When Creighton College of Nursing faculty and students learned about a 12-year-old girl at Destiny Springs Behavioral Health Center who couldn’t participate in a dance movement session because she didn’t have the right clothing, they sprang into action.
They came up with a plan to bring in donated clothing not only for the girl, but for others in the center. The faculty-and-student-led clothing drive has reshaped the center’s clothing closet and given hope and help to patients in need.
“We just saw a need, and we’ve always collected for children,” said Ronnie Sheridan, EdD, MSN/ED, RN, CCRN, assistant professor in the accelerated Nursing Program at the Creighton University Health Sciences — Phoenix Campus, who organized the clothing drive. “We decided we were not going to let a kid skip a dance or activity because they didn’t have the right bra or dress. Our students were not going to let that happen.”
The plan came together in two ways. A cash donation challenge, issued among Creighton students and faculty, raised $150. That amount was matched by Sheridan, who made a shopping trip and brought back dozens of undergarments, socks, shirts and pants. At the same time, students, faculty and staff started bringing in clothes from their own closets, often getting their own family members involved in the drive.
The result has been a fully restocked clothing closet, replacing the box of clothes that had previously been depleted.
“One of the most beautiful parts of the project for me was seeing our students sitting on the floor, sorting through clothes, finding ways to hang them, and making signs for a room that had been an empty closet,” Sheridan said.
The center, which opened in 2019, works with adult and adolescent patients experiencing mental health conditions. Many have been homeless or are coming from foster care or other diversionary programs.
Gerald Ward, a staff educator at the health center, said the student and faculty energy that went into the clothing drive gave a boost to patients and staff.
“We never had that happen before,” he said of the volunteer effort. “All clients here at that time really appreciated the items they brought in.”
Creighton College of Nursing students and faculty have been doing clinical rotations at the facility since the beginning of the year. The clothing drive began during a two-month rotation in June and July.
“It seemed like such an easy thing to do,” said Gabriella Valles, a Creighton nursing student who helped set up a Venmo account so students could donate money via debit or credit card. “I wanted to give something but also knew I had gone through all my things and didn’t have much to donate. I wanted to give a cash donation.”
Future Creighton cohorts who rotate at the center will continue the drive, said
Imelda Hector, MSN/ed, CRRN, clinical nurse instructor for the Creighton nursing program, who helped get the project started.
“Nurses have big hearts,” she said. “When we have the opportunity to help, everyone’s willing to chip in.”
Hector and Sheridan view the clothing drive project as part of the process of becoming a nurse, especially one in the Creighton tradition.
“An important part of being a behavioral health nurse is therapeutic communications,” Sheridan said. “Finding a way to effectively communicate in a manner that is helpful and healing is not always easy with someone who is suffering from mental illness.”
Valles notes the skills she’s practiced during her rotations at Destiny Springs will be something she will use throughout her nursing career.
“Communicating therapeutically with someone who has mental illness gives you a chance to understand the reality of it and understand them as a person,” she said. “You realize that so many people in the world are struggling with mental illness.”
Sheridan said future rotations of Creighton students at Destiny Springs will continue to keep the clothing closet stocked year-round.
“We’ve got all the summer stuff, but now we’re going to need to get clothing for cooler weather, like jackets and hoodies,” he said.