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In 2006, Cindy Feltner, a Miami Valley Hospital emergency room nurse who worked the night shift, realized that especially during the winter months there were patients arriving who were unprepared for cold weather. Still others came to the hospital with frostbite.

Feltner began stuffing her locker with thermal underwear, socks, hats, gloves and scarves and giving them away to needy patients. Before long, her colleagues were bringing in essential items as well. When the group outgrew Cindy’s locker, they asked hospital leadership for more space which they were given in 2007.

This initiative ultimately became an Emergency Department project. One closet turned into three, all scattered throughout the emergency room area. As a unit, the decision was ultimately made to name the closet after the nurse whose vision led to such a critical program and it was dubbed Cindy’s Closet.

Since that time, the Closet has become a valuable resource available to patients who need replacement clothing following treatment. Donations come from the community and Miami Valley Hospital employees.

The hospital’s Tonja Fote, emergency department nurse manager, and Vickie Paul now oversee the inspiring project.

Fote explains that some of the people receiving clothing from Cindy’s Closet are trauma patients who arrive with damaged clothing and need something to wear home from the hospital. Others in need include victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes. “We also have clothing for families who have been involved in a fire, and many times, arrive in the ER with just a gown or night clothing,” she says. “They are given full attire, including shoes to wear out of the ER.”

Associate nurse manager Shannon Ohl, who has been working in the department for 18 years, says diapers are always needed. “Some patients come to the emergency department and don’t have the items they’ll need for their babies,” she explains, adding that all of the donations offer patients more dignity at a difficult time. “People are always so appreciative,” Ohl adds.

Fote says all people need acts of kindness– regardless of their economic status, place in the community, or walk of life. “This is a small gesture that says we care in times of need.”

What they most need at the moment:

  • Men’s clothing (new and gently used)
  • Stretchy pants for men and women
  • Jackets for men and women
  • Long-sleeved shirts for men and women
  • Socks and underwear (must be new and in original package)
  • Shoes (slip-on, tennis shoes)
  • Shorts for men and women
  • Diapers
  • Personal size toiletries

Donations can be dropped off at the security desk in the Emergency Department, in care of Vickie or Tonja. When making a donation, attach your contact information to items if you require a receipt. Questions? Call 937-208-3516.

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