June 8, 2017

Guardian Angels – When a Fire Claimed Donna Walker’s Home, Her Teammates Rallied to Her Aid

By Adam Harris

Donna Walker, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Angel Medical Center, is not used to getting help from others. You see, Walker is accustomed to being the caretaker, not the other way around.

After all, this is a woman who in addition to raising two children of her own has several more in her Franklin neighborhood that call her Momma. This is a woman who is seemingly always taking in stray cats or dogs, and once bottle-fed an injured cat for three months to nurse it back to health after she found him hit by a car. “Donna displays this innate caregiver personality, and always wants to give to others more than she receives,” said Eric Wolak, Regional Manager, Respiratory Care. “She’s just naturally wired to care for others.”

But in October 2015, Walker found herself in need of a helping hand, and she was blown away by just how much her coworkers at Mission Health — and the organization itself — stepped up to care for her.

While out of work with a broken foot and staying at her daughter’s house, Walker received a call from Rhonda Moore, former interim CNO at Angel. “She told me that I needed to get to my house, that my house was on fire,” said Walker. “My heart sank to the floor.”

Her home of 15 years was gone, and so was everything inside. Walker had lost it all. “Because of my broken my foot, I had a boot on and was only wearing one shoe,” she recalled. “Everything is gone, and here I am, literally left with just one shoe.”

Walker was down, but it didn’t take long for her teammates to start picking her back up. “Immediately, once people at work found out, they started calling me,” she said. “People that I don’t even work directly with were bringing me clothes. They had a soup fundraiser for me. I would go into the office and there would be an envelope with my name on it, and it’d have money in it, and I wouldn’t know who it came from. It was just unreal.”

Debbi Waldroop, RRT, who’s worked with Walker for many years, said, “Donna is always doing good things for others. We just tried to return the favor.”

Walker’s colleagues and friends helped her immensely with both emotional and financial support, but perhaps her biggest surprise came from Mission Health Human Resources after Bonnie Peggs, Manager, Community Relations & Volunteers and Chaplain, Angel Medical Center, made her aware of the Emergency Grant Program.

“Because Donna lost everything, she really didn’t even know where to start,” said Nancy Critcher-White, Director of Employee & Volunteer Engagement, who oversees the Emergency Grant Program. “But I gave her some tips on what I’d done for other folks, and we got her furniture for her next place from Carolina Furniture Concepts and uniforms from Read’s as quickly as we could. It’s a good feeling to be able to help people like that.”

“I think it’s really important for people to know about these emergency grants,” said Walker. “It’s things like this that make this a great place to work.”

Walker is now back at work and back in her element helping others. But when her time of need came, well, you could say the shoe was on the other foot. “I’m one that I never ask for help, I always give help,” said Walker. “It made me feel good that they care enough to help. It lifted me up.”