The breezeway next to the elevators on Mease Dunedin Hospital’s first floor buzzed with activity. Nurse, doctors and patients all moved in unison trying to get from one end of the busy hospital to another.
Each of them walk right past a closet that, unless you know what it was, would give you no real reason to warrant any attention.
“Some people think I’m crazy,” joked Licensed Practical Nurse Becky Gama. “It is pretty full.”
Becky’s Closet is jammed with donated shirts, pants, shoes and more. All of the items were either purchased by hospital staff or donated out of their own closets at home.
The clothes are meant for patients who need more clothing than what they entered with at the time of their service.
Mainly, homeless patients.
“Sometimes people leave here with better clothes than the ones they came in with,” said Liz Akers, Mease’s administrator on duty. “If you ever work with Becky, that’s just the way she is. She’s always thinking about the other person.”
Everybody knows that.
“She started bringing clothes in,” said assistant nurse manager Julie DeGraw. “She and her daughter went shopping at JC Penney with everything that was on sale and they put it in tubs. We had no closet at the time.”
That was five years ago, shortly after an encounter with a patient that sparked the idea for Becky’s Closet.
She was tasked with caring for a homeless man who entered the hospital without much to call his own. He asked for just a cup of coffee upon his discharge from the hospital.
Gama realized he needed much more.
“I’ve found that everyone has a story if you just listen,” she said.
She was able to round up a few spare items of clothing to give him before he went on his way. Now, she says, the hospital has lost count of how many homeless people have benefitted from the closet.
“We have sleepwear, underwear, pretty much anything you could need,” said Gama as she sifted through the crowded closet. “We want to be able to send them out with at least one set of clothing that they’re going to have.
“We’re a family here, so we kind of help each other out.”
Mease Dunedin Hospital is always taking donations for Becky’s Closet. They need gym shorts and socks, and she would like sweaters for when the weather starts to cool off in the winter.
Mease Dunedin is located at 601 Main St.
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