Richmond, VA – Crystal Holbrook-Gazoni has a passion for taking care of others. “My mom always said, even as a kid, I would be taking care of my baby dolls and patching them up,” she says, laughing.
As a teen, she volunteered as a candy striper in her hometown of Coeburn in Southwestern Virginia, and she later moved to Richmond to attend the Medical College of Virginia (now the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine). She graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and immediately began working in the neonatal intensive care unit at VCU, a job she held for a decade until her curiosity got the better of her.
“I was like, ‘I gotta see where [the babies] go after NICU life,’ and that’s how I found home health,” she says. Holbrook-Gazoni made the transition to pediatric home health care, looking after the medical needs of premature babies and other children with developmental delays. Today, she works for Thrive Skilled Pediatric Care, caring for children from birth to age 21, and also works part time as a school nurse at St. Christopher’s School.
In her home health work, Holbrook-Gazoni noticed that some of the families she visited needed food, clothing and toys, and she wanted to help. She began gathering donations from friends and family, who then told their friends and family, until suddenly she was collecting a steady stream of donations just through word of mouth.
“She gathers these things on almost a weekly basis and takes them to people who are in need,” says Holbrook-Gazoni’s husband, Paulo Gazoni, medical director at BetterMed Urgent Care. “She’s a giving person, and she gives without expecting anything in return.”
The economic situations for some of the families of children she cares for worsened as a result of the pandemic. Some families were displaced; unable to pay rent, they moved to hotels. Holbrook-Gazoni cares for children from multiple families living in the same hotel in Petersburg. She brings them donated items and even paid the hotel bill for one family that was facing eviction last year.