Staff at The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital have been overwhelmed by the ongoing support the Hospital has received since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“The community has responded so generously and there has truly been an outpouring of support in many different ways,” says Suzanne Bone, CEO, The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital (FGGH).
Shortly after the pandemic began, the Foundation launched a new fund and has received just over half a million dollars in financial gifts specifically to help Guelph General Hospital respond to COVID-19.
This money helped the hospital to buy much-needed equipment, such as additional ventilators, stretchers and monitors, which were ordered very early on. It also allowed for the purchase of plexiglass screens to keep staff and visitors safe, and items to help maximize our supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The hospital has received support from organizations large and small, national companies to local ones right here in Guelph. That support has come in many forms: financial contributions, and contributions for staff including restaurant gift cards, insoles for those who are on their feet for hours, hand cream, and food donations.
“Another kind of support is the expressions of gratitude we’re receiving,” says Bone. “We launched the White Heart Project where people could send their words of gratitude to the hospital through an electronic form. We print them and post them around the hospital.”
Inspiring sidewalk chalk messages appeared. A rock garden sprung up spontaneously in front of the Emergency Department, filled with at least 200 beautiful hand-painted rocks. Signs have been posted throughout the community and drive bys organized to show support.
All hands on deck
The generosity was so great, in fact, that it required Foundation staff to pivot and take on new roles. Rob Cameron, who usually works with community members around financial gifts, began having conversations about other types of gifts – masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, food and more. More than 10,000 sewn masks, scrub caps and ear savers were provided by hundreds of community members and along with Cameron, FGGH’s Alex Madott and Jennifer Duggan started managing the donations. Creators needed to be thanked, the items tracked and made available for patients and staff.
“Like many other businesses and organizations, our staff had to get used to working from home, while dealing with the impact of the pandemic. For us, this was responding to the incredible generosity the hospital has received from so many members of our community,” says Elizabeth Stewart, Annual Giving, Marketing & Communications Manager.
She and Sarah Zinger manage the Foundation’s fundraising events, including the annual Tour de Guelph. This popular one-day ride is held in partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Guelph South and Guelph Trillium, and usually happens on the fourth Sunday every June. This will mark its seventh year.
“Instead of coming together as a big event in one day, we are asking people to ride or walk in the name of Tour de Guelph anytime between June 28 and July 26,” says Stewart. Participants still register online and set up a fundraising page. This shows how fundraising programs can be adapted to meet the needs of the hospital in a way that complies with the current need for physical distancing.
During their ride—or at the end—participants are encouraged to take a photo of themselves. GuelphToday will host an online event photo album, which is sponsored by Elinesky Schuett Private Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities.
Says Stewart, “It’s a great way for riders and walkers to come together virtually. We’re really hoping the photo album fills up with lots of photos. We’re already more than 60% of the way to our fundraising goal of $100,000, which is incredible.”
Donors have always supported patient needs at the hospital over the years, giving generously to campaigns. Every single piece of patient care equipment at Guelph General Hospital is funded by the community.
“We’ve always appreciated the generosity of our community, and we’ll continue to appreciate and need our community even when the pandemic passes,” says Stewart. “As the Hospital begins ramping back up, we’re reminded that there are other priorities that existed before the pandemic started. There are other projects that need to continue on.”
As an example, close to one million dollars is needed to fund new scopes to keep up with a range of testing and surgical procedures, from colonoscopy to gastroscopy. Funding through the community is the only way the hospital can purchase this kind of equipment.
“We recognize that this has been such a stressful time for all of us, no matter what age or stage of life somebody is at,” says Bone. “We’ve been grateful that during this time people have reached out so much to support the hospital and those who work here.”