Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series marking two major milestones of the WRHCF. The first piece appeared June 2 and discussed WRHCF history, development and mission.


WORTHINGTON – As the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) observes the 10th anniversary of its reconfiguration, which followed the sale of the former Worthington Regional Hospital to Sanford Health Care on July 1, 2008, it’s also celebrating that it’s surpassed $2 million in grant awards since then.


As an independent entity with 501(c)(3) status, the WRHCF and its board continue striving to fulfill the goals expressed in its mission statement-namely, supporting the health, wellness and education of people in Worthington and the surrounding area.


Learn more about a few of the organizations within Nobles County that have benefited in a major way from WRHCF grants over the past decade.


Manna Food Pantry


Located at 230 West Clary St. in the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Manna Food Pantry (MFP) has regularly appealed to the WRHCF for support.


“We’re currently in the second year of a three-year cycle,” said MFP coordinator Linda Sanchez.


“The WRHCF has helped out with a matching grant of up to $30,000 in each of the past two years, and we should be eligible to ask for another grant in 2019.”


As a non-profit with fluctuating needs and client base, Sanchez said MFP doesn’t have a budget that’s set in stone but scrambles annually to fill its shelves and freezers with food for Nobles County citizens in need.


“We depend on grants and donations, and we’re always unsure of how much funding we’ll get from whom,” explained Sanchez.


“These matching grants from WRHCF definitely give us the ability to provide our clients with not only a greater variety of food items but also to obtain more products locally, since we can take advantage of local advertised sales with those dollars.”


In particular, Sanchez says the WRHCF funds have allowed the MFP to stock a greater portion of personal care/hygiene items.


“Partially because of the WRHCF grant, we can carry bar soap, laundry detergent and shampoo, whereas before we got those grants we couldn’t always afford to buy them,” said Sanchez, who has managed MFP for nearly five years.


“People need those things as well-they’re almost as important as food-but they are expensive, and when people are hungry, or need to feed their kids, they’re more likely to neglect themselves or forego that if it comes down to a choice between soap or food.”


Sanchez said that demand for the MFP’s services is up at present.


“Especially at this time of year, when school isn’t in session, we see more people coming in, and overall for the year there’s been a higher demand,” said Sanchez.


“We’re always getting new clients, but some people move on; still, we have an overall slight increase.”


The MFP exclusively serves residents of Nobles County. In 2017, the MFP had 635 households registered, although each household’s needs vary. For instance, some clients use the pantry only once a year, some visit occasionally and others rely on its provisions every month.  


“It’s great that the WRHCF understands our mission and need for funding,” said Sanchez. “And the matching grant idea prompts more donations because people seem to be more willing to give a little bit more when they know their contributions will be matched.


“We’d definitely have less to offer without the support of the WRHCF, and our clients would have to be finding other ways to supply their families with food on their own.”


On behalf of those 635+ households, Sanchez is grateful to the WRHCF, as well as to the many other organizations, businesses and individuals that regularly support the MFP.


“Personally, as coordinator, I can’t thank the foundation and area businesses enough for what they offer,” said Sanchez.


“Without their donations, the food pantry would not be what it is today. I’d say we’re very blessed.”


Worthington Area YMCA


It isn’t difficult to trace a direct line between the WRHCF’s mission and that of the YMCA: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”


Therefore, it’s understandable that the YMCA is often near the top of the WRHCF recipient list.


“First, the dollars received have allowed us to expand our program availability to over twice as many kids as we did in the previous years,” said Andy Johnson, executive director and CEO of the Worthington Area YMCA.


“The whole goal is to reduce financial barriers to all kids, and with the WRHCF support, we have many more families and kids being served within the YMCA programming world.”


Examples of WRHCF dollars in use at the YMCA include reduced fees for activities, including for this past spring’s girls’ soccer program.


“We were able to lower the participation fee to get the program off the ground,” said Johnson. “And we are able to offer free special event programs for all kids at times, too, regardless of need.”


With support from WRHCF dollars, the YMCA has implemented the important Jami Cummings Learn to Swim program that offers all area second graders swimming instruction each spring.


“Swimming is a vital life skill that this program helps them gain,” said Johnson. “It’s specific to all second graders in Nobles County, gives them another way to be physically active throughout their lives and is thus applicable to the WRHCF mission.


“We’ve had others step up who agree that we need to continue funding this because they also see it’s an important part of what we’re providing to kids in that age group.”


Johnson is glad the WRHCF board realizes the YMCA can do its part to further the WRHCF mission.


“They have specific goals and objectives, and at the Y we believe the more families and lives we can touch, the better we’re doing our job,” said Johnson.


“Our missions are very similar because we’re both trying to serve all people in promoting health and wellness and supporting active lifestyles.”


Minnesota West Department of Nursing


The WRHCF has gone to bat for local health care organizations by offering annual scholarships to nursing and health care professional students.


When presented with qualified applicants, the WRHCF scholarship committee may award scholarships of up to $2,000 to as many as 11 students annually.


To date, over $165,000 in scholarships has been given to LPN, RN and health care professional students, many of whom have taken jobs in the area following the successful completion of their programs.

Therefore, all area citizens end up benefiting by being assured of care from well-trained, licensed health care professionals.


“The Minnesota West Department of Nursing is very pleased to be partnering with the WRHCF to support nursing education for our local nursing students,” said Dawn Gordon, Minnesota West Dean of Sciences/Nursing.


“The scholarships help directly with education costs to support and sustain future nurses, and these dedicated scholarship dollars are encouragement for students to stay and work within our community, thus helping our workforce partners fulfill employment needs.”


The RN and LPN scholarship deadline is March 1, while the health care professionals scholarship deadline is Aug. 1. Visit wrhcf.com/scholarships for application information.


A board member’s perspective


Mark Shepherd, now in his fourth year on the WRHCF board, is slated to be the organization’s next president.


“The foundation has touched most everyone in the greater community,” observed Shepherd.


“When you consider the number of AEDs we have paid to place strategically throughout the county, the school immunization program and ISD school nurse we have helped fund, and the grants to the YMCA, I suspect everyone has benefited from these dollars in one way or another.”


Shepherd emphasizes that the WRHCF board constantly strives to assess each grant proposal’s value, its potential impact on the health of Nobles County citizens and its fit within the WRHCF mission statement.


“And we want to keep building the foundation’s principal so we can keep it intact while giving away ever greater sums from the earnings,” he said. “That’s the concept.”


Listening carefully to people and organizations requesting grants is part of the board’s responsibility, Shepherd assures, and persuading potential donors to contribute to the WRHCF is also critical.


“We’ll never really know how many lives have been or might be saved as a direct or indirect effect of our grants,” said Shepherd. “But think about the children who might otherwise have drowned if not for learning to swim, or for those surviving a fatal heart attack because of a well-placed AED.


“The foundation is important, and has made or could make a positive difference in the lives of each and every one of us.”