Russell Medical employees now have the opportunity to obtain an extra burst of energy and a sweet treat with the opening of Mill House Coffee in the hospital’s lobby. In a late celebration of National Hospital Week — typically celebrated in May — Russell Medical provided a free drink of choice for all 600 employees Monday at the coffee shop’s grand opening.

“We’re just excited,” Russell Medical Foundation director and Mill House manager Tammy Jackson said. “We’ve already given away about 200 beverages (by 1:30 p.m.)”

Mill House will carry everything typical seen at specialty coffee shops and a variety of pastries will be baked in-house in the coming weeks.

“We wanted to have something the staff looks forward to,” Jackson said. “We wanted to give them something fun as everything is closing — to provide a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Three baristas are currently employed at Mill House including Tony Blanco who is helping train others due to his past experience in the coffee business.

During the training period, the coffee shop will be open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and eventually extend its hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We teased them for so long with a sign saying this was coming,” Jackson said. “We were originally ready to pull the trigger Feb. 1 then COVID-19 hit.”

The coffee comes from the craft coffee roasters Prevail Coffee out of Montgomery and Jackson said the excitement on the staff members’ faces is proof it was a needed amenity.

Russell Medical held a soft opening for some employees last week and the public is welcome to order as well but it will be curbside pickup for non-employees. An app will be set up in the coming weeks for convenience.

Russell Medical director of marketing Susan Foy said visitors are still not allowed inside the hospital due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is why curbside is the only option for the general public at this time. While all patient services have mostly opened up and increased traffic at the hospital, Foy said the No. 1 priority is to still maintain a safe environment.

“One visitor is allowed with surgery patients to be able to take them home and get discharge instructions,” Foy said. “But otherwise we are following (Gov. Kay Ivey’s) stay-at-home orders for hospitals still.”

Because Russell Medical cannot utilize volunteers at this time, the staff is running the Auxiliary Gift Shop, which will reopen with a new name and fresh inventory July 6.

“We’re bringing in local vendors and artists for new products and opportunities,” Jackson said. 

The auxiliary gift shop is hosting a 60% off sale next week and will reopen after the Fourth of July under hospital management.

“A lot of the staff works 7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.) and don’t get to shop downtown,” Jackson said. “The employees are (the gift shop’s) main revenue.”

Inventory will be from local downtown merchants including Thirty-Two Main, Downtown Girl, Cloud Nine and Half Moon Market & Interiors.

“We want to provide products for our employees and drive them to their downtown shops,” Jackson said. “Once the auxiliary is allowed back, they’ll take over running the gift shop again.”

Jackson and Foy both said staff has to be extremely flexible right now and wear many hats to keep things running, including the gift shop.

“We’re all chameleons each day,” Foy said.

Now the full staff is back to work, there will be activities and events throughout the week to honor Hospital Week.

Today is Corny Day and employees will vote on their favorite corny jokes submitted to the Russell Medical Facebook page. One lucky winner will be the Cream of the Crop and receive the golden ear of corn statue sitting atop a can of corn. There also will be an employee picnic, mask decorating contest and other entertainment to honor the medical professionals.

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.