Visiting Nurse Association makes impact on Omaha community

Posted at 8:27 AM, Apr 07, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The United Way's Day of Action kicks off Thursday.

The United Way of the Midlands has 80 partners you can support. One of their longest partnerships is with the Visiting Nurse Association.

3 News New Anchor Serese Cole has a look at how the VNA is making an impact in our community one patient at a time.

The kitchen is a special place for Robert Wilson.

"I love to make people happy with food and so being able to do this, it's my happy zone," Wilson said.

It's been a long road.

"I've been struggling with addiction since I was a young teen. Drugs and alcohol," Wilson shared.

His addiction almost took his life.

"At the age of 45, it had taken everything from me. Brought me onto my knees and it was either live or die and I made the decision to die. But divine intervention got me off the floor and I went to treatment," Wilson said.

A detox center recommended the Stephen Center for help.

"They said it's an emergency homeless shelter and the realization of what I had done to my life and myself hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm like, I've got to go to an emergency homeless shelter?" he admitted.

But the Stephen Center is where his life began to change for the better beginning with his first encounter with visiting nurse Lesa Edmundson.

Lesa is just one of the visiting nurses who serves every homeless and domestic violence shelter in the Metro.

"People coming into shelters are coming in with a lot of stress and anxiety, not knowing where they are going to sleep or where they are going to eat. Health care is always on the back burner. People aren't taking care of themselves," Edmundson explained.

She gets their health back on track as a first step.

"So we'll sit down with somebody and help them identify what their health care needs are," Edmundson added.

"I was embarrassed to tell her that I hadn't been taking care of myself and that embarrassment went away quickly as soon as she started talking to me. I could just tell that she really cared," recalled Wilson.

Lesa discovered once people feel better...

"They can get their self-esteem back. They can go get a job, get employment, get their own place," Edmundson stated.

That's what Robert did.

"Robert had a passion. Robert had a goal and Robert had a culinary skill as a gift. So from the very beginning, he was volunteering in the kitchen, chopping food and making meals just as he was living here," Edmundson remembered. "He continued to grow and get his own place and get employment and it's come full circle where he's back at the Stephen Center as the Food Service Director.

Ten years later, Robert is serving up food and every now and then a little advice for others who are seeking help.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help," Wilson advised.

"It's amazing to give back what was so freely given to me. Everyday I come to work and I see myself on the other side of the line and it keeps me in check on how I treat people," Wilson added.

For Robert, having someone who cares...

"Lesa is really good at checking on people. Are you doing that? Are you doing this? Did you make that appointment? So over the 10 years, we've become close friends and now I take care of her and I serve her. When she's on a diet, I make sure her salad has grilled chicken on it," Wilson said.

and doing what he loves is the perfect recipe for success.

"My life is amazing today," Wilson said with a smile.

The VNA said the pandemic has tremendously impacted visiting nurses and their clients. Their clients were some of the first people to lose resources including jobs and health insurance, which means lost access to health care. The visiting nurses have been filling the gap.

They also perform COVID-19 testing and immunizations while continuing their work at the shelters. The VNA solely relies on the generosity of the community.

If you'd like to donate on the Day of Action, go to this website.

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