Connecting with communities Featured

9:50am EDT November 22, 2004
For The Cleveland Clinic Health System Western Region's hospitals, community service runs deeper than financial support and simple volunteerism. Fred DeGrandis, CEO of Lutheran, Lakewood and Fairview hospitals, helps integrate philanthropy into the hospitals' mission and connect its staff in a personal way with its surrounding communities.

DeGrandis says creating relationships with the people you serve helps you better understand their issues, move the community forward and become a stronger organization.

More than 150 members of the hospital's management team are board members or actively share their talents with local nonprofit organizations. One leads a local development corporation designed to advance the business interest and residents' needs around Fairview Hospital; another is chairman of the board of Hospice of the Western Reserve. Many managers sit on regional chambers of commerce.

"It's clearly the best investment that an organization can make -- to allow the time of its staff to be shared with others," says DeGrandis. "It's part of our culture, and our service multiplies many fold when we do it in that manner."

To stress the importance of community service, DeGrandis incorporates the value of it into evaluations and reviews.

"We talk about the shared mission of our organization and that of others, and we clearly make it an expectation of the responsibility of a leader," says DeGrandis.

Just as important as connecting with communities is the reciprocal value created by better understanding your clients and steering your service accordingly. So the hospitals' staff doesn't wait for the people to come to them; they go to the people. That philosophy was instrumental in forming The Parish Nurse Program, which puts nurses into more than 50 congregations and parishes to conduct health screening and counseling. The nurses also help people connect with other resources within the hospital and the community.

"It brings the ministry of the hospital and the ministry of a congregation together," DeGrandis says,

The hospitals also work closely with the North Coast Health Ministry, which provides care to those who don't have access to it due to their finances.

The Western Region's hospitals partner with other service organizations to lead or work on service opportunities, such as Senior Circle Plus, The EMS Academy, The Stephen Ministry Program, Laura's Home, the YMCA, United Way and the American Red Cross.

Says DeGrandis, "What we're sharing is our staff --the heart and soul of our organization."

How to reach: Lakewood Hospital, (216) 521-4200 or www.lakewoodhospital.org; Fairview Hospital, (216) 476-7000 or www.fairviewhospital.org; Lutheran Hospital, (216) 696-4300 or www.lutheranhospital.org