 David Lawrence Community Service Award — Kaiser Permanente’s most prestigious national community service award.
For Sam Becker, a senior radiology systems administrator at Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest, her introduction to Mountain Ministries Ranch located in Kelso, Washington, was highly personal.
Her husband was working through his alcoholism and needed help. Thankfully, there was a structured, yearlong program available to him and others, teaching ways to deal with everyday life without turning to alcohol or other substances. Through this program, Sam became one of Mountain Ministries’ most engaged volunteers, supporting others who are working through their addictions with care and kindness.
Sam moved to Kelso for a year and a half to join her husband as he ran work crews and taught the men who were in the program different skills. During that time, Sam came to know each of the men on a personal level.
“Many of the men had no one come to visit during their birthdays, so I started planning out a special birthday surprise,” she said. “I would make their favorite dessert and the staff would gather around and sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ It was a little gesture, but some men mentioned they never had someone celebrate their birthday before.”
After treatment, Sam and her husband transitioned to running a home that allows three men to live with them as a bridge from Mountain Ministries to the next stage of their lives. Sam helps the men write resumes, apply for jobs, use computers, and provides a safe environment in which they can learn about healthy relationships.
“I’m at the point where I will do anything for people in the same situations that I’ve been in with my husband,” she said. “For us to continue to tell our story, we need to continue to be transparent and real, and recognize that we’re here to give back to the community we live in. Community brings everything — and everyone — together.”
For Angelette Hamilton, a patient navigator for Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest, much of what drives her is an innate passion for helping others and eliminating health inequities.
In her daily job, Angelette makes a difference by helping patients navigate barriers to health, including evictions, food instability and transportation concerns.
Her work became even more personal when she learned that she had stage II hypertension while assisting with blood-pressure screenings during a community event.
“In that moment, it became a reality for me too,” said Angelette. “I’ve seen several people who have died prematurely due to having a stroke or heart attack because they were afraid to get their blood pressure read, or they didn’t know how to treat it beyond medication.”
Focusing primarily on the impact of health disparities in the African American community, Angelette formed a plan to meet people where they are. By collaborating with teams within Kaiser Permanente, she volunteered to lead blood-pressure clinics to train hairstylists at Portland’s Jayah Rose hair salon to take blood-pressure readings and inform their clients about health issues.
She’s also worked with Multnomah County and local African American community organizations to design programs that champion healthy birth initiatives. African American women lead the nation in infant mortality and premature births.
“It came from a place where I felt hopeless in the beginning because I saw people suffering and dying from a lack of access to health care,” said Angelette. “I wanted to give back and make sure that I could empower people through education, building trust and access to improve health outcomes for generations to come. Personally, I’ve made it a mission to continue the work no matter what.”