Jamestown Regional Medical Center Foundation: Jan Barnes, Foundation Director

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As children, most of us were told the story of “The Little Engine That Could.” Simply put, it’s about a small train engine that manages to pull a large train over a towering mountainside simply by the strength of its will and the optimism of saying over and over again, “I think I can. I think I can.”

In many ways, the Jamestown Regional Medical Center Foundation could be called “the little foundation that could.”

Charged with securing philanthropic gifts for the 25-bed, critical-access Jamestown Regional Medical Center (formerly known as Jamestown Hospital) in Jamestown, N.D., the foundation has only one person out seeking funds, Jan Barnes, foundation director.

“This is a very small foundation,” Barnes said. “It’s just myself raising the money, