In Riddle Hospital's outpatient lab, Harriette Chandler is a phlebotomist who welcomes patients with her cheery attitude and gentle ways. In the city of Chester, Chandler is known as "Momma Nae" (short for Naomi, her middle name) who feeds and provides for people who are hungry and less fortunate. Chester officials recently honored her (at left) with a plaque inscribed: “In recognition of your dedicated service for the outreach in our community.”
Chandler learned the importance of giving aid to others from her mother. The 10th in a family of 11 children in South Media, Chandler was only 5 years old when her father died. Her mother, though strained to provide for her children, raised them all to share half of whatever they had with someone who was hungry or in need. Chandler’s mother would also cook and sell dinners to raise money for their church, and then give some of those meals to the homeless.
Soon after her marriage in 1982, Chandler also began feeding the community. She and her husband would pack their Jeep with prepared and pre-dished meals, drive to Sharon Hill and hand out food to anyone who needed it, head through Darby, to Chester, and back to Media.
After her husband died, she remarried and moved to Chester in 2012. One day, she saw two young boys, without coats or hats, struggling against the blistering cold wind, walking to school. One of them bent over, picked up something from the ground, and put it in his mouth. Realizing they were hungry and were eating anything they could find, she ran inside and grabbed two coats, hats and a hoagie to give them. In that defining moment, she realized she had to start feeding people again. Chandler made a visit to City Hall and brokered a deal allowing her to use the hall, no charge, to feed the people of Chester.
On average, Chandler now holds her events four times a year. She buys the food (with her own money), prepares the meals, and collects clothing and personal care items donated by local stores, churches and friends to hand out as well. The first nurse to help was a Riddle colleague, Cathy Warren, who over the years has done whatever is needed - setting tables, buying supplies and working the events. Chandler’s two daughters and her husband help transport food, set up the hall for dinner, cook and serve meals at every event. Local businesses in Chester have heard of her outreach and offered substantial donations to enable the continuance of her work. James and Joseph Leli, who own Italian Brothers Restaurant on 5th Street, have given her the keys to their place so she can use the kitchen to cook the meals.
This February, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Diversity, Respect and Inclusion Council of Riddle Hospital and Mirmont Treatment Center organized an employee Day of Service to support Chandler. There was an overwhelming response by staff to help cook food, buy supplies and provide donations of clothing, gloves and personal items.
Dawn Ceaser, co-facilitator of the Diversity, Respect and Inclusion Council, said, "The volunteers have shown an awesome level of compassion and dedication to support a fellow employee in her initiative…The reality is that we are part of an organization that is compelled to give back to serve our communities and meet the emotional, physical and psycho-social needs of our neighbors. Thank you, Harriette, for not only setting a good example of being a faithful servant, but also living it every day.”
Last weekend, Chandler distributed 200 Easter baskets and provided an Easter egg hunt for children living in impoverished neighborhoods in the Chester area with support from her Riddle colleagues.