A legacy of care

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Carol Jackson has served on The Floating Hospital’s board since 2019, but her personal story with the organization is three generations old. The native New Yorker recalls as a child growing up in Harlem, annual trips to the historic ship for medical care and a day of recreation with other city kids.

“By the time I was five years old, I was getting my vaccinations on the boat,” she recalled. “It was a happy day for Mom because she got an opportunity take a ride on the Hudson River, my brothers and I were safe with the other kids, and she would have a chance to talk to other mothers.”

Ms. Jackson, 85, who serves as vice chairwoman on the board, likes to call her history with The Floating Hospital “from the highchair to vice chair.”

Many of the experiences she had on the ship have carried her through her lifetime. As a young mother, she brought her own children onboard for care, making it a truly multigenerational legacy. Ms. Jackson says being able to access comprehensive care—medical, eye exams, dental care and vaccinations—gave her a life-long point of view.

“I think that exposure as a young girl and having such a positive experience on the ship affected the way I look at healthcare,” she said. “Over the years I’ve always followed up with my own medical care because I always had people who cared about me and gave me a good experience.”

Even her recreation time on the boat had staying power. Back then she recalled playing jacks, Pickup Stix and board games with other children and says, “even today, I still love board games, and I think this stemmed from my exposure on the ship with other kids, and having a community, even for a day.”

“Carol Jackson’s story is one of many legacies that The Floating Hospital has influenced through its decades of care to New York City families, and one we are especially proud of, said The Floating Hospital President Sean Granahan.

Ms. Jackson is a not only a bit of living history, but also a living example of how wide a net The Floating Hospital casts over New York City. She recalls a recent conversation with a woman from Brooklyn who serves on another community board with her and discovering she, too, received care on the ship as a child. “We are about the same age, so we might’ve been on the ship at the same time—maybe we even played together, she mused.

This month, Ms. Jackson was on site at The Floating Hospital’s new clinic for a tour of the facilities now being outfitted for occupancy this spring. She had recently received her coronavirus vaccinations at The Floating Hospital and helped organize a group of 15 seniors from her community for their vaccine appointments.

Though she keeps fond memories of the ship, looking around at the new space, Ms. Jackson said, “To come into this clinic is exhilarating—this is airy, spacious—a wonderful feeling.

“I think I have the pulse of my community and I can tell you this is going to grow by leaps and bounds because people have been hungry for their own—and this is their own no matter where they come from.”

She put a hand on her heart and said, “I am so filled … I am filled because it’s full circle for me—from my childhood vaccinations that enabled me to go to school, and here I am at 85 years old I’ve come back for a vaccine and helping others who would fall through the cracks … it’s full circle.”

Since 1866, The Floating Hospital has been the largest provider of healthcare and education to families living with homelessness. Based in Long Island City, it provides comprehensive primary, dental and behavioral-health services, and health-education to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.

In 2021, The Floating Hospital moved into a new modern main clinic in Long Island City, and continue to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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