It was the worst month of Blake Marsh’s life.
But it was perhaps also the most important.
In the space of 30 days last year, COVID claimed the lives of her aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother.
“It was really difficult for me and my family,” he said. “But something changed in me after that.”
The 24-year-old Pawleys Island native, who had just graduated with a degree in healthcare administration, decided to follow a different path. Instead of working behind a desk in a hospital, he wanted to work on the front line, to give a “more practical level of care”, as he put it, to fight this horrible virus. So he went back to school, this time to become a nurse.
“I was like, ‘I want to help,'” the freshman at MUSC College of Nursing said. “Also, I thought my personal qualities could shine better as a nurse. It requires critical thinking and it’s fast. In nursing, you never know what to expect every day.
It probably didn’t hurt that he grew up in the shadow of a big sister who is an oncology nurse. Over the years he had heard all of her stories – uplifting and heartbreaking. And now he wanted to make some himself. In his mid-twenties, living alone and enrolling in a postgraduate program, Marsh knew things would be tough financially for much of his youth. So when he received an email from Professor Amy Smith, RN. aut., talking about a new resource that provided free supplies to nursing students in need, he didn’t hesitate to contact her.
The very next day, Smith met Marsh, and they gave him two pairs of scrubs, all the textbooks he would need for his freshman year, and a scientific calculator — all for free — thanks to a new College of Nursing program called the “Giving Closet”, a play from Shel Silverstein’s classic book, “The Giving Tree”.
“It’s actually just a cabinet in the student lounge,” Smith said with a laugh.
But for students like Marsh, it’s so much more.
“I’m coming out of nursing school in debt, so I’d like to minimize that as much as possible,” he said. “I feel really lucky that something like this exists.”
The idea came from Smith’s previous work, teaching in Peoria, Illinois. There, students and teachers donated old supplies to anyone who needed them. And it was a huge success. So when Smith pitched the idea here, it didn’t take long for the College of Nursing Student Government Association to take the idea and implement it.
For nearly three semesters, the SGA collected supplies — everything a nursing student might need: scrubs, books, stationery — and stored them until they had enough stock. Finally, this semester, they did.
“We have students who struggle with just getting their own textbooks,” Smith said. “So to be able to offer these things to people who need them is very rewarding.”
The cabinet is located in a place where any student walking around the living room can see it. So they know what’s available, and now that the ball is spinning, they know it’s OK to ask for things.
Smith said if someone asks for an item, they get it — no questions asked. Currently, the Giving Closet is limited to books, uniforms and lab supplies, but she said there are plans to open it up to other things, like diapers, groceries and gas cards – the kind of things young families might need at some point in life. when money is scarce.
She hopes this will inspire some of the other colleges to do the same.
“If you boil it down to its most basic form, it’s just students helping students,” she said.
Which means a lot to someone like Marsh, who says anything free is hard to come by these days.
“Old textbooks might not be worth much to other people, but they’re worth hundreds of dollars to me — and that’s huge,” he said. “Not to mention that I really like the idea of a second life for things.”
Marsh might as well describe himself.