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Chilton Nurse Helps the Homeless in Her Spare Time
04/05/2012
Lorrel Boughton (right), is joined by fellow Chilton nurse, Halina Miller, and Danny RosenHanst, a Bridges run coordinator. The photo was taken on January 21, during the only snowstorm of the 2012 winter season.

Lorrel Boughton (right), is joined by fellow Chilton nurse, Halina Miller, and Danny RosenHanst, a Bridges run coordinator. The photo was taken on January 21, during the only snowstorm of the 2012 winter season.

Lorrel Boughton, a nurse in Chilton Hospital’s Operating Room (OR), has dedicated seven years of her time to Bridges Outreach, Inc. The non-profit organization provides food, clothing and other needed items to the homeless and less fortunate. Boughton selflessly spends some of her free time, often in extreme weather conditions, for the benefit of others.

It all began when Boughton, of Kinnelon, read about Ginger and Geoff Worden, who started Bridges. The couple gave sandwiches and thermoses of soup and coffee to a group of homeless in New York City on a Friday evening in 1988, and has been doing so every Friday since.

This story motivated Boughton to become involved. She now dedicates her free time to helping the homeless in Newark and Irvington, as well as New York’s Battery Park. It’s truly a family affair in the Boughton household. Her husband, Keith, as well as their 23-year-old daughter, Kenna, and 21-year-old son, Kyle, are also involved. Kenna is following her mother’s footsteps, not just in the charitable sense. She is in her third year of nursing school at Rutgers University. Kyle is also at Rutgers as a business major. Even Lorrel’s 82-year-old Aunt Peg who visits from England has become involved.

“I feel that it’s very important to give back, especially since I was one someone who was less fortunate while growing up,” Boughton explained. “I always felt that if I ever got to a point in my life where I could give back and volunteer, I would. I wanted to teach my kids that philosophy at a young age as well.”

Boughton, who has been a Chilton employee for 34 years, recently prompted others at Chilton to help out. On January 21, Halina Miller, an RNII in the OR, joined Lorrel during a Saturday snowstorm for her first run at Newark’s Penn Station.

“I always wanted to stay busy in the community and help out any way that I can,” said Miller, who has been with Chilton for 25 years and lives in Pompton Plains. “One day when Lorrel and I were having lunch together, she mentioned to me about an upcoming run involving distributing coats to the homeless. I thought that was just so unbelievable and I was so I inspired that I asked to join her.”

Soon, Miller asked other people in the OR to help by donating coats for her first run. It was heartwarming to learn that she had so many generous and caring colleagues who were willing to depart with their spare coats for others. According to Miller, her first experience in Newark was incredible: “We gave a coat to a young man that had nothing. His face is still imprinted in my mind. He was wearing just a fleece in the freezing weather. Another gentleman’s hands were so frozen that he couldn’t even button up the jacket we gave him, so we had to help button it up. He actually felt that we gave him too much food. They were just so humble. It was such an unforgettable experience.” Boughton chimed in, adding that she once gave shoes to a man wearing flip-flops in cold weather.

According to Boughton, there are many safety rules to follow when going on the runs. For example, you shouldn’t wear jewelry or take phone numbers. However, “For the most part, I haven’t seen any problems, and they’re very appreciative,” she said. “There’s a general misconception about the homeless. Many of them are good people who have hit hard times. Perhaps a fire destroyed a whole apartment building leaving many homeless. Sometimes people lose their jobs because of the economy and then not afford their homes anymore.”

Boughton had recently been asked to be “core volunteer.” The job entails arriving 15 minutes to a half hour earlier to speak with the homeless before the volunteers begin handouts. “It’s very rewarding when they say things like, ‘Nice to see you today,’” she explained. “I know some of my homeless friends by name now. They said that they feel respected and that they feel calmer when there is human interaction.”

Above Boughton are “run coordinators” who tell the volunteers where to go and what kind of items are to be delivered. Sandwiches are delivered with drinks, snacks and fruit. On certain runs, toiletries, shoes or coats are distributed. Boughton plans to collaborate with Bridges’ “Coalition of Services,” which offers medical services such as HIV testing, on-site medical treatment and referrals to screenings including diabetes and high blood pressure.

The bright, yellow Bridges truck is highly recognizable and comforting to the less fortunate. Boughton knows of a teenage boy who relies on the truck for basic necessities. If the truck doesn’t arrive, he’ll call Danny or Chip, the run coordinators to make sure they’re coming. They haven’t missed a run yet.

Bridges has more than 1,500 volunteers delivering over 100,000 bagged, brown lunches, 40,000 breakfast bags and literally tons of clothing, toiletries and other necessities each year. For more information, visit www.bridgesoutreach.org.

Chilton Hospital is a fully accredited, 260-bed, acute-care, community hospital. It is a four-time recipient of the HealthGrades Specialty Excellence Award in Stroke, and Five-Star Rated for Stroke Care, the highest possible, for six years in a row. It is also Five-Star Rated for Joint Replacement and Total Knee Replacement for 2012. Chilton’s many services include minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery, a state-of-the-art Emergency Department, a Pain Management center, the Sleep Health Institute, the Comprehensive Wound Healing/Hyperbaric Center, the Chilton Cancer Center, the Mother/Baby Center, an American Diabetes Association-recognized diabetes education program and a weight loss surgery program. Chilton has recently embarked on a $24 million modernization project, which includes the Cardiovascular Interventional Lab, the Comprehensive Breast Center and the Total Joint Center. The hospital is located at 97 West Parkway in Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. For more information about Chilton's facilities and services, or to find a doctor by name, specialty, or location, please visit www.chiltonhealth.org or call 1-888-CHILTON.

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