By Richard Stone
Nancy Hatcher is known to many of us for her seemingly innumerable involvements in peace and social justice activities. Sometimes it’s prison work, like gathering and assembling “goodie bags” for the 4,200 inmates at Central California Women’s State Prison, and befriending a Death Row inmate with letters and regular visits. Or serving as a Board Member for the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and an active participant in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF; especially its Raging Grannies), Peace Fresno, and the Universalist Unitarian Church of Fresno.
She has worked with programs for battered women, assisted with procuring supplies for the homeless encampments and created a “Pen Project” to gather pens and pencils for schools in low-income communities. She combines creativity, persistence and organizational skills with compassion, to truly make a difference.
But how many of us know that in her “day job” at Fresno Children’s Hospital, Hatcher is a highly regarded social worker in their Hemophilia Treatment Center? She is, in fact, so valued that at a recent conference of the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF), attended by 2,800 people, she was the recipient of the 2013 Jill Solomon Award for excellence in social work.
“This is a very prestigious award,” said Vinod Bolasa, the director of Children’s Hospital’s pediatric hematology/oncology department. “Nancy was selected from an elite group of social workers who care for hemophilia patients all across the United States. All who know Nancy know how deserving she is of this.”
As I talked with Nancy about her work, I learned a part of her history I was barely aware of. She has been at Children’s Hospital for 17 years now, promoting education and family-centered care, advocating for clients and for sensitivity to their rights and needs within the ethnic diversity and immigrant cultures of Fresno. She has served on the NHF Western States Region Coordinating Committee and has become a spokesperson for the NHF Ethics Advisory Committee, making presentations at NHF meetings in several regions of the country. In short, she is as committed and effective in her (to us) nearly invisible professional work as in the community work we know.
Which leads me to speculate that on the job her colleagues are probably equally unaware of Hatcher’s community work and passion for social justice. So it is that few of us see the whole picture, a life that to me seems almost too full to contemplate—especially when you add in having raised a family, rooting madly for the Boston Red Sox and dancing with the Polynesia Club of Fresno (that’s hula, y’all.)
But then I recall a story Hatcher told me—retrospectively a good adventure, but at the time, a terrifying incident. She had gathered up (in typical Hatcher manner) thousands of dollars’ worth of medical supplies to take to a Cambodian hospital as an aside while traveling to a construction project there with Habitat for Humanity.
At Cambodian customs, she was detained as a possible drug smuggler—what else were all those syringes for? A moment fraught with danger was miraculously defused by a connection (facilitated by a Susan G. Komen pin Hatcher was wearing) with the one woman officer, a breast cancer survivor it turned out, who enabled a safe passage. But this seems perhaps not so much a miracle as of a piece with Hatcher’s life, filled as it has been with both difficulty and wonder and certainly deserving of the special recognition she just received.
Richard Stone is on the boards of the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and the Community Alliance and author of the forthcoming book, Hidden in Plain Sight. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.