OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – You may not know her name or see her work, but for decades, an Alameda County nurse has been making a difference by recognizing a need and doing what she could to fill it. This week’s Jefferson Award winner has spent her career and her retirement bringing health care and more to those most in need.

There’s often a line at the Society of St. Vincent De Paul of Alameda County on the third Wednesday of every month, the day of the free foot clinic. It’s one of those needs that could easily be overlooked unless you know the community.

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“A lot of these people are homeless or in shelters, they don’t have clean socks, they don’t have decent shoes,” Janet Waring explained.

Waring started the clinic five years ago. She’s been working at the charity since the 1970s, when she was a public health nurse for Alameda County. The experience opened her eyes.

“I saw so many clients who had very little that I really felt that we could bring something to them,” she remembered.

And she’s done just that for decades. For 56 years, Waring has been practicing nursing in Northern California. More than half of that time, she’s been tending to the poor and homeless of Alameda County.

When she saw how vulnerable families in shelters are to disease, she launched a free flu shot program that’s been a success for more than 20 years. When clients weren’t getting basic health care, she started a monthly medical clinic. That’s when a doctor gave her the next idea.

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“He said to me, ‘Half of our patients, Janet, don’t have adequate shoes.’ I said, ‘Oh, let’s see where we can get them!” Waring reported.

So she started collecting shoes from friends and calling upon retailers to step up.

Burt Sebilia is a shoe donor, and nursing director at the Order of Malta Oakland Clinic.

“She volunteers here a couple of times a month,” Sebilia said. “She’s wonderful with the patients.”

“They need some support and they need to know somebody cares,” Waring added.

So for providing decades of medical support and creating programs for the underserved of Alameda County, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Janet Waring.

Note: The St. Vincent de Paul dining room really needs volunteers, especially for the upcoming holidays. If you can help, call volunteer coordinator Rosa at 510-877-9252.

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