GLOUCESTER, Va. – The resident at the Riverside Convalescent Center – West Point had lost everything. He was young, had been hospitalized, lost a job and used up all of his money to pay for the rehabilitation needed to return to living. But when it came time to get discharged from the convalescent center, he had nowhere to go.

“He had been evicted,” said Lisa M. Bankston, LPN from Riverside Convalescent Center – West Point. “He was caught in a terrible situation. He couldn’t leave until he had a place to live and couldn’t find a place to live until he could leave.”

That’s when, with Bankston leading the charge, everyone came together to help him find a home. When they found him a place, though, he didn’t have the money for the first month’s rent. Bankston was determined to make sure he had a place and she paid the new landlord so the resident could secure a new home.

“The Riverside Care Difference is all about paying it forward,” Bankston said. “I saw him when he couldn’t walk, and because we all came together to help him, he’s walking back in here and volunteering with us now.”

For her kindness far and above the call of duty, on Tuesday, Feb. 20 Bankston was named the Riverside Champion of the Year for the Middle Peninsula. She was among 113 Riverside team members from the region recognized for having been nominated four or more times in 2017 as a Champion of Caring or who were named the monthly Champion for their facility.

The Riverside Champions of Caring program aims to honor the “above and beyond” care that makes a difference in the lives of patients and their families. The nomination process offers patients, family members and friends the opportunity to tell a story about their experience and thank a special Riverside caregiver – encouraging those who dedicate themselves to the delivery of outstanding health care for the community.

“Riverside is all about the people,” said Ed Heckler, Riverside Health System’s Vice President of the Lifelong Health Division. “We are people caring for people. The Champions of Caring program, and events like this, help bring us together to recognize where our team members exceed expectations and provide compassionate care in a way that defines our care difference promise – to care for others as we would care for those we love.”

Brian Jennings, BA, CST received multiple nominations through the year from his own team members in the Walter Reed Hospital Surgical Services Department. “The majority of the nominations were related to coming in on my day off, working over a weekend, coming in on a holiday,” Jennings said. “I only live a mile away from the hospital. I don’t see it as a big deal. I love what I do. We all do.”

Pamela S. Hudson, RN, a Case Manager with Riverside Hospice on the Middle Peninsula, doesn’t remember all the details about all of the nominations that brought her to the event this month. But one she will never forget.

“We had a patient with advanced dementia,” Hudson said. “She stopped eating. She was not responding to us. And then I remembered she had a favorite hymn – Love Lifted Me.”

Hudson pulled that hymn up on her phone and played it for the patient.

“She began to sing that hymn and sang it within six hours of dying,” Hudson said. “The family was very touched and played that song at her funeral. They realized how much she loved it.”

And Hudson realized, yet again, what a privilege it is to serve the community through Riverside.

“It’s our job to bring smiles to them – to the patients, to the families,” Hudson said. “That’s what makes the difference. Most of our patients are not in happy places. Some are hurt. Some are dying. If we can make them happy, even if just for a moment, or bring a smile to them, we can make a difference.”

Across the entire Riverside Health System, a total of 6,288 nominations were submitted in 2017. Middle Peninsula team members received 920 of those nominations. The Riverside mission is to care for others as we would care for those we love and the nominated Champions of Caring are those that not only live that mission, but go above and beyond in their role and Riverside is excited to celebrate them for their exceptional dedication to patients, residents and families.