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Giving spirit in Pediatrics nets $1000 donation to food bank

With a brief email on Nov. 1, 2020, Hurley Pediatric Residency Wellness Chief Auriel Mouzon MD launched a donation drive that resulted in $1000 given to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan 7 weeks later. Matched with a donation from Big John's Steak and Onions restaurant - it became $2000. Since $1 donation would provide 6 meals, the combined $2000 donation paid for 12,000 meals.

Filling your cup while feeding others
From left: Cathy Blankenship , VP of Communication and Development at the Food Bank for Eastern Michigan, Auriel Mouzon, MD (Hurley Pediatric Residency Wellness Chief), Dr. Crystal Cederna-Meko (Associate Program Director), and Igbagbosanmi Oredein MD (first year pediatric resident).

Mouzon, a third-year Peds resident, said this was the first of two Hurley Pediatrics Program "community wellness" events planned for the year. After the COVID-19 pandemic nixed her in-person event ideas, she was initially stumped on how to find something "meaningful and fun, ... something that all the residents could work together on and enjoy," she said.

"I was feeling detached from my family, friends, and community," she recalled. "One day, I was watching the news and saw how many people in the community were relying on food banks to provide meals for their families. Hundreds of cars lining up daily at community centers and churches to receive food. There was a huge need in the community at this moment in time. And I thought there is no better way to feel connected to one another than to give back to this amazing Flint community and work together doing community service. That is how the donation drive was born."

Mouzon, whose role as Peds wellness chief means she conducts lots of wellness activities throughout the year, said she didn't know what to expect with this event at first.

"This was my first time creating a donation drive, and it was all new to me," she said. "It was a wonderful learning experience. ... I received amazing feedback from residents, faculty, friends, and family. As the word spread, more and more people ... wanted to donate, even from other departments in the hospital. I believe it made them feel good to give back in this way, especially heading into the holiday season."

Mouzon said she had no idea on how to set a goal amount to raise - she just didn't know what to expect.

"I would get excited just seeing $5 or $ 10 in the donation drop boxes because I knew that just $1 would provide 6 meals for a family, and if I could just make sure 6 people did not go hungry for a night, then it was a job well done. It makes me so happy to know that we raised $1000. I'm just so proud of everyone for opening up their hearts for this great cause," she said.

Mouzon, who is heading to Orlando, Fla., for a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship after she graduates in 2021, learned a lot about the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan while organizing the food drive.

"I was amazed at how big this organization was and the vast amount of community connections they have created all around the Flint community and beyond. Schools, community organizations, shelters, churches, etc. I believed that the money we would raise would go a long way to help many people in the surrounding communities," she said.

Mouzon, her associate program director, Crystal Cederna-Meko PsyD, and first-year Peds resident Igbagbosanmi Oredein MD, personally delivered the donation check to Cathy Blankenship, vice-president of Communication and Development at the food bank - a rewarding moment.

Giving, volunteering, helping others - all are proven methods to improve one's own well-being, said Mouzon, adding that she highly recommends it to others.

"I just want to encourage everyone to become involved in community service," she said. "Do not think you don’t have an impact in this world because you do. And as you are pouring into other people, you start to realize you are filling your cup too. It’s the most rewarding feeling and a way to stay connected to those around you during this uncertain time."