A Network of Giving
April 26, 2012
Once a week, Max Govaer arrives at the LUHSD Adult Ed campus, takes his seat in one of the designated classrooms and with precision and purpose, fills decorative paper food bags with snacks and treats. For more than an hour he works to provide sustenance and support to those in need.
Max isn’t the only one. Since last October, dozens of special-education students enrolled in the district work program called Gateway have been packaging an impressive 200 care bags per week for The Network of Care foundation, which provides the bags to families with hospitalized children.
“It’s been a great fit for these students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Gene Clare. “It’s been a great fit for Network of Care and it’s been great for these students, who get some hands-on experience with their vocational skills. It’s certainly benefited everyone.”
And it’s a relationship that works. This year the Network of Care delivered its 100,000th meal bag since its inception in 2004, and according to Network of Care Executive Director Janet Frazier, it’s a number that could never have been reached without the help and dedication of these students.
“Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without them,” said Frazier. “They have worked so hard and so well. Really, it’s just been an amazing thing.”
The Network of Care is a nonprofit organization that delivers nourishing bags of snacks and meals to pediatric units, ICU nurseries and trauma centers. For those who lack the time, energy or presence of mind to look after their own basic needs when a family member is hospitalized, Network provides not only the food, but support.
Janet Frazier and her husband Jim founded the organization in 2004 following the tragic car crash that killed their daughter Stephanie and left their daughter Lindsey in critical condition. While grieving over their loss and tending to the needs of their surviving daughter, food was not something the Fraziers thought about until a nurse brought out her own brown-bag sandwich and shared it with an exhausted Janet. And the seed for The Network of Care was planted.
The Gateway program is designed to help special-education students between 18 and 22 hone their work skills in a variety of areas, toward the goal of finding a place in the workforce. The idea to meld the Gateway program with Network of Care came about when longtime friends Clare and Frazier were discussing Frazier’s need and Clare’s program.
The program has been so successful that other special-needs students at Heritage and Deer Valley high schools have also been bagging for the Network of Care, allowing the organization to distribute 2,000 bags per month.
“It’s really been a beneficial thing for our students,” said Clare. “And is something that builds these students’ self-esteem as well as their skills. They feel they’re doing important work – and they are.”
For more information on The Network of Care, visit www.thenetworkofcare.org.
Edited by Martha Ross; Photography by Alex Farnum
Threads of Hope
This year has been a tough one for many of us, and sometimes it seems as if it would be easy to say, “We give up.” But, giving up has never been an option for this year’s winners of Diablo’s annual Threads of Hope Awards. These East Bay residents have found that if you want to do great things for others, you need to start simple: a garden, a guitar lesson, a bag of food, a holiday party, a lemonade stand. One small step leads to the next. Pretty soon, amazing things are possible, and the fabric of our community becomes that much stronger.
Janet & Jim Frazier: Network of Care, Stephanie Marie Frazier Memorial Fund, Oakley
Summoned to a hospital outside Sacramento on December 16, 2000, Janet and Jim Frazier learned that their daughter Stephanie, 20, had died in a car crash. They also learned that their younger daughter and only other child, 17-year-old Lindsey, could die from massive internal injuries suffered in the same crash.
Throughout a long night and into the next morning, the Oakley couple sat by Lindsey’s bed in the trauma unit, waiting to see if she would survive. At 4 a.m., Lindsey’s blood pressure plummeted. A team of nurses and doctors tore in, and as Janet and Jim stood to get out of the way, Janet almost collapsed.
A nurse asked: “When was the last time you ate?” The nurse, returning with a brown bag from home, pulled out a sandwich and handed it to Janet. Although Janet could only nibble a few bites, the nurse’s simple gesture touched her heart.
“After the nurse gave me that bite, I felt this warmth in my heart,” she says. “Somebody did something nice, in the face of this horrible, horrible time. I never forgot how that felt.”
Lindsey survived the surgery and came home—in time to be with her parents at Stephanie’s memorial. Throughout the tragedy, Janet and Jim Frazier kept thinking of how the nurse’s generosity helped them on that awful night. Eventually, it inspired them to start a program to help families in the same way.
The Network of Care, a project of the Stephanie Marie Frazier Memorial Fund, provides bags of snacks and meals to families of children in 41 hospitals throughout California, including the East Bay, and Colorado. The bags go to 1,200 families a month, totaling 43,000 since the program started. The bags are assembled and distributed by the Fraziers and a cadre of friends, coworkers, and volunteers.
