October 3, 2008

Community Giving effort launches

Featured Image

Champ greets Rhonda Clark and her service dog, Art, prior to the start of the kickoff event for this year’s Community Giving Campaign. (photo by Joe Howell)

Community Giving effort launches

More than 300 Vanderbilt departmental coordinators gathered last week in the Student Life Center ballroom to hear stories of how the annual Community Giving Campaign benefits not only the community, but Vanderbilt employees and programs as well.

The coordinators for the 2008 campaign were welcomed at the kickoff by Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs at Vanderbilt Medical Center, and C. Wright Pinson, M.D., M.B.A., associate vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs, chief medical officer, and the 2008 Community Giving Campaign chair.

They were challenged to lead their colleagues in reaching this year's target of $900,000 in Vanderbilt employee contributions to four designated campaign federations representing hundreds of charitable and public service organizations at work in Middle Tennessee. Last year, the goal was $875,000 and the campaign raised more than $1 million.

“We always exceed our goals,” Jacobson told the group. “I'm confident we'll break through $1 million.”

Jacobson greeted the crowd with a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The Community Giving campaign is “one of those kinds of activities representing how a group of people can make a difference in the community,” he said.

Pinson said he feels it's important to give back as much or more in life as you get. “It's our responsibility as individuals and as an institution to meet this mark, to pull together, to work hard.”

Kickoff emcee Joel Lee, associate vice chancellor for Communications, introduced the audience to four people representing the four agencies.

Peter Donofrio, M.D., spoke on behalf of Community Health Charities and one of its agencies, the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Donofrio runs the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Clinic at Vanderbilt. ALS, often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

The MDA provides funds for operating the clinic, which started in May 2007 and operates one Friday a month. ALS patients can see all the providers they need in one clinic setting. “Without the support of the MDA, we wouldn't have the funds needed,” Donofrio said.

Tom Ward, representing the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, spoke to the group about the Alliance's mission to build broader and deeper community engagement in public education by encouraging individuals, businesses and neighborhoods to take ownership of public schools. One program funded by the Alliance is the Principal Leadership Academy of Nashville (PLAN), which has trained 150 principals over eight years. Ward, a lecturer and research assistant at Peabody, is its director.

“The Alliance picked up the funding for the Leadership Academy and created an international research program, helping our principals get a world view,” Ward said. “We don't have just homegrown southern schools anymore. Every child in this city deserves the very best they can get. That's why the work of the Alliance is so important.”

Representing the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville was Christina Lockhart, an administrative assistant in the Leadership, Policy and Organizations department at Peabody. Lockhart moved to Nashville from Chattanooga in 2000 with her three children. A single parent, she couldn't afford day care or after care. She contacted the United Way, who hooked her up with King's Daughter Day Home in Madison — a United Way agency that offers sliding scale payments based on income and the number of people in the household.

“I would not have been able to work, or to afford my own home, and would not have been able to adopt two additional (foster) children without the help of the United Way. They empowered me to do what I needed to do,” she said.

Rhonda Clark and her service dog, Art, represented Community Shares of Tennessee. Clark, a patient and family greeter at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, has been helped by the Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Disability Coalition. She found a place to live when she first moved to Nashville through the help of the Center for Independent Living.

She has also been aided by the Tennessee Disability Coalition, a group that speaks for people with disabilities, she said. “It's not one voice, it's a unified voice. They're about keeping people with disabilities and the elderly in their homes and out of nursing homes.”

Over the coming weeks, departmental coordinators will be connecting with each of Vanderbilt's nearly 20,000 employees throughout the Medical Center and University, asking each to make his or her own personal contribution, which can be done through payroll deduction, cash or check, credit card or direct bill. Online giving is encouraged at www.vanderbilt.edu/communitygiving/.

“We desperately need your help,” Sandra Robinson, director of internal campaigns, told the volunteers. “We could not do this without you.”

The deadline for this year's campaign is Nov. 6.