Janet first heard about Wellspring through an article in the Sacramento Bee about Wellspring’s Christmas Store – a gift give-away that the center has now replaced with its 12 days of Christmas celebration.
She and her husband used to donate large crock-pots complete with a skillet to the store where guests could shop for Christmas presents for their family.
Now, Janet volunteers in the children’s corner.
“It’s so fun to be an extra pair of hands which is the beginning requirement to work in the Children’s Corner and to see children blossom from getting the simplest kind of attention,” she said
Janet is a former Hospice, oncology and mental health care nurse. Too, she worked as a door-to-door Tupperware saleswoman, accountant and as a probation officer.
Janet became a nurse after her husband’s brother died of Aids.
“I looked at the work that his nurses were doing and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I became a nurse to work with people who had an illness that would be difficult for their whole family to take care of,” she said.
As a Hospice nurse, Janet valued helping others greet death peacefully.
“That’s a really intimate time to help families and something that I really appreciated,” she said. “It is special to be with someone as they die – it is a gift to see that change and believe that people are in peace. I believe that when people die, there is always someone to great them and walk with them – someone who they have loved. One patient had no one. His hospice care was provided by the neighbor women in his apartment. We were never able to identify anyone that he was connected with other than his neighbors. They did all of his care and as he got nearer to death, he talked about three ladies dressed in white who were coming to visit him and I believe that they were people who he loved in his family.”
How has your work impacted your view of death?
“Death doesn’t seem scary to me,” Janet said. “I think it is a natural part of living. Here, in America, we try to push death off and take whatever health interventions that we can get. People don’t understand that there is a price to those treatments – physical suffering. Many don’t add to the patient’s quality of life or even extend their life. I feel kind of friendly with death. I wouldn’t want every last treatment for something that is going to end in death. I would want to be comfortable and to enjoy the things that I can.”
Janet has witnessed first-hand how poverty impacts an individual’s health.
“People who are experiencing homelessness don’t have the right clothes for the weather, good hygiene and must carry all of their belongings with them,” she said. “Often people don’t have the right shoes and socks. Shoes and socks are a big deal. Foot health is a very important part about being healthy. Feet are transportation for all of us, but for the poor, they are in a much bigger way. Untreated diabetes is so common among people living in poverty.”
“Spiritually there is just an impact when you are not valued by your community and when it seems like you have nothing to contribute to society,” she said. “The mental health ramifications of those things strongly correlate with a high prevalence of depression among people who are poor.”
How does Wellspring benefit the health of the Sacramento community?
“I think providing a safe environment where the guests know that they can come is wonderful — it’s warm, it smells good and there are smiling people,” she said. “I think even if they just served coffee and tea here, it would be a huge benefit to community health by giving people a place to go. The fact that women can have both breakfast and lunch here if they arrange their time properly and can bring their children to a place where they know that they are safe and can get a break from them and relax with other adults is very important. The food is healthy and has lots of protein and fresh vegetables and fruit.”
“The children’s corner provides kids the opportunity to learn skills that they will need in school and also social skills that will ease their way socially everywhere that they go,” she said. “The world is a much kinder place to people with good manners and there is no better time to learn good manners than when you are small. I think that children who learn to say please and thank you and to be appreciative of others have a much easier life – doors open for them that don’t open for children who don’t have those skills.”
“Wellspring supports a healthy family by providing a model of courtesy and good behavior for others,” she said. “The center also offers respite for some homeless and mentally ill women who might have nowhere else to go. They can come in here and talk at wall and leave when they need to. The generosity of the support with the diapers and hygiene products is wonderful. They are dispensed in a really courteous, caring and responsible way. It helps people feel better if they run into a little nail polish or soap and the diapers prevent child abuse — period. Wellspring nurtures the physical health, spiritual and mental health of the community.”
How do the diapers prevent child abuse?
“Parents with the least tools and stability often have children who are not toilet trained for the longest – a dirty diaper is not an uncommon reason for a child between two and four years old to be murdered by a male caregiver,” she said. “This would be an adult who I wouldn’t think of as an adult – someone who was never taken care of as a child himself.”
Inadequate access to diapers for low-income women is correlated with higher rates of anxiety and depression according to a recent study by the Yale School of Medicine. This anxiety and depression can affect a mother’s long-term mental health and thus, her child’s development. Too, children with dirty diapers often experience diaper rash.
“Just the security of knowing that caregivers can get diapers at Wellspring is a really big deal,” Janet said.