A group of Arizona State University nursing students participated in a foot-care clinic for homeless people in Tempe on Thursday, gathering at Community Christian Church, just south of the campus, and setting up stations where they could wash, dry and tend to the feet of their clients, who were lined up by 7 a.m.
“This is part of the community aspect of nursing — outreach for the vulnerable populations,” according to Mara Scaramella, a clinical instructor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU.
The 14 ASU seniors all are in a community health class and have spent the semester working with people at Central Arizona Shelter Services; U.S. VETS, which provides services for veterans; and the Collaboratory on Central, a complex for poor, elderly and disabled people in downtown Phoenix. The foot-care clinic coincided with Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in an act of humility.
“A lot of times the homeless are faceless, the people on the corner. But they’re just like, us and they have hopes and dreams and needs,” Scaramella said.
Foot care is important for homeless people because they walk so much.
“Many times their feet are damaged from wearing the wrong-sized shoes, not changing their socks or walking around with wet shoes, and we find it important on this symbolic day to take care of their feet,” Scaramella said.
ASU nursing student Samantha Amundsen said her training prepared her for this kind of outreach.
“Everything we do is learning how to connect with patients from all demographics and all walks of life. It’s rewarding for us because we get to connect with people we don’t usually get to connect with and learn about their stories while we’re seeing them,” she said.
After washing, the future nurses trimmed toenails, filed away callouses and dabbed ointment on sores.
Sue Ringler started the program several years ago when she was the instructor for the community health course at ASU. She also is a pastor and noted that many churches — and even the pope — perform symbolic foot washings on Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, which commemorates the Last Supper.
“I thought we should be washing feet that needed to be washed, not just symbolically,” said Ringler, who is pastor of Guardian Angels Catholic Community, which meets at Community Christian Church. The two congregations do service projects together.
“So it became a tradition to do this in a very real way. I still have students who contact me and tell me this was their favorite experience — having an opportunity to sit with folks and chat with them about their life.
“This kind of care is very intimate, but it gets them ready for that intimacy they’re going to have during their career.”
The church members and sporting-goods retailer REI donated nearly 150 pairs of shoes and 500 pairs of socks. After the foot care, every client got new shoes and socks and then had a hot breakfast.
Ringler said she sends fliers about the clinic to groups that work with homeless people. That’s how James Haller found out about it.
“My mom told me I needed to get my feet taken care of,” said Haller, who injured his foot several years ago. “With the steel plate in my foot, I have to make sure they’re comfortable.”
Nursing student David Vargas dried Haller’s toes, dabbed on some ointment and gently eased a new pair of black compression socks onto his feet.
“It feels awesome — relief,” said Haller. “Everything is a blessing that everyone does for us.”
“It’s a blessing for us also, James,” Vargas said.
Top photo: ASU nursing student Alexandra Melikian massages and applies lotion to the blistered feet of Aaron Wauneka, from Sawmill, Arizona, as she and other students volunteered their services at a foot-care clinic at Community Christian Church in Tempe on Thursday. Wauneka pushes his grandfather 18 miles each day in his wheelchair. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now