Frist Humanitarian Award Employee Recipient Lorrie Sarver
Lorrie Sarver had a simple response when her New Life Church pastor mentioned that he wanted the church to get involved in prison ministry.
“Let me see what I can do,” she said.
With a few phone calls, she found a women’s correctional center three hours away that needed their help.
“It was amazing,” Sarver recalls. “We would go in and minister to 200 women, offering them words of encouragement, praying with them. That’s where it started, and we kept adding more prisons, and got bigger teams together. But I would go to each one myself, to be part of it.”
The ministry now tends to nine prisons in the area, opening Sarver’s eyes to a huge well of need among this population and their families. Each time a story touched her heart, she looked for a way to help.
She met a young woman who had been incarcerated since the age of 13. Now the woman was 30 and had not been able to communicate with her brother in all that time. Sarver wrote to him to let him know his sister was doing well, which led her to start a pen pal program for prisoners’ families.
Through that, she saw the deprivation of the many children left behind when their parents became incarcerated. She arranged for 15 area kids with parents in prison to be part of a gift-giving Angel Tree program one Christmas. But she wanted to establish something bigger than one day of opening presents. She committed to having monthly outings, and eventually a week-long summer camp at the church, which now serves 150-200 kids each year.
“It’s not about spending money. It’s about being the glue, and I feel that I’m the glue,” she says. “If I make a commitment to these kids I have to stick with it. If I tell them I’ll do something and don’t follow through, I’m just one more person who let them down. I don’t want us to be part of their disappointment. We can show these kids what God’s love really is.”
Sarver’s compassion for others and willingness to help comes across just as strongly in her work as director of emergency services at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville. She’ll often combine her two passions, organizing health awareness talks at the church or bringing in the hospital’s trauma team to talk about bike safety at camp. She set up Certified Nursing Assistant classes at the church school (accredited by the Florida Board of Nursing) giving disadvantaged students something to aspire to. Students attend classes and do clinical work at a local nursing home to meet state requirements. Even with the dozens of events and programs she has organized and the hundreds of lives that have improved because she insisted on finding a way to help, Sarver still dives right in when she sees a need.
“Let’s see what I can do now.”
North Florida Division
Danielle Austin makes children’s lives better in a number of ways. She has provided a safe and loving home to many foster children over the years, and become an advocate for children in the system. She leads an annual school supply drive for kids and families served by a local pediatric hospice. She oversees a yearly Christmas Kids’ event, raising thousands of dollars in gifts and donations to distribute holiday presents to dozens of children. Her friends and co-workers say that she is relentless in her efforts to improve the lives of children.
Christine Niekamp, BSN, RN
Methodist Children’s Hospital
San Antonio, Texas
How does a new parent mourn the death of their baby? For 17 years, Christine Niekamp has helped moms and dads through this unimaginable loss, leading Methodist’s perinatal bereavement program. In addition to providing memory boxes, pictures, blankets and other mementos of their baby, she makes sure that they have the support they need during their grieving process. She also organized a Walk to Remember for families who have experienced such a loss.
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