A benefactor’s story
There might be some things that Europeans do better than Americans, but philanthropy isn’t one of them, according to Jean Souweine.
A native of Belgium, Souweine has been a generous supporter of Moore Regional Hospital and the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation for more than 20 years.
“The same spirit of giving really does not exist in Western Europe,” he says. “This is very American.” Souweine’s commitment to philanthropy stems from his strong belief in free enterprise.
“I have always thought that free enterprise allows you to pursue your dreams and to give it all you’ve got to achieve success,” he says.
“In my family, success has meant education, happiness and financial security. Then, once you have that, you need to give back to the community, because the community has supported you. I think that is a great American principle.”
Both Souweine and his late wife, Mary Jane, felt that education and health care were extremely important and deserved support.
“As a team,” he says, “she chose the education part of it and served on the board of Sandhills Community College, and I directed my enthusiasm toward the local hospital.”
Souweine’s philanthropic support has included significant contributions to the In Love and Service Campaign that raised funds to build the hospital’s Patient Tower, Cancer Center and new Emergency Department, and more recently to the Stepping Stones Campaign for construction of the FirstHealth Heart Institute, Hospitality House and Hospice House. He was a leader in organizing and supporting the Hospice Challenge in the late 1990s that increased the Hospice Foundation’s endowment from $2.5 million to $10 million.
In addition to his financial contributions, Souweine has provided volunteer leadership for the hospital by serving on several boards. He currently serves on the board of the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation, and he has chaired the Scroll Society, the Foundation’s most successful annual giving program.
“I think the Foundation does a remarkable job,” he says. “It really helps the hospital give the very best health care possible.”
Foundation leadership: Russell Bennett
Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and “I Love Lucy” was the most popular show on television when Russell Bennett was asked to join the board of Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham. The year was 1954, and the hospital had been open for only two years.
In the more than five decades since, Bennett has provided almost continuous leadership in the cause of quality health care for the communities served by Richmond Memorial and, more recently, by FirstHealth of the Carolinas. He chaired the Richmond Memorial board from 1957 to 1959 and helped guide it through some of its most challenging times.
Bennett’s service as a board member continued for more than 40 years. After Richmond Memorial became part of FirstHealth of the Carolinas in 2001, he served two terms on its FirstHealth Board of Directors.
He is the current chair of the Foundation of FirstHealth Board of Trustees and the board of the Richmond Community Foundation, which was created with proceeds from the sale of Richmond Memorial to FirstHealth. He is also a member of the Cole Foundation Board of Trustees and the Richmond Community College Foundation Board and a former chairman of the board of the Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte.
“I have always been interested in foundations because of all the good I have seen them do,” he says.
The owner of an automobile dealership for 48 years, Bennett is recognized as one of Rockingham’s most prominent business and civic leaders.
“I feel that a person should want to give something back to the community,” he says. “For anyone who is able and willing to give of themselves in some way, there is a great sense of satisfaction. Besides, I just like to be involved. I love people, and I thoroughly enjoy working with people.”
As for why he devoted so much of his time and energy to Richmond Memorial, Bennett says, “I don’t see how a community of much size can exist satisfactorily without a hospital. Our hospital has meant everything in the world to us here in Richmond County, and becoming part of FirstHealth has been a godsend.”
“Helping in small ways can sometimes make all the difference for someone,” says Debbie McGahey, chair of the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation’s Cancer CARE Fund.
That’s exactly why all of the Foundation-administered CARE Funds were created: to help patients and their families in small ways. For example, the Cancer CARE Fund helps pay for prescription drugs, transportation to medical appointments and other essentials for cancer patients. “It isn’t meant to take care of medical expenses or big-ticket items, but to help with daily needs,” McGahey says.
The Cancer CARE Fund also supports CARE-Net, a program of volunteer support and advocacy for people with cancer and other chronic illnesses. CARE-Net is a kind of “buddy system,” which pairs trained volunteers with patients who need a sympathetic ear, a caring heart or a helping hand in navigating the health care system or accessing community resources.
The Orthopaedic/Arthritis CARE Fund was established with the support of local orthopaedic surgeons to assist patients who might need extra help with home medical equipment-related expenses once they are discharged from the hospital.
The Children’s CARE Fund supports the Kids in Crisis program in the public school system in Moore County. School nurses use Kids in Crisis funds to address children’s immediate health needs and avert emergency situations. That might involve buying anything from an insulin pump to a warm winter coat.
The Children’s CARE Fund also supports the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers, the Clarke Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Moore Regional and other FirstHealth services for children—all geared toward addressing needs on an individual level.
The other FirstHealth CARE Funds initiatives include Behavioral, Emergency, Heart and Neurosciences. The goals are to promote prevention through education, develop advocacy programs for patients suffering from chronic illness, and support service advancements through staff scholarships and research.
FOUNDATION OF FIRSTHEALTH
“Everyone might have a slightly different reason for each act of giving, but they basically do it because they want to help other people and make their communities better places to live,” says Herman Collier, 2008 chair of the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation.
That, he says, is what motivates most people to give to the FirstHealth
Hospice Foundation, Moore Regional Hospital Foundation, FirstHealth
Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation and FirstHealth Montgomery
Foundation. Those are the four philanthropic organizations structured under
the umbrella of the Foundation of FirstHealth.
The FirstHealth Hospice Foundation provides vital support for the patient-and-family services and community programs of FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care. Because Hospice turns no one away, regardless of their ability to pay, its costs far exceed the reimbursement it receives. Because of that, the primary purpose of the Hospice Foundation is to maintain the Hospice endowment at a high enough level so that its earnings can offset each year’s operational deficits. The Foundation also addresses special needs as they arise, such as the capital distribution of $4.5 million for the construction of a Hospice House.
The Moore Regional Hospital Foundation supports capital and building projects in and around the hospital as well as many patient-centered programs throughout the community. In addition to the $14 million it has disbursed since 1990 to support the needs of an ever-growing community, the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation has disbursed $20 million to support the capital construction needs for FirstHealth’s Heart Institute and Hospitality House.
The FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation supports projects in Richmond County aimed at improving the community’s health. Recently, the RMH Foundation funded diagnostic screenings for Richmond Memorial’s Annual Wellness Day, covering the cost of screenings for more than 1,700 community members.
The FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation is a communitybased foundation that supports health-related services throughout the county, including such projects as FirstHealth Cares, a medication assistance program for people dealing with chronic illness; and FirstReach, a program designed to identify and assist Montgomery County resident who are living with diabetes.
“People in each of these communities are proud of where they live, and they want to take care of their own,” Collier says. “There is a strong history of philanthropy here; it’s part of the fiber of the community.
“People understand that 20, 30 and 40 years ago, other folks were giving money so that we could have the hospitals and health care services we do today. They are benefiting from that, and they want to keep it going. Their generosity is not just making things better now; it is laying the groundwork for the future and setting an example for those who will follow.”