Lehigh Regional Medical Center has a full-time chaplain who is beginning his duties this week. He is Pastor Jason Phillips, 38, who for the past couple of years has operated the geriatrics mental health unit behind the hospital.
The mental health unit for seniors is an independent group. Phillips said the facility is where a lot of local senior citizens can come for help with emotional problems and other types of problems, such as drug and alcohol counseling.
He replaces Pastor Don Rock, 90, who retired as a part-time chaplain at the end of the year in December. He had been the hospital's chaplain for several years.
The position has become full-time and Phillips, who has pastored churches up north, says he actually was named chaplain after Rock's retirement.
"I saw Joanie Jeanette, the hospital's CEO and we were talking about Pastor Don Rock retiring from the hospital and I told her that I would be interested in the position. She was very receptive and said she thought I would be a good fit for the job and told me to start working today," he laughed.
Phillips says he has three tiers of goals as the new chaplain.
"First, I want to see every patient every day and pray with them, and their families," he said.
"Secondly, I as chaplain am here for the staff members of the hospital who may have problems and need help and counseling, and my third goal is to unify the local churches with the hospital. I am here to support them and their parishioners."
Phillips said LRMC is a wonderful hospital and a great group of talented people to work with.
"Joanie Jeanette has done so much for LRMC. She is respected and liked by everyone and she loves this community," Phillips said.
He has been the administrator of the mental health unit known as Inspirations for a couple of years.
He said he and his family used to vacation in Southwest Florida and had visited Lehigh and when they were here, he said they were always looking at homes.
Ironically, the way he found the counseling job in the mental health unit was on the Internet at Craig's List.
"I was on Craig's List to find a reptile for one of my sons for his birthday when I saw the ad for the position here," he said.
"That's where I didn't expect to find it, but it was there, and my family and I decided to give it a try," he said.
"The snow up north is one of the reasons to come to Southwest Florida," he admitted. But with his great faith in God, he said he knows is part of God's plan for his life.
He has been spending the last few weeks training Eleana Ailman who is the new director of the mental health unit.
"She's a good person and she will be doing a great job here," he said.
He also is a counselor in Fort Myers on a part-time basis.
Phillips is a family man and has coached football for his two sons, 8 and 11. His daughter is six. The family comes here from Illinois.
His hobby is collecting rocks and geology and has traveled the world to pursue his interests.
"I find this a great opportunity to become chaplain. I want to be of service to our patients and their families and to the people of Lehigh. I think this is an opportunity to reach out to people. I want to greet everyone in the hospital and ask them how they are today. The staff here, in the Emergency Room, the doctors and the nurses and the others are all great people.
"Lehigh Regional is a friendly hospital and a good place to be when you need medical attention.
"The opportunity to serve is a great thing," he said.