“If it wasn’t for the [Co-Worker Foundation,] I would have been evicted and homeless.”
Leanne (not her real name), a four-year co-worker, is grateful for the Country Meadows and Ecumenical Retirement Community Co-Worker Foundation. When her former husband lost hours and subsequent pay at his job, the couple fell behind on paying bills and faced eviction.
“We got an eviction notice from our landlord, and there was a court process. I was so scared!” she recalls.
She was reminded about this generous benefit for co-workers experiencing a true financial emergency—the Co-Worker Foundation. “I learned about it during one of our around-the-clock meetings and low and behold, two months later I needed help.”
Funded from donations made by residents, families, co-workers and the Leader family, the Co-Worker Foundation awards non-taxable grants of up to $3,000 to co-workers for unexpected emergencies that may include fire, theft, death of a loved one, damage from a natural disaster or other situations. Since it was founded in 2010, the Co-Worker Foundation has received more than $894 thousand in donations to provide emergency grants to hundreds of co-workers.
Many residents and family members struggle with ways to thank co-workers who do so much for them and their loved ones. Since Country Meadows doesn’t allow co-workers to accept tips, donating to the Co-Worker Foundation is a great way to support staff members who work so hard to provide care to residents.
“From time to time people have crises in their lives that may be the result of a serious illness, tragic accident, fire or even flood. Sometimes we learn about those things at the Home Office, but not always. We started the Foundation to develop an organized way to help these co-workers,” says Executive Chairman, Michael Leader.
For grant consideration, co-workers complete a confidential application that goes to the Co-Worker Foundation Board of Directors. The approval process moves quickly.
Leanne says, “I spoke to the landlord and told him my job was willing to help me. I applied, and then a young lady called me to let me know the check was sent to the landlord. It paid the court fees and everything. It was a blessing and so very, very, very helpful!”
Tracy Newcomer, vice president of Human Resources, and Chairman Emeritus of the Co-worker Foundation’s board, says, “There is a definite need for this program. It really humbles you to realize how one unplanned event can spark a spiral that people just can’t get out of. Whether it’s a death, loss of job or natural disaster, they aren’t equipped with an emergency fund to get them through it and as a result, they fall behind.”
Leanne stresses the value of the Foundation. “Giving to the Foundation actually helps because sometimes we come into work and smile, but we have a lot going on outside of work. Some of us have kids, some may not have transportation and some come to work and are living paycheck to paycheck. Just that helping hand goes a long way to help someone out. You just never know what people are going through, and donating really helps someone else.”
Newcomer adds, “Frequently these are the dedicated co-workers who are there whether it’s raining, snowing or sleeting, who give 100 percent to our residents. When you look at their financial picture at home, it would be very easy for them to carry their problems into work, and they don’t. It reminds me how wonderful our co-workers are. They really put the residents first.”
In addition to receiving grants, co-workers also may be required to complete an online class on budgeting and managing finances. While the Foundation provides funds to cover an emergency, the class can provide resources and tools to help manage money for a lifetime.
Newcomer says, “The Foundation exemplifies that Country Meadows and Ecumenical Retirement Community are really about family and take care of all our co-workers. For me, it goes back to the philosophy that we don’t just say that our co-workers are important; we do things that show them they are important.”
Leanne reminded two of her co-workers going through hard times about the program, and both applied and received necessary funds. She is grateful for this valuable resource as well as her career as a caregiver. “I love my job! I love what I do, especially helping the residents and making them smile and laugh. We are here for all the residents, especially those who don’t have family to come see them. It’s nice to know we have this program that helps us when we really need it.”
Click here to donate to the Country Meadows/Ecumenical Retirement Community Co-Worker Foundation. To donate via mail, send a check made payable to “Country Meadows Co-Worker Foundation” to Co-Worker Foundation, 830 Cherry Drive, Hershey, PA 17033.