Scrubs donated for church mission to the Dominican Republic

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Thanks to donations from Excela hospital employees in Westmoreland County, about 30 members of the Pennsville Baptist Church in neighboring Fayette County will have lots of scrubs for their medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic in July.

Lisa and Tod Kriss, who both work at Excela hospitals, collected about 700 pairs of scrubs at the system's three hospitals in March.

"The hospital was changing over to new, different-colored scrubs for different departments," said Lisa Kriss, 53, who is a pharmacist at Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg. "Some nurses were going to donate their old scrubs to the Goodwill, when someone said I should collect them for our trip."

She discussed the idea with hospital officials and they set out boxes during March in the cafeterias of Frick Hospital in Mount Pleasant Borough and Latrobe and Westmoreland hospitals.

Employees donated bags upon bags of scrubs because most hospital workers own at least five pairs, or enough for the average work week.

"We'll take five sets for each of us on the medical team for the week we will be there," Mrs. Kriss said, "so we'll take about 150 sets to the Dominican Republic."

Lisa's husband, Tod, 53, is a respiratory therapist at Frick and is taking part in the mission trip, too.

A total of 43 people from the Fayette church are going on the weeklong mission to help deliver health care and drugs to Dominican Republic families living in rural villages. The group will divide into medical teams and a construction crew. Several will conduct a children's ministry.

The scrubs will serve to identify the medical volunteers who will leave the clothing in their host country for those who need it.

About 500 more pairs of the scrubs collected were donated to the Greensburg YWCA Thrift Shop as well. Most will be used by the Pa. Workwear program for Westmoreland County residents who need clothes for a new job.

Robin Jennings, a spokeswoman for Excela, said the scrubs project was a win-win for all involved.

"It's a source of pride for us that when we identify a need in the community, our employees have a great response," she said.

The three Excela hospitals have 1,200 nurses, or about a quarter of their workforce. Lab workers and cafeteria workers wear the scrubs as well.

Ms. Jennings said the new department scrubs, to be chosen by each department, will better identify various employees and help patients and visitors recognize them.

She said Nancy Anderson, a hospital auxiliary member, alerted the hospital to the Pa. Workwear program at the thrift store at about the same time Lisa Kriss mentioned her church's medical mission trip.

So the donations went to two good causes, Ms. Jennings said.

Mrs. Kriss said the mission group will be in Juan Dolio, which is close to the capital of Santo Domingo, from July 14 to 21.

"It's very poor, and there are no doctors or hospitals," she said. "We'll distribute drugs and treat people for minor injuries, like burns or ear and eye infections. We've been told we will see about 150 patients a day."

Mrs. Kriss deals with drugs daily as a pharmacist and she will use her skills to dispense them on the mission trip.

The church is coordinating its trip with SCORE International. The group is based in Tennessee and organizes short-term mission trips.

Mrs. Kriss is trying to learn a little Spanish, enough at least so she knows how to write, "Take one tablet daily" on a pill container. She said their group will have translators, but they may not always be with them.

The church's youth pastor, the Rev. Aaron Wylie, will be on the mission. Mrs. Kriss' brother, Richard Conn, of the Fayette County town of Dawson, will be the doctor on the trip. He is a general practitioner, so he has experience with a variety of illnesses.

"This year is a family mission," she said. "Rick is taking his family, and we have one grandfather and a grandchild going.

Mission trips are part of the church's ministry.

"This is our church's first medical mission, but some members went to Haiti after the earthquake," Mrs. Kriss said. "Every year, we do some mission work in this country, but we do an international mission every three years."

Each person on the mission trip had to raise $1,700 to pay his or her air fare, hotel cost and food.

This will be the first international trip for Lisa and Tod Kriss, although their children, 24 and 21, have gone to the region on previous trips.

The couple is busy getting passports, shots and malaria pills. But they are very excited about the experience.

"My son went to the Dominican Republic on a trip with the church, and he said, 'You'll never look at things the same again,' " Mrs. Kriss said.

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Debra Duncan, freelance writer: First Published May 31, 2012 5:15 AM


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