GREENFIELD — When Shelby Newerth was on medical leave from Hancock Health after undergoing a routine surgery in July, everything fell apart.
The father of her daughter was killed in a triple homicide. She had to take more leave from work to deal with that loss, and in the midst of the upheaval, she and her daughter moved in with her grandparents. Then, in October, Newerth’s grandfather died.
The McCordsville resident doesn’t usually ask for help. But after all of the loss she faced this year — and the time she had to take off work — she’s grateful assistance is available.
A co-worker told her about the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation’s Giving Tree program, which would make getting through the holidays a bit easier.
Newerth and her 3-year-old daughter are one of 12 families the foundation’s employee giving program, “Let’s Invest For Tomorrow,” or LIFT, is supporting this year, said Allyson Smith, foundation manager.
Some 445 Hancock Health associates are members of the LIFT committee, which this year placed 130 tags on the Giving Tree, which has been a holiday tradition since 2012, Smith said.
LIFT committee members are associates or volunteers who donate money to the hospital foundation, through paycheck deductions or other means, she said. The donations go toward an associate crisis fund, which provides financial assistance to employees facing hardship. Employee donations also help fund the foundation’s other projects, which have recently included renovations to the Andis Women’s and Children’s Unit and hospital classrooms.
Additionally, the committee organizes the Giving Tree, identifying co-workers who need extra help at Christmas and learning what their families need and want to open Dec. 25.
Each family gets between 10 and 12 tags, detailing the clothing, toys or other items requested families requested.
And every year, employees try to make those wishes come true by purchasing the gifts with their own money.
One year, a young girl asked for a desk to do her homework on, Earlywine said. Her gift-giver came through.
“A lot of families struggle, and it’s rewarding knowing you’re giving back to someone you know or work with,” Earlywine said.
Distribution of the gifts is set for this week, and the hospital foundation offices have steadily filled with wrapped gifts, Smith said.
Newerth, who’s worked for Hancock Health for about two years, is grateful for the assistance from her coworkers this year. She hopes she’ll be able to return the favor in the future, she said.
The program grows every year, Smith said. But no matter how many tags are tied to the tree, the hospital’s employees fulfill the wishes.
“This year we have more families than we’ve ever had, but we’ve never gotten to the point where we have more tags than people are willing to take.”