Acronym stays the same; but HCHF mission differs

At the Thursday, Jan. 16 Town Board meeting, Chairman of the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation Board, Dr. Walter Clark, told commissioners about the Foundation’s work over its inaugural year, explaining how its new mission (and name) differed from its predecessor the H-C Hospital Foundation.

The HCHF was reconstituted from the assets of the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Foundation when Mission Health – a nonprofit – was sold to Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), a for-profit organization.

“When Mission Health sold the hospital to HCA last year, we had no alternative but to reorganize since we could not use our funds to support a for-profit hospital,” said Dr. Clark. “For more than 30 years, the H-C Hospital Foundation used its funds to keep the hospital open – at significant losses, I might add. Newly named, the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation is now a public charity and a supporter of health, wellness and education in the area.”

With $16 million in its coffers and with Mission’s first of three $5 million installments, as was intended, the HCHF awarded more than $2.5 million dollars to area nonprofits.

Last year, when the two-cycle grant process was opened to the six-county community, 107 organizations applied for grants. Of those, 53 were accepted with $2.5 million disbursed in Jackson, Macon, Swain, Clay, Cherokee and Graham counties with 70% of the funding going to efforts in Macon and Jackson counties.

“Grant money was allocated to nonprofits, government agencies and social deterrents of health which included education because education generally equals health,” said Clark.

About to embark on its third grant cycle, Clark explained that the criteria may seem broad but purposes for funding could possibly fit in HCHF’s mission.

“We can help nonprofits, government agencies, all sorts of things. Health and wellness includes social deterrents of health – if a person is better educated, that community is going to be healthier. So, school children who need visual boards, computers, laptops and things like that … that is something we can look at. Also, if the new fire station needs stuff since that would be considered critical to health, that could be a grant recipient,” he said. “We are looking at what kinds of projects will make the biggest impact.”

Clark said it is paramount to HCHF that the hospital stays open and stays open forever.
“One of our goals is to make sure that should the possibility of the hospital closing ever happen, there is a back-stop, which very well could be HCHF,” he said.

Should closing become a reality, as outlined in the Asset Purchase Agreement, the number one buyer would be the Dogwood Trust and the second potential buyer would be the HCHF.
Clark said principal assets in the Foundation currently stand at about 16 million.

“The money we initially had in the Foundation, we still have,” he said.

He said the HCHF goal is to build principal down the road and to both expend funds and raise funds.

“We want to build a war chest to protect the hospital and ensure our facilities can stay intact as much as possible,” he said.

Robin Tinsdale, CEO of the HCHF and previously with the HC Hospital Foundation said moving from a Hospital foundation whose mission was to solely support a hospital to a foundation that supports health and well-being across numerous communities has been quite a challenge but one that has so far been successful.

“We are in the process of developing a strategic plan with initiatives and focus areas as we formulate criteria for the next grant funding cycle,” she said. “We did cast a very wide net this first year. Going forward we want to consider what will make the greatest impact and we want to be able to measure that impact.”

Clark said he believes the third grant cycle will be in the spring, with specifics coming.

Commissioner John Dotson asked why the HCHF granted funding to organizations outside of Macon and Jackson counties, especially considering the name of the Foundation.

Clark said it’s true that criteria wasn’t outlined in the Asset Purchase Agreement, but though Attorney General Josh Stein didn’t mandate the Foundation support organizations outside Macon and Jackson counties, he implied it.

“But that may change this next time around,” he said.

During the first two grant cycles the HCHF gave Health and Healthcare $1,024,124 – with recipients falling into one of two categories: Access to Healthcare and Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Youth Initiatives got $847,022 – with recipients falling into two categories: Educational Improvement and Youth Development; Community Vitality got $513,000 – whose two categories were Poverty Reduction and Combatting Food Insecurity.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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