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Nonprofits: Hospital raises $5 million, so foundation doubles it
By Emily Topper
It was a long-standing relationship with the community, plus the willingness of residents to help themselves that led to a $10 million donation from the Yawkey Foundations toward new facilities at Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
“Tom and Jean cared deeply about Georgetown,” Anne Fortune, programs manager for the foundations, said. “They really were committed to making sure people had access to health care. When the foundation heard about the hospital’s capital giving campaign, it was natural that the Yawkey Foundations would play a role in that effort.”
The campaign raised $5 million for the hospital, Sherby McGrath, the immediate past chair of the Tidelands Health Foundation, said. “With that $5 million and this $10 million, that’s a lot of money that the community and the Yawkeys have donated,” McGrath said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
The donation was announced last week outside a $42 million surgical center that is due to open next month. The 43,500-square-foot facility is named the Yawkey Surgery Pavilion.
Tom Yawkey’s connection to Georgetown County came through his uncle, Bill Yawkey, whose father made his fortune in lumber. Along with $40 million, Tom Yawkey inherited North Island, South Island and Cat Island on Winyah Bay and the Santee Delta from his uncle. Yawkey bought the Boston Red Sox in 1933. His wife Jean took over the club after his death in 1976. Both Tom and Jean Yawkey established foundations. She died in 1992.
It was in 1945 that the couple donated $100,000 for the construction of a hospital in Georgetown.
“In our earliest days, the citizens of Georgetown banded together to build a hospital so that people wouldn’t have to travel to Florence,” Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of Tidelands Health, said. “The challenge was daunting. Georgetown was rural, and there were very few sources of major funding. People opened their wallets and gave what they could, yet still, substantial funds were needed.”
“They had a love for the beauty of this region and its people,” Bailey said.
In the 1960s, the hospital named a wing at Georgetown Memorial after Tom Yawkey. In 2003, a $5 million donation from the Yawkey Foundations helped fund the construction of a medical park that bears the Yawkey name.
The Yawkeys also donated the land for Tara Hall Home for Boys and the 24,000 acres on the coastal islands were given to the state as the Yawkey Wildlife Center.
The $10 million donation to Tidelands Health is the largest in the history of the hospital sysem. Bailey said the funds will go toward the ongoing redevelopment of the Georgetown Memorial campus.
“The health care needs in our community are pressing,” McGrath said. “Our population has chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease which exceed state and national averages. Fifteen percent of Georgetown County residents do not have health insurance. In my work with the Tidelands Foundation, I know how much this gift will mean to our community.”
Maureen Bleday joined the Yawkey Foundation II staff in 2006. Her first trip to Georgetown was with Ellie Armstrong, a nurse and longtime friend of the Yawkeys who served as a trustee of their foundations.
“She wanted me to see the organizations that mattered to them so much,” Bleday said. The hospital was the first stop. “She told the story of how she, her husband, Bill and their small children packed up and moved here from Albany, New York so that Bill could take a position as the first surgeon at Georgetown Memorial.”
Tom Yawkey wanted to meet the new surgeon, Bleday said, and the families quickly formed a close friendship. The Yawkey Foundations continued to look to Ellie Armstrong for guidance on giving. She died in 2013.
“They cared deeply about making sure that all people had access to the best possible health care,” Bleday said. “That commitment and understanding started here at Georgetown Memorial Hospital. The lessons they learned here about the impact of their philanthropy on improving the lives of others is the lesson they carried back to Boston.”
Dr. Xaviara Carter, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said the surgical pavilion is “long overdue for Georgetown County.”
“We’re going to be able to provide more advanced surgery,” she said. “Every aspect of this redevelopment puts patients and their safety above all else. It’s essential.”
Dr. Robert Brockman, a general and vascular surgeon, said the pavilion design improves patient flow, efficiency and communication between staff. “There’s more room for advanced equipment. This will enable us to do more advanced procedures here and take care of patients here, rather than sending them up and down 17 to various other places,” he said.
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