“The LVC knows very well that a little goes a long way,” says Janet Shipman, chair of the Ladies Visiting Committee (LVC), Massachusetts General Hospital’s auxiliary volunteer organization. “Years of supporting programs — such as purchasing bibles for the Spiritual Care department, stocking a coffee station for parents of pediatric patients and funding training for clinicians in the Division of Geriatric Emergency Medicine — has proven that even small grants can help an awful lot.”
The Ladies Visiting Committee supports hospital departments and programs through grants funded by sales at their retail locations, including the hospital’s General Store and Flower Shop.
The LVC supports hospital departments and programs through grants funded by sales at their retail locations, including the hospital’s General Store and Flower Shop at Mass General’s main campus. So, when foot traffic slowed this past year due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions, fewer patient appointments and employees working from home, the LVC had to get more creative.
“Funds from the retail shops were needed to keep the shops open, leaving no money to support the grants during 2020,” says Pamela Oswald Louis, LVC vice chair. “With all the hard work that was going on at the hospital, LVC members were eager to find a way to help.”
Funding Areas of Great Need
Members of the volunteer group shopped online through the General Store website and encouraged their friends and family to do the same. Online sales rose 300%. The LVC also partnered with the Mass General Development Office to create a way for LVC members to donate directly, and through their generosity, they raised enough to fund a grant for a department that had been particularly hard hit.
For more than two decades, the Social Service Department and the HAVEN program, which serves survivors of intimate partner abuse, have been supported by LVC grants. “Last spring, the LVC was disappointed that they were not able to fund our annual grant,” says Marie Elena Gioiella, MA, MSW, LICSW, director of the Social Service Department. “Their support has been incredibly generous, so being chosen as a recipient of this year’s funding is a blessing to us, especially knowing it came directly from the hearts of the members of the LVC.”
Stresses of unemployment, financial troubles, housing uncertainty, health concerns and families having to quarantine created a perfect storm for many of the patients who reached out to Social Services and the HAVEN program for support during the pandemic.
“Historically, the HAVEN program connects with 600 to 700 patients per year,” says Debra Drumm, LICSW, director of HAVEN. “During the past year our number rose to just under 800. With kids home from school and folks stuck in their homes, we thought referrals would go down, but that was not the case at all. Survivors of domestic abuse were incredibly creative in reaching out to us at a rate we had never seen before.”
Making a Difference in Local Communities
HAVEN staff established a 24/7 on-call system to ensure no one slipped through the cracks, since many of the community programs’ patients previously worked with were closed due to COVID-19. The grant from the LVC added to the HAVEN emergency fund, which allows the team to purchase bus or plane tickets to enable survivors to relocate or seek temporary safety from their situation, defray moving expenses, pay to change locks, or cover child-related costs such as purchasing diapers.
Added together, these small injections of funds allow the Social Service Department and HAVEN to continue to provide safer environments for their patients.
The HAVEN program supports the main campus in Boston as well as Mass General health centers in Revere and Chelsea. “These areas were hard hit by the pandemic,” says Gioiella, “and funds dispersed to pay utility bills, ensure access for cell service and provide grocery cards helped meet acute needs and provide peace of mind for our patients.”
Added together, these small injections of funds — grocery cards, paying a locksmith, keeping someone’s cellphone in service — allow the Social Service Department and HAVEN to continue to provide safer environments for their patients. Gioiella agrees with Oswald-Louis and Shipman — that “a little goes a long way.”
This story first appeared in Hotline, a publication for employees and staff of Mass General.