What began as a simple request from members of the Auxiliary at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital (SJEH) to the Rev. J. Christopher Ballard of Trinity-St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hewlett, has grown into a dedicated component of the church’s weekly services. The Auxiliary volunteers, Dosley McNeil and Janice Taylor, asked Fr. Ballard to specifically speak about the hospital’s Pharmacy Fund, a program that assists patients who have little, or no insurance, toward affording their medication co-pays. Fr. Ballard says he was “on board” right away. Almost immediately after including an announcement in the church bulletin and setting out donation boxes, the Auxiliary’s request evolved into a robust effort the congregation has heartily embraced.
Fr. Ballard, the rector of Trinity-St. John’s for the last eight years, explains his congregation’s willingness in adopting the cause: “I have a more aged population in my congregation. So, when we talk about medication co-pays, they get it. When you ask people to help and you put it into context for the population, they understand. The work St. John’s is doing is something we support. Looking at all the wonderful work ICARE is doing, it’s an ‘easy sell,’ for lack of a better term.”
Fr. Ballard and his congregation are familiar with many of the hospital Auxiliary’s projects, including the Adopt-a-Family initiative, as well as the work of the newly founded St. John’s ICARE Foundation, established in 2021 to benefit and support the charitable and educational activities of SJEH. “We are very appreciative of the hospital auxiliary. They are very dedicated; I really admire them,” says Fr. Ballard. He acknowledges the perception of an auxiliary may seem “old school” to some, since these organizations grew out of what were originally called women’s auxiliaries. “You had these highly proficient, highly accomplished women who were not generally allowed to work outside the home, forming these incredible supportive organizations. It sounds like an old-fashioned idea, but today, it still very much works,” he said.
One example of an auxiliary’s ongoing relevance is clearly illustrated in the collaboration between the ICARE Foundation and the hospital’s Auxiliary in hosting various community projects. Nancy Leghart, Executive Director of the Foundation, said, “The St. John's Episcopal Hospital Auxiliary is the lifeblood of our new St. John's ICARE Foundation. Our auxilians create and support so many needed programs for our community, and the Pharmacy Fund program is vital to making sure our patients are discharged with the medications they need.”
Every Sunday, Fr. Ballard continues to drive the significance of a program like the Pharmacy Fund. He promotes it extensively because “it’s something the congregation understands, a situation where, for people living in, or near, poverty, there is the hard choice between food or medication. Whether to eat or pay medication co-pays, I find that unbelievable in this land of plenty.”
Because of the high costs of prescription medications and other health care concerns, Fr. Ballard is acutely aware of how close to home these issues are to his congregation. And while the people of his church are modest in means, they are huge in support for their neighbors, their community. “We collect small donations, but it’s more about the number of these contributions coming from people who really care. The congregation will gladly support, even though most of them don’t have a lot of money themselves,” he says. He relates the Biblical story of “The Widow’s Mite,” that tells of a poor woman who could give just a little, only a mite (an ancient coin with very little value). “I feel like this is a bit of the widow’s mite, how the congregation gives. These may be modest amounts, but they are heartfelt amounts.”
Ms. Leghart said, “We are so grateful to Trinity for their consistent support of this program and all the Auxiliary initiatives. Since the inception of the pharmacy program, we have provided co-pay assistance to about 400 patients.”
Fr. Ballard believes every faith community, whether a synagogue, church, or mosque, has an obligation to support these kinds of projects. “Any, especially those in proximity of the Far Rockaway community, should step up. They should be concerned about these initiatives and issues. It is really about supporting the least among us, which all three of the Abrahamic religions believe. Supporting those most disaffected, those struggling the most, that to me is most obvious.”
Story submitted by St. John’s ICARE Foundation.
Photo Description: Following Sunday Worship on March 19th, Nancy Leghart, Executive Director of the St. John’s ICARE Foundation, personally thanked the Rev. J. Christopher Ballard of Trinity-St. John’s Church in Hewlett, along with parishioners and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Auxilians Betty Le Cadre, Dosley McNeil, and Janice Taylor for their ongoing commitment to the patients of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and the St. John’s ICARE Foundation. Also pictured is Rolanda Maria, a young parishioner and the daughter of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Employee Roman Wevugira.