- November 15, 2006
- Deletrice Cherry-Speller, a Sentara Environmental Services employee, contributed some money to the HOPE fund at work, but little did she think she would one day need it.
When her 14-year-old daughter Tamika was struck and gravely injured by a car, Deletrice turned to the HOPE fund for assistance with her mortgage and other expenses while she stayed at her daughters bedside at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville, where she is still recovering from brain injuries.
"This was a blessing for me and my family," Cherry-Speller says. "When I get back to work, I'll be donating every month."
H.O.P.E. is an acronym for Helping Overcome Personal Emergencies. The fund was established by the Sentara Health Foundation
when Sentara employees started collecting money informally to help fellow workers in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
"We wanted to organize the process for employees to help one another," says Foundation director Gina Pitrone. "We'd been thinking about the concept, but Hurricane Isabel made us move on it."
Upon hearing the concept from Pitrone, Sentara CEO David Bernd wrote the first check on the spot. Since then, the program has helped more than 150 employees with $93,000 in assistance and more than 1,400 Sentara employees have contributed directly or through payroll deduction.
Program outgrew internal process, now offers other resources
Foundation staff members soon realized they had neither the time nor expertise to review all the requests for help coming to the HOPE fund. About six months ago, the Foundation contracted with The Planning Council in Norfolk, an agency focused on helping people find assistance through government programs and private agencies.
"The Planning Council really added value to the process," says Gina Pitrone. "Not only do they review our HOPE Fund requests, but they can also refer recipients to other resources such as Energy Share, the H-2-Ol water assistance program, their Homelessness Prevention Project and even Sentaras own Employee Assistance Program. They can help recipients get beyond the here-and-now, " Pitrone concludes.
During open enrollment in November, all of Sentaras 17,000 employees are being urged to become HOPE Fund donors.
"This is a way for our employees help one another in a concrete way," says Gina Pitrone. "They know where their money is going, it helps someone right here at home and it allows the recipients to remain anonymous. We think it sets Sentara apart as a progressive employer."
Said one grateful recipient of the HOPE Fund, this is what makes people feel like a family on the job.
Sentara Healthcare, a premier not-for-profit health care provider in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, is comprised of more than 87 sites of care including 7 acute care hospitals, 2 outpatient care campuses, 7 nursing centers, 3 assisted living centers, and 43 primary care practices.
Sentara also offers Optima Health, the award-winning family of health plans, home health and hospice services, physical therapy and rehabilitation services, mobile diagnostic vans, and ground and air medical transport services, including Nightingale-the Hampton Roads region's first air ambulance service. 58/2006