“I was by myself with a frightened son hooked up to all kinds of machines,” writes a mother in one of the many e-mails the Fraziers have received. “Without [Network of Care], I would not have eaten.”
Janet and Jim Frazier believe Stephanie would be proud of the foundation created in her name: “It’s just something so simple,” says Janet, a marketing coordinator at Chevron. “You just know when you’re putting together the bags that another family will feel the warmth in their hearts like I did.” —Martha Ross
To volunteer for or donate to the Network of Care, call (925) 584-4086, or visit thenetworkofcare.org.
by Janet Frazier
50,000 Nourishing Acts
Jim and Janet Frazier’s Network of Care will soon ship its 50,000th snack to help parents at hospitals with children undergoing medical procedures to gain an awareness that someone cares, plus a nourishing snack.
Nine years ago, at 10:00 a.m., on December 16, we received a phone call that parents always dread. A staff member from the Sutter Roseville Medical Center was calling with the horrifying news that our two daughters had been in a bad accident.
I had been cleaning the bathroom, but in less than a minute my husband, Jim, and I were in the car, and heading north. Upon arrival at Sutter-Roseville we learned that a driver in an oncoming car had hit a patch of black ice on Highway 50 near Placerville, slid into our daughters’ car, killing Stephanie and seriously injuring her 17-year-old sister, Lindsey. The driver’s wife died and their two children were seriously injured. Lindsey was listed in critical condition with a fractured back, massive internal injuries, and broken ribs.
Beginning of The Network of Care
We maintained vigil with Lindsey throughout the day and the succeeding night. Sixteen hours after we received the initial phone call, at 4:00 a.m., I suddenly felt light-headed. A nurse asked me how long it had been since I had eaten last, and when I told her that it had been more than a day, she gave me a couple bites of her sandwich.
How simple the generous deed! How powerful the impact! The small kindness soon ignited within my heart a passion to show to other families with children in crisis situations the same kindness that the nurse had shown to me.
I enlisted Jim’s help in creating a foundation, The Network of Care (TNOC), which provides nourishing snack bags to pediatric units, ICU Nurseries and trauma centers. The bags contain a Cup O Noodle soup, microwavable ravioli, Jell-O or a fruit cup, a granola bar, crackers, plastic ware, and a little flier explaining who we are and what we are doing.
Our TNOC snacks find their way into the hands of many fearful and anxious parents who, like us, were perhaps snatched out of the daily routine, and are spending hours at the side of a child who may be facing death.
One of the snack bags provides an obvious benefit to a person who may not have had time to think about food over the course of several missed meals. Many times, like us, they were forced to leave without advance notice—perhaps leaving behind their wallets and purses in their hasty departure. The small meals often enable members of a stricken family to remain together. You can’t tell a tormented 4-year-old, “I’m going to grab a bite to eat.”
Besides physical nourishment, our little bags provide a more subtle and important outcome in revealing to distraught people the existence of other people in the world who care for them. When that nurse shared her sandwich with me, she nourished more than my body; the simple act of receiving that gift strengthened my spirit.
We started The Network of Care in 2004 with a single hospital—Kaiser, Walnut Creek. We initially delivered ten of our TNOC snack bags to be used by parents of children who were suffering some trauma or disease.
Since that day we have never arrived at the point where we believed we were doing enough and so have continued to grow every year throughout the intervening five years—increasing from 150 to 200 percent each year. As a result, we are now in almost 50 hospitals, shipping nearly 1,500 units a month.
We also have a Bear Jamboree distribution to small patients, giving them Teddy bears that have been donated to us by a non-profit organization, called The Good News Bears. We put a tag on each bear with the words, “Comforting wishes from The Network of Care.” We distribute these throughout the year. Last year we distributed nearly 400 of these bears to sometimes delighted but always grateful children. We don’t try to enforce any standards. UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento hands these out to children who are facing some difficult procedure.
Keeping It Personal
We never permit TNOC to be simply a by-the-numbers project. Our volunteers maintain personal relationships with staff members in our client hospitals—sometimes developing relationships into friendships that go beyond TNOC boundaries. For example, a couple of our volunteers bake cookies for the head nurse on one pediatric floor who, in return, brings them eggs from her chicken business.
