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Phoebe Celebrates MLK Day of Service

Albany, Ga. – Phoebe honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day of community service activities. “We are proud to serve the people of southwest Georgia every day of the year, but we give particular focus to community service on the holiday that recognizes Dr. King and his commitment to serving others,” said Scott Steiner, President & CEO, Phoebe Putney Health System.

More than 125 volunteers from Phoebe and throughout the community gathered at the Phoebe/Flint River Fresh Community Garden in the 200 block of W. 5th Ave. Monday morning to plant fruit trees and prepare raised garden beds. “I was overwhelmed by the turnout,” said Fredando Jackson, Executive Director, Flint River Fresh. “It’s great to see that so many people know what we are doing and want to help us in our mission to bring fresh, healthy food to underserved parts of our community.”

Phoebe nurses joined nurses from the Dougherty County Health Department to administer free flu shots at the Albany Mall. “We’re still in the middle of flu season. We know the flu vaccine offers your best protection against the flu, and we want to do all we can to minimize flu cases in our region. We have offered these free flu shot clinics each of the past several flu seasons, and our nurses were happy to participate once again on this Day of Service,” said Evelyn Olenick, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, Phoebe Putney Health System.

Monday afternoon, Phoebe’s main hospital in Albany and Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus hosted MLK Day of Service ceremonies. In Americus, New Horizons Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lori Gadson spoke about Habitat’s impact on the community and explained that the Habitat movement was centered around civil rights and a commitment to help the economically disadvantaged. Phoebe Sumter gave a $10,000 donation to New Horizons and pledged to provide volunteers for a building project this year. Phoebe Sumter volunteers will kick off that project during National Hospital Week in May.

The guest speaker at the Albany ceremony was Rutha Mae Harris, an Albany native and founding member of the Freedom Singers. She explained how she and other members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee involved with the Albany Movement were spurred to form the Freedom Singers in 1962 at the suggestion of folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger. The Freedom Singers performed around the country with such legendary acts as gospel vocalist Mahalia Jackson, they sang at the March on Washington in August 1963, they helped raise money to support the civil rights movement and they inspired thousands of people to join individual marches and the larger movement as a whole. “I travelled 50,000 plus miles in nine months, but I promised my mother I would come home and complete my education, and that’s what I did,” Harris said. Music has remained a vital part of her life. She still performs around the country.  She and the current Freedom Singers also sing the second Saturday of each month at the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

At the Albany MLK Day ceremony, Phoebe donated $2,500 to the Albany Civil Rights Institute. The museum will use the money to put on a free community concert during Black History Month.  The concert will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 27 at the Albany State University West Auditorium.

Also as part of Phoebe’s MLK Day festivities, the cafeterias at all four hospitals gave away slices of pecan pie to employees. “Pecan pie was Dr. King’s favorite dessert,” Steiner said. “Providing free pie was one more small gesture to honor him and to thank our employees for all they do for the people we have the privilege of serving every day.”


PHOTO: Volunteers help plant fruit trees at the Phoebe/Flint River Fresh Community Garden.