A life's ministry Featured

8:48am EDT December 3, 2001
Sometimes healing means more than mending a bone or curing a disease. Sometimes it can be changing a life or offering a glimpse of hope for the future.

No one knows that more than the employees and staff of St. John West Shore Hospital, a 2001 Pillar Award for Community Service winner.

Community can be a place or a feeling. At St. John's, it is a ministry.

"It's always been a part of the history of this hospital and its traditions ... our duty to provide benefit and support to the community," says Fred DeGrandis, president of the Westlake institution.

DeGrandis says his role is not that of a motivator or organizer, but of a facilitator.

"Health care workers come into this profession and ministry because they want to give of themselves," he says. "We, as leaders of the hospital, have an obligation to provide them methods, ways, give them some ideas and listen to ideas they have on how we can help the community in effective ways."

St. John employees have been creative in the development of outreach programs. To help the thousands of people unable to afford health care, the hospital this year created Partners in Ministry, which assists low-income, uninsured people in getting medical care through North Coast Health Ministry and the Lorain County Free Clinic. Hospital employees donate their time and expertise, and St John donates $20 for every hour each employee works.

St. John also participates in Harvest for Hunger and this year raised more than $10,000 through donations, raffles and a fish fry. For its efforts, Harvest for Hunger recognized the hospital as a silver award winner.

DeGrandis sees the hospital's mission as more than meeting people's basic needs. To support that mission, each year 200 artists and more than 55,000 visitors converge on the hospital grounds for an arts festival. Proceeds support programs offered through the hospital's Community Outreach and Wellness Ministry programs.

St. John also uses the festival setting to offer health screenings to those who might not seek medical attention elsewhere; last year, approximately 2,000 people took advantage of the service and those attending donated 6,300 pounds of food.

Many of the programs provided by St. John are new, while several are carryovers from before the merger of St. John and Bay View Hospital.

"The programs that you see are the thoughts of employees, the efforts of leaders, but it's the giving spirit of the folks that live here that make them alive and make them of value to the community," he says.

Community service is an important part of what St. John is and DeGrandis is not shy about accepting the Pillar Award for the hospital. He says its programs will be enhanced by virtue of the recognition and will spread the spirit of giving.

"I think when you put the spotlight on folks that are doing good works, other people want to get near it," he says. "Every one of these programs has the fingerprints and hard work of people dedicated to doing good works. It's beyond the walls of the hospital where I believe the real healing takes place." How to reach: St. John West Shore Hospital, (440) 835-8000

Deborah Garofalo (dgarofalo@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.