Impact, in numbers and stories

The most challenging — and rewarding — year yet at Novant Health Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on Novant Health team members — and not only those on the front lines. Team members at all levels of service and across our health system have suffered and adapted in ways we couldn’t imagine before the arrival of COVID-19. There is perhaps no one at Novant Health who knows this better than Jeff Creagh.

Creagh, senior director of foundation operations, is part of a leadership committee charged with reviewing team member requests for assistance from the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund). Created by Novant Health leadership and propelled by a generous gift from the David Tepper Charitable Foundation, this fund aids team members adversely affected by the pandemic. Gifts to this fund provide team members financial assistance for housing, utilities, child care and other vital resources. As a result of reviewing these requests, Creagh knows the impact by the numbers: the more than 11,000 team members — roughly one-third of the Novant Health workforce — who have submitted requests for assistance; the 24,300 total approved requests that have been carefully reviewed and processed so far; the $11.3 million Novant Health dedicated to the cause; and the $3 million the community has given to help.

He also knows the impact by the stories.

“When we hear from the team members who have been able to receive assistance and how this fund has changed their lives, those stories are what resonate with me most,” said Creagh, who played a leading role in the creation of the fund. “Our committee has this opportunity and responsibility of reading every single request for support. In doing that, you see the great need our team members are facing, and you know you’re also investing in people who live this battle against COVID-19 daily and who sacrifice daily to provide the best care.”

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The work is a far cry from what anyone had planned at the start of 2020, but Creagh is accustomed to change. When he first joined the foundation operations team back in 2016, he thought he would be focused on prospect research and management. Instead, he embarked on an operations overhaul, helping to build out the infrastructure that would allow Novant Health Foundation to centralize its fundraising operations, improve the accuracy of its philanthropic data and create a solid system on which to build fundraising capacity.

While the internal impact of that transformation was profound, the external impact was just as important, Creagh said.

“People are trusting you with their philanthropic dollars and they are trusting you to find projects that will ensure they’re making the most impact with those dollars. We have to make sure we’re choosing the best projects for our team members, our patients and our community, which is no small task when you have six foundations across the Novant Health system.”

COVID-19 will continue to be a significant focus for the foundation in the near future, Creagh said. In fact, Novant Health Foundation is planning to dedicate another $2 million to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund to continue supporting team members in need as long as it is necessary. But his team hasn’t taken its eyes off other areas of need, including rising health equity needs. In the coming months, Novant Health Foundation is launching a new campaign focused on improving access to care and increasing Novant Health’s fleet of mobile services, such as its Community Care Cruisers and mobile mammography units.

“We’re finding projects that allow us to go into a neighborhood where we don’t already have a presence. Those are the projects we need to focus our dollars on,” Creagh said.

In addition to those efforts, Novant Health Foundation has also funded a new health equity initiative that added three community health workers to the Charlotte market this year. 

“These new team members will serve where they already are trusted neighbors in their communities. They’re helping bridge the gap between their communities and healthcare resources, and we’re already seeing such great stories and impact from their work,” Creagh said. “The three community health workers in Charlotte are just the beginning. In the next few years, we want to grow that number exponentially.”

While much work has been done over the past year, there is much more to come, and Creagh is confident they have the right people in place focused on the right work for what our community needs right now. That foundation took shape in all the work that was done in 2020. Creagh’s prospect research and management team, for instance, worked directly with local organizations to collect PPE and other types of gifts in kind for front-line team members. In addition, business operations team members worked around the clock to share critical information and inspiring stories through Novant Health’s digital platforms, in addition to their normal job responsibilities.

“I’m incredibly proud to work for Novant Health. I think we’re doing some of the best work in the healthcare space, and I know we’re making the right decisions in this space,” Creagh said. “This year has been the most challenging year I’ve had at Novant Health. It’s also been the most rewarding year by far.”

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