A foundation of commitment to the people of Northwest Indiana and beyond

2012-12-12T00:00:00Z A foundation of commitment to the people of Northwest Indiana and beyond nwitimes.com
December 12, 2012 12:00 am

Since 1875, when the first group of Catholic sisters arrived here in the Midwest to found a hospital in the tradition and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi, the foundation was set for the Franciscan Alliance of caring for those in need in the region. Gene Diamond, CEO of Franciscan Alliance, says that this tradition is at the core of every hospital and home in their system. “Remember that our inspiration is St. Francis of Assisi who completely committed himself to the service of Christ’s ministry on earth. He was known as someone who gave everything to people who needed it. Our sisters have an identical philosophy and so we have for more than 135 years sought out and served the neediest of the needy. We take all comers and our work is consistent with that ministry and philosophy. It’s something we take special pride in manifesting to the folks in the community,” says Diamond.

To help meet those goals, Franciscan Alliance has a budget devoted to just this type of outreach and in 2011 alone, quantifiable community benefits totaled $453,963,769, 20.2% of the organization expenses. Diamond explains, “We have what we call a social accountability budget. Consistent with our mission, we have a commitment to those we serve. This budget records a number of different things. It’s an expense budget that shows what we spend to meet the needs of the community. There is a shortfall in what we get for taking care of government-covered patients, those on Medicare and Medicaid, and that’s part of the social accountability budget. But we also provide education to medical students, fellows, and interns and there’s a cost to that from the budget. And there are the neediest of the needy who have no means of support and we record that as well. Then there is the outreach where we go out in the community to provide screenings and seminars and instruction, and that’s there as well. There are also those things our employees do, participating in walks and charitable endeavors, and at Christmas time our folks organize themselves into units and departments and they raise money to buy gifts for the needy. So there is a whole panoply of things we do, and we do put a dollar amount on it, but some we don’t because it defies putting a dollar sign on it—legitimate charity work we don’t want to minimize.”

One of the ways Franciscan Alliance is able to reach out to meet the needs of those in the region is through the St. Monica Home, which has recently undergone an expansion. The expansion will allow a new parenting program to be offered at St. Monica Home, located on the Dyer campus. The program is an extension of the services offered by St. Monica, which, since 1994, has offered a medically sound and emotionally healthy residential environment for women aged 12 to 21 who are awaiting the birth of their children. Residents, whose average length of stay is nine months, learn positive relationships and parenting skills under the guidance of experienced and encouraging resident advisers.

Liz Guzman-Arredondo, manager and social worker at St. Monica Home, explains the importance of their work. “We serve pregnant teenagers and just expanded our program to serve parenting teenagers, who, after the newness of their baby has worn off, find themselves in a bind so it is hard to pursue their education or job goals. We received a $500,000 grant from the sisters and built another home from the ground up. We service pregnant teens in one home and the new expansion opened on the November 14th. We don’t have residents yet but they will begin moving in soon, within weeks. The sisters really put their money where their mouth is, providing a resource for our region and community. It is mission work and it is not something that is taken lightly. Services are available to girls of any denomination and the babies don’t even have to be born at our hospital. We look at the need for child development, parenting, education, and we look at including the dads. This is a very neutral place, we’re not going to criticize or ostracize and a baby needs both parents. As long as the parent is not abusive we want them involved so we give the young parents the resources to get a leg up—job skills, nutrition, transportation, emotional wellbeing, medical needs, all of those elements. They don’t stay here forever so we need them to be resources for themselves so when they transition they can be the best parent they can be. Here we have sisters who care who are willing to serve these girls. Everybody deserves a safe home, a safe environment that is clean and nurturing and the resources the sisters provide allow our girls to experience that. Every year they give us a budget to run the home,” says Guzman-Arredondo.

This dedication to girls in need and young families takes place every day, year after year, without notice. Guzman-Arredondo says, “It’s mission work. It’s quiet work, and those people who need to know about us do. I’ve been here for 14 years now and we just don’t advertise or solicit funds for our home and that’s the beauty of it. We work day in and day out with these children and we don’t have to rely on others to fulfill our mission. It’s a beautiful piece. These are private dollars that are working to service the really needy ones.

Another crucial way the Franciscan Alliance is able to assist the neediest in our region is through the St. Clare Health Clinic. Julie Mallers, manager and nurse practitioner at St. Clare Health Clinic, says, “We are a primary health care service for individuals with no insurance at poverty levels. We are a nurse practitioner-based clinic that focuses on prevention and health promotion. We have other services including two licensed social workers that provide counseling and we do comprehensive physicals. The majority of our operations are funded through Franciscan Alliance and they offer some limited laboratory testing through their hospitals so we are able to do all screenings for our patients. We work with grant funders such as HOPE which is a group for breast cancer awareness and we do mammograms and pap smears. We also have a food pantry that we use to service individuals. We have a medication assistance program and help patients get their medications through pharmaceutical companies, like inhalers for COPD and insulin for diabetics. We partner with Good Samaritan to offer counseling for individuals because most of our patients are going through some financial or lifestyle change, like loss of a job or family member that puts them in the situation to seek assistance. We are currently working on an educational program for patients to focus on smoking cessation, weight loss, and exercise. We serve about 550 patients a year and they are regular patients and our goal is find the best available funding for them, so we bridge opportunity for them.”



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Wings of Healing

The St. Catherine Hospital Annual Wings of Healing Program allows participants to honor loved ones during the holiday season. The ornaments on the Wings of Healing tree represent donations made to honor someone who fills your life with joy, or can honor the memory of someone who has passed from this earth, but remains in your heart this Christmas season. Personalized angel cards are sent to honorees or families to commemorate the event. For a $10 donation, individuals, businesses, and organizations can have an angel hung on the Wings of Healing Tree.

For a $25 donation, the donor also receives a beautiful angel ornament.

As the light catches your angel, it twinkles and shines as a beacon of hope for an area student. Your donation provides funding for the St. Catherine Hospital Auxiliary Scholarship Program for students in our community pursuing careers in healthcare.

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