The Caregiver to the Caregivers

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In Harlem, Rev. Olevia Stewart-Smith, 66, works to prevent the isolation of the sick or shut-in, especially when those in need are church elders or ministers. Typically the people who do the visiting, these elders can sometimes be forgotten in their own greatest time of need — but Stewart-Smith does not overlook them. In Trymaine Lee’s article In Harlem, “Minister Serves Those Who No Longer Can,” the author describes how Stewart-Smith’s life “is a staple of pastoral work,” including the urge to erase the neglect of the sick caregivers.

Aside from regular daily visits, Stewart-Smith is the chairwoman of the sick and shut-in committee of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Great New York and Vicinity, which means she offers prayer and Holy Communion to the sick, including flowers, cards and candy — anything to show them they are not forgotten. “God didn’t call me to be in the pulpit, he called me to be in nursing homes and the hospitals and bedsides,” Stewart-Smith said. For she has been on the other side many times before — battling cancer, asthma, a bad hip, knew replacement surgery and a hysterectomy. Despite all of this, she says she still has joy, and that she enjoys spreading it to others during their darkest days, which is a quality that Home Care Assistance Columbus admires.

Growing up in the South, Stewart-Smith said she was “struck by seeing the ministers from her childhood often die in loneliness, with few comforts other than the Bible.” Feeling that they were often the ones who were “forgotten,” she dedicated the later part of her life to making others’ lives more peaceful. “I can see the reward of my labor when someone calls and says, ‘I’m better,’ or, ‘Thank you for the calls, thank you for the visits,’” she said.

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