As we can we even maintain close contact with the parents to whom we give snack bags. Last May we received an email from Mark Tanner at UCSF. His infant son was undergoing heart procedures. He told us that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had another child who had died. I showed the message to my husband, Jim, and then ran to the phone to call our volunteer, Laura Kee, at UCSF—who also happens to be one of the nurses at the hospital. We asked her to visit the family.
Last month we jumped in our car and drove to San Francisco to meet with the Tanners personally. The nurse announced to the family that the Network of Care people were there and Elizabeth said, “We already received one of the bags!”
“No,” the nurse replied, “The foundation managers themselves are here to see you.” We discovered that even though poor little Aaron was so sick, he was scarfing on Nachos. “He loves cheese!” his mom said. So on the way home we bought him a case of Mac & Cheese in microwavable cups and had it delivered to the family.
Our volunteers monitor the project at each facility—always looking for ways to improve our service to the clients and the small patients. We work hard on maintaining a personal relationship with each of our client facilities, and always track which volunteer made what call to which hospital while delivering what supplies. We use the record to track the needs of individual departments and hospitals ensuring that we are delivering enough to meet the needs and not too much so there would be waste.
Some hospitals request vegetarian snacks. For example, a Fremont hospital that has a large Muslim culture who aren’t meat eaters must make meatless snacks available. For people like that we have a green version of our snack bag, which contains no meat products.
Besides adding more medical facilities, we are now beginning to expand into intensive care units as well as the pediatric units. ICU Nurseries, and trauma centers where we are already located. We’re testing our expanded services at Sutter Delta Antioch and at Kaiser Sand Creek. As soon as we can demonstrate the effectiveness of this, we’ll begin to offer the expanded service at our other hospitals.
We’re not done yet. One of our volunteers, Jamie Cozby, is exploring the possibility of providing craft kits that the hospitals could distribute to children. We’ll begin doing this when we’ve learned how to use them most effectively.
The larger the Network grows, the more difficult becomes our management challenge. I would like to retire from my day job someday and devote all my time to The Network of Care. Now I’m using all my vacation days for foundation business as well as using my email and cell phone a lot more than I used to—doing TNOC business on the phone early in the morning, during lunch, and after work.
Of the People and for the People
I thank God for the 50 volunteers that assist us on a regular basis and for the hundreds of people who volunteer on an as-needed basis. Our volunteers include students, Scouts, senior citizens, church groups, and a number of my co-workers at Chevron. The warm spirit of whole-hearted volunteerism is nowhere more obvious than in Julie Duncan’s class of special needs young people at Heritage High who help us assemble the bags as one of their work skills acquisition activities. They are doing everything from shopping for the ingredients at the market to hauling the completed boxes to the UPS.
I recently spent some time with those young people and was impressed by how carefully they carried out their tasks—affixing each label to each bag in perfect alignment and placing every bag in exact order in the shipping box. The young people took real care in their work, laboring diligently to do it right, ensuring that everything was perfect.
Our major funding source is a March crab feed. In addition, Chevron workers make contributions that are matched by the company. Other companies are beginning to contact us to see if they can help with grants, etcetera. For example, someone at the Stockton Wal-Mart knew one of our volunteers. The employee offered to apply for one of the grants that Wal-Mart offers to company employees. I expected to get $50 or so, but when I picked it up the check had been made out for $1,500.
We also receive donations from people whose lives we touched through one of our snack bags. Each bag contains a flier about our work and recipient parents sometimes send a contribution even after a couple years have gone by. Sometimes we get gifts marked “In Memory of…” honoring the memory of some young child who had not survived.
I recently heard a particularly heart-warming story: When he was six years old a Brentwood resident, Drew Palmer, saw his mom weeping while reading a magazine. “Why are you crying?” he asked. It turned out that she had been reading an article that my husband wrote a few years ago in 110˚ Magazine called “For the Love of Stephanie.” Little Drew told his mom that he wanted people at his birthday party to make donations to us instead of giving him presents.
At some point in the next few months a hospital will present some family with the 50,000th Network of Care bag. We’re planning to present a nice plaque to the hospital that distributes the bag.
It took us five years to deliver 50,000 snack bags. At our present rate of distribution and growth, we’ll probably do the 100,000th bag in about 18 months.
