Dignity Health donations after Boles Fire started at the top, grew to $300k

Deborra Brannon
Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta President Ken Platou joins staff members, including those families affected by the Boles Fire last September, on the helicopter pad at the Mount Shasta facility.

The Dignity Health organization and its employees donated close to $300,000 to help Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta employees who lost everything in the September 2014 Boles Fire and to help the Red Cross continue to be of service in recovery efforts for the City of Weed and its citizens.

Help came swiftly, and it started at the top.

“The Dignity Health system office heard what was happening and our president and CEO Lloyd Dean called the day after the fire to let us know help was on the way for our employees,” said Joyce Zwanziger, Manager of Marketing for Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta.

A check for $100,000 from the organization was received at the Mount Shasta medical center by the end of that week, she said, “to help the employees who’d lost their homes and belongings get through the initial few weeks following the devastation.”

Sister Elaine Stahl, Dignity’s Senior Director of Mission Integration at the medical center, oversaw distribution of the funds.

The next day, employees from the Mount Shasta facility began asking how they could help their colleagues as well, said Development Officer for Mercy Foundation North Alisa Johnson.

“We set up a fund at the Foundation to which employees could donate by cash or check, or by payroll deduction. Some employees donated vacation time, which we converted to cash and deposited into the fund,” she explained.

Zwanziger said, “This was about taking care of each other, person to person.”

As local employees began donating, Dignity Health sent information out across its system to give all its employees the opportunity to contribute to the fund.

“Overall, between local and system-wide donations, an additional $98,000 was raised, bringing the total amount to $198,000 contributed to our impacted employees,” Johnson said. “To me the amazing part was how quickly donations poured in from so far away. People really cared.”

“And everyone gave what they could,” Stahl added.

Johnson reported that donations came in from “across the Dignity Health family” – from IT people in Montana, nurses in Arizona, and from others in the 42 hospitals and care centers operated by the organization in several states. Emails and letters of love and support poured in as well.

“The response was overwhelming. Most of these people had never even been to Siskiyou County,” said Zwanziger.

Dignity Health has since sent $100,000 directly to the Red Cross to aid the long term recovery efforts in Weed.

“The availability of those funds at this point in the recovery effort will allow the donation to be used most effectively for the well-being of the entire Weed community,” Zwanziger said.

She reported that the Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta employees who lost everything in the fire are “slowly but surely moving forward,” as homes are being rebuilt and purchased.

“The outpouring of generosity made a significant difference in these families’ lives,” Stahl said.