It Never Hurts to Ask


“I just didn’t know if I should do it,” says Melissa Bailey Castillo. “I argued with myself and tried to be cautiously optimistic.” Melissa stops and apologizes. A client has just walked into her office. A flurry of Spanish and English, muffled through the phone during our call speeds by. It is a family needing assistance, and no matter what else is going on, this is what comes first.

North Carolina & Agricultural Jobs

Melissa is the Community Outreach Director at Kinston Community Health Center, located in Kingston, North Carolina. Her organization supports hundreds of families, young families, in need of a helping hand. These families normally earn their living through the bounty of North Carolina and Florida crops, such as sweet potatoes and kale. Unfortunately, the storms and severe weather have not been kind. It has not only affected the families in the path of the storm, but also those who rely on southern food production for employment.

“This is an enormous agriculture sector with many agricultural jobs. It is top five in the United States for the production of sweet potatoes and tobacco and a number of other crops,” she says. “So, now what we end up with is this population of people who were not prepared to be out of work.”

Families Are Not Prepared for Winter

“Right now we see an increase of people who are in danger of losing things like housing, or who are experiencing scarcity and unemployment. They are not prepared for winter.”

“We see children walk in with thin-layered clothes, and no coat, and the temperature could be 26 degrees. So, even though North Carolina is part of the south, we often get those Arctic blasts of air, comparable to Pennsylvania and areas to the north.”

It was Melissa’s passion for her community that led her to reach out to Operation Warm, seeking new coats, for as many of the children as possible. “As a community health center, we are in a very unique position to serve populations who are most in need,” Melissa says. “I thought, ‘maybe if they know what is going on they’ll be able to find us some coats’—you know, if we can only help 20 kids, then so be it.”

Operation Warm Finds a Donor

Operation Warm was able to match Kinston Community Health Center with the North Carolina Healthcare Engineer Association (NCHEA) to deliver a gift of warmth to 200 children in need!

Good news New coats“What an honor and privilege it has been for NCHEA and its members to partner with Operation Warm to provide new coats for these children in need,” says William Baird, 2017 NCHEA President. “A few of our NCHEA member hospitals were affected by Hurricane Matthew, so we really understand the devastation to those areas. We also send our gratitude to the Kinston Community Health Center for reaching out. It is easy to take a simple item as a coat for granted–until you don’t have one! Keep up the good work!”

“We are so grateful for your friendship,” Melissa says. “I’m really thrilled to know you guys and to tap into that for our pediatric patients. I think it is amazing. We are so very grateful. I don’t know how to express it!“

[Editor’s note: Melissa let us know that the staff are very excited to be able to supply the children with their new coats. There is still great need, however. The center could use another 300 coats for the Kinston community. If you would like to donate to North Carolina, or any other state, please donate here and indicate if you have a geographical preference for your gift.]



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