To help the Fraziers with their project, send checks or money orders to Stephanie Marie Frazier Memorial Fund c/o Bank of the West 2195 Main Street, Suite D, Oakley, CA 94561. If you wish to volunteer with TNOC, contact Janet Frazier at 925-584-4086 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco Chronicle
September 3, 2005
By Suzanne Pullen, Chronicle Staff Writer
The Jefferson Award: The Fraziers, providers of comfort food
Bay Area Jefferson Award winners: Janet and Jim Frazier, founders of the Network of Care, an Oakley-based nonprofit organization that delivers snack bags to parents whose children are in pediatric and trauma hospital units.
How they started: One Saturday in December 2000, the Fraziers got the call every parent dreads: Their daughters, Stephanie and Lindsey, had been in a car accident. The couple raced from their Oakley home in Contra Costa County to the Sutter Medical Center trauma unit in Roseville — an hour and a half away. Stephanie, they learned, had died at the scene. Lindsey was in critical condition. For a full day and night, Janet Frazier sat at Lindsey’s bedside. When Janet finally stood up, she nearly fainted. A nurse discovered Janet hadn’t slept or eaten in 24 hours, and because the cafeteria was closed, she shared her sandwich with the couple. “Someone reached out and did something so small yet so nice,” said Janet. The nurse’s gesture planted a seed in Janet’s mind that grew once Lindsey was well. Janet knew that hospitalized children are well cared for by doctors and nurses, but the parents are often left to fend for themselves when all they can think about is the welfare of their child. In January 2004, she met with nursing staffers Kristina Flanagan and Jim Mitchell at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek to find out what parents need at such times. The idea of providing snack bags took shape. The Fraziers put together a test run of 10 bags with nonperishable food items — including microwavable cups of soup, stew or ravioli, a granola bar, crackers and a flyer explaining where the food had come from — and delivered them to the hospital’s pediatric ward. Both nurses and parents responded positively. “I felt so proud to be helping somebody, knowing that some families would be comforted by other parents who have been there,” said Janet.
Contra Costa Times
April 19, 2004
Joan Morris, Times Staff Writer
MONDAY PROFILE: JANET FRAZIER
Janet Frazier fills care packages with no-thought-required snacks for parents tending to a child in the hospital, who often spend the first hours of a crisis thinking about anything but eating.
For Janet Frazier, the pain only a parent could sustain has become the comfort only a parent could offer.
Frazier, who lives down a quiet country lane in Oakley, has for the past few months been preparing care packages of food that she delivers twice a month to the Pediatrics Unit at Kaiser Medical Center in Walnut Creek.
It is a gift to others from parents who know the torment of loss and worry for their children. It is a way to keep her daughter’s memory alive and to turn a tragedy into a series of kind acts.
Just before Christmas 2001, Janet and Jim Frazier’s world shattered into a million pieces with a single phone call. Their daughters, 20-year-old Stephanie and 17-year-old Lindsey, had been in a car accident outside Pollock Pines. Their girls, along with Stephanie’s boyfriend and another friend, had left that morning for a day of snowboarding.
Frazier had been in the midst of a mundane Saturday when the call came. She’d gone shopping that morning and was preparing to tackle the bathroom, rubber gloves on and Comet in hand. Jim Frazier was just down the road, painting the apartment where Stephanie was planning to live.
They rushed from their Oakley home, frantic with worry, anxious for news. Lindsey was in X-ray at a Roseville hospital, the caller had told them. But what about Stephanie? The caller hadn’t known.
The drive north was agonizingly slow. The nurse who had promised to call with an update didn’t. While her husband drove, Frazier called the California Highway Patrol and got a list of hospitals where the injured had been taken. The accident had been a bad one. Stephanie and Lindsey’s car had been struck by another vehicle. There had been eight people in the two cars.
The cell phone Frazier clutched was the only connection she had with her and her daughters. And when it finally rang, it brought the news that Lindsey was in bad shape. Although the Fraziers were only minutes from the hospital, the surgeon said Lindsey couldn’t wait for them to get there. Her liver had been lacerated, her back and ribs broken and there was concern about damage to her pancreas.
The doctor told Frazier he was rushing her into surgery. “She wants her mom,” he told Frazier.
“It seemed like the car was going in reverse,” Frazier says. “We couldn’t get there fast enough.”
And still, no word about Stephanie. The CHP officer said he would meet them at the hospital to “sort it out.” When they finally got there, they were led into a private room. Frazier still remembers in vivid detail the man who walked into the room. He was wearing a blue Polo shirt and wearing a name badge that read “chaplain.”
He handed them a vial that contained Lindsey’s necklaces. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said.
Frazier stared at the vial, not understanding. Just minutes ago they were told Lindsey was going into surgery. What had happened? The man left and a few moments later another set of grim-faced people arrived — a social worker, another chaplain and two doctors.
Lindsey was indeed in surgery. She had survived.
Stephanie had not. She had died instantly in the crash.
What was Frazier supposed to do now? She was torn between overwhelming grief for Stephanie and guarded relief for Lindsey. How could she mourn one daughter and still stay positive and supportive for the other?
The hours and days that followed are hazy. Frazier remembers standing beside Lindsey’s bed and telling her that Stephanie was dead. Lindsey cried and begged the nurse to put her back to sleep, to escape her pain if only for a while.
It was a long night for the entire family, now smaller by one. Sometime in the cold darkness, Frazier had risen from her chair to check on Lindsey and had nearly fainted. A nurse asked when she had last eaten. Frazier couldn’t remember having eaten that morning, and certainly nothing since the news. All she had in her stomach was grief, sorrow and worry.
The hospital cafeteria was closed, but a nurse shared her sandwich with Frazier, who now remembers nothing of how it tasted but passionately recalls the gesture.
Much later, with the excruciating pain now muted but still there, Frazier remembers those days with an objectivity that comes only with time.
“There was a physical pain, like a hole in my heart,” Frazier says. “The pain isn’t as great as it was, but the hole is still there.”
When your child is injured or dead, Frazier says, you can’t see beyond the agony and worry, not even to provide for your basic needs. You become lost in a series of disconnected moments.
It was the support of friends, family and strangers who helped Janet, Jim and Lindsey make it through each day.
Stephanie’s friends rallied around the family. The Frazier family also decided to celebrate the milestones of Stephanie’s life. Diablo Valley College awarded her an honorary degree — she had almost completed her work there before she died. Holidays include a visit to Stephanie’s grave. At Easter, Frazier takes purple Peeps and a stuffed animal. Decorations go up at Christmas. Her birthdays include a gathering at the grave for cake, then home for Chinese.
Slowly, Lindsey recovered. More slowly, so did the rest of her family. But there was more to do, Frazier says. Stephanie was the type to help others. Just because she was gone didn’t mean that Frazier couldn’t do it for her.
Frazier thinks often of those first nightmarish hours and, inevitably, she recalls the nurse who shared her sandwich. It was such a small thing but so meaningful. Frazier wanted to do that for other parents.
The Fraziers use their own money to buy no-thought-required snacks, which Frazier divvies into smaller bags and takes to Kaiser Medical Center in Walnut Creek. Every two weeks, she brings in an armload.
The purple bags — Stephanie’s favorite color — contain snack crackers, instant-soup cups, microwave pasta and stews, granola bars, fruit cups. Frazier takes them to the pediatric ward, and the nurses dole them out to those who need them.
For some, hospital officials say, it’s the only food they’ll get in those first hours of a crisis. The larger bags have enough to get a small family through until they can think more clearly. The smaller bags are enough for those late-night vigils at their child’s bedside.
“The Frazier family is providing a great service to families in need,” said Jim Mitchell, manager of inpatient pediatrics at Kaiser Walnut Creek. “It’s inspiring how they’ve handled their loss by reaching out and helping others to keep their daughter’s memory alive. Their work has made a difference to a lot of families dealing with the stress of a sick child.”
Frazier dreams of expanding the program to other Kaiser hospitals, then other hospitals in the East Bay. Then California, maybe even the whole country.
“When you go through something like this,” Frazier says, “it makes you regroup. Life’s too short. There’s a lot we can do to help somebody else.”
Joan Morris is a features writer. Contact her at 925-977-8479 or email@example.com.
Name: Janet Frazier
Employment: Chevron, team leader, commercial credit card division
East Bay connection: Native of Concord
Hobbies: Counted cross-stitch
Favorite memory: A friend gave Janet and Jim Frazier a hibiscus tree in memory of Stephanie. Although Jim watered it faithfully and fussed over it, it showed no sign of blooming. Then on Easter, the family returned home from visiting Stephanie’s grave and found a single, brilliant red bloom on the tree — a gift, they believe, from their daughter.
Stephanie Marie Frazier Memorial Fund
Bank of the West
2195 Main Street, Suite D
Oakley, CA 94561