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Hospital foundation offers grants, grows funding capacity

RIVER FALLS - The River Falls Hospital Foundation board recently announced an invitation to apply for grants of $500-$25,000 for programs that improve access to health care.

RFAH Foundation Director Heather Logelin and Board President Dr. Lori Peterson confirm that the foundation has almost $50,000 available thanks to the success of its annual fundraiser, the Harvest Moon Barn Dance.

A foundation release says applicants must propose a plan for how to improve access to health services in the communities served by the hospital; they must demonstrate that the proposal aligns with Allina Hospitals & Clinics values and mission; and they must show the capacity to carry out the program work and maintain fiscal accountability.

The hospital's primary service area includes River Falls, Spring Valley, Ellsworth, Prescott and surrounding communities.

The foundation agrees that it will give priority to projects that improve access to cancer education, screening, diagnostics, treatment and/or survivorship programs. It also looks for programs that are collaborative, work to meet a community need, do not duplicate existing services, have multiple funding sources, and get results.

Applicants must complete, before Feb. 18, a form found on the foundation's website: . They may submit it via e-mail, U.S. mail or in person at the hospital.

"The mission of the foundation is to raise and disburse funds to enhance the health and wellness of the communities we serve," Logelin said. "The Barn Dance helps us provide significant financial support to local programs that expand access to health care."

The grant focus for this year -- improving access to cancer care -- complements the hospital's recent establishment of the Rivers Cancer Center, a partnership among RFAH, the River Falls Clinic and Minnesota Oncology, that also works with specialty groups like St. Paul Radiology.

Logelin said the improved access to cancer care means making sure local patients can get the best "right here in River Falls."

RFAH worked with existing facilities and providers to form the Rivers Cancer Center. Through it, the hospital brings together the physicians, training, and investments in diagnostic and surgical technologies needed for cancer care.

Logelin said it made sense for the foundation to support the hospital's work and to enhance access to a "full spectrum" of cancer care.

Foundation-grant growth

Logelin confirms that the foundation has raised significantly more money in recent years than ever, mostly thanks to the community's support of the Harvest Moon Barn Dance. The 2009 proceeds funded $50,000 worth of grants, and funds from the 2010 event will do the same.

The early-days foundation raised its share of large amounts, like for the current hospital campus and ambulance equipment. Before a formal agreement with the hospital in 2005, it raised $5,000-$10,000 annually through a golf tournament and annual appeal.

Logelin said most grants given between 1980-2005 were between $500 and $2,500.

"The first Barn Dance in 2006 really helped us make a quantum leap, and we have continued to have success...," said Logelin.

So where does the money go?

Last year, the foundation distributed the funds this way: It granted $2,500 to the Free Clinic of Pierce & St. Croix Counties to lead a seasonal flu-education campaign and $810 to subsidize enrollment in the BadgerCare Plus Core Plan.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness in St. Croix Valley received $1,500 to help provide support groups for people and families dealing with mental illness. The foundation awarded $3,200 to the Pierce County Birth-to-3 Program so it could purchase durable equipment that can be loaned to program participants.

Another grant of $5,500 went to the Pierce County Public Health Department for expanding its school-based dental program. The River Falls Area Hospital received $15,000 to help provide free lab and radiology services for Free Clinic patients.

As mentioned in a Journal story last week, the River Falls School District was awarded a $12,000 grant to develop and implement a K-12 character education program. The foundation gave $4,362 to the Spring Valley Area Ambulance service to buy equipment bags for First Responders.

The 2009 barn dance proceeds also funded a $3,500 grant to Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence so it could help clients access health-care resources.

The first year of the barn dance, the foundation gave all proceeds to the Free Clinic. The second and third years, it gave the clinic half the proceeds and with the other half, funded the start of chemotherapy at RFAH and expansion of Pierce County's dental program, respectively.

Board members say in 2009, they decided to invite applications from the community rather than designating the funds for one cause.

Peterson says in addition to the growing financial support of the foundation, "One clear increase is in the mind power behind and contributing to this work."

She said the foundation gets good information from physicians, staff and patients. The medical staff explains its work in detail so the board can understand what is most needed.

The board president says many more helping hands have joined the foundation's cause, from volunteers at the Barn Dance and committee membership to locals arranging listening sessions and grant recipients doing work.

"Patients have helped us to understand their deep appreciation for the work of our hospital and their deep need for excellent health care (including cancer care) close to home," said Peterson, "and what it means to them to have this care so close to home."

Debbie Griffin is a reporter for the River Falls Journal.