It’s a quiet night at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, but people are moving.
The Friday night bustle includes employees and other members of the hospital community, walking through the corridors of the Franklin Avenue facility, following signs for “Sovereign Night Markets” in the basement.
You know you’re close when you hear the music thumping through the walls, spilling out from the underground auditorium where 20 vendors have set up shop, waiting for night nurses, doctors and the like to browse their wares of artisanal and organic treats.
Such markets are generally reserved for the early morning hours of weekends. But health care isn’t 9-to-5, and neither are the needs of those working those shifts.
That’s why Long Island Jewish’s parent — Northwell Health — enlisted the services of vendors from the Laurelton Farmers Market in Queens last year, as well as a group of fitness exercise specialists to provide food and stress-relief to those who almost certainly need it most. Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
But while the intensity of the pandemic has declined, its languishing effects on emotional, mental and physical health remain. And so events like the nighttime market, hospital officials say, help ensure those minding the physical and emotional health of patients are having their own cared for as well.
Held monthly between 5 and 10 p.m., through October, the nighttime market was designed to help provide something for those workers who aren’t up with the sunrise each day.
“The night shift workers, in any industry, aren’t looked at as much because the administration will be there during the day shift,” said Kevin McCombs, a supply chain manager for Northwell. “There are just as many important people working during the night shift, and they want something to feel encouraged about, too.”
And feeling encouraged appears to be an understatement. At the recent market, a number of them were seen holding bags of purchased items ranging from bakery treats, to jewelry, to homemade soap and hot sauce.
One booth, Sassy Sweet Vegan Treats, is run by mother and daughter duo, Celeste and Cheyenne Sassine, whose mission is to share the joy of top-notch vegan food.
“We’re very excited because, while we get to see a lot of people during the hospital’s day market,” Cheyenne said, “it’s good to show that we appreciate both of the people that work the day shift and the night shift, and not leave anyone out.”
Others see this as an opportunity to give back. Katrina Carter, owner of SandiKat Creations, started her homemade soap after losing several family members over the past couple years. She sought — and received — mental health help from Long Island Jewish, and remembers that treatment fondly.
“The nurses and doctors were very kind to me and sensitive to my situation,” Carter said. “They helped me get my mental health on the right track.”
The hospital’s farmers market was the idea of Lissa Nelson, an employee health manager at the hospital, introducing the daytime market last year. When night shift employees caught wind of what they were missing out on, the market was extended to include them, too.
“I think our voices are heard,” said Shalita Saywack, one of the hospital’s assistant managers. “Everyone just looks so happy right now, and I think they’re going to go back and tell the other night shift workers about this great experience they had.”
A few challenges had to be overcome to make the market possible, including finding a place to hold it. While the daytime market has found some great outdoor space — like the courtyard, patio and even the parking lot — the nighttime one had to find a spacious place inside the hospital.
That space was eventually Shankman Auditorium. The problem was, it’s in the hospital’s basement. Would people venture downstairs — likely out of their way — to patronize the vendors ready to show up?
Apparently yes. The first market quickly swept away any doubts and fears. And already, many are planning for their next trip to the Sovereign Night Markets on Aug. 26.
“I have never heard of a night farmers market,” said Andrea Mineo, a senior public relations specialist for Northwell Health. “This hospital has a lot of heart. It really is a family. This initiative is just another example of how this hospital takes care of their loved ones — their team members that work every day.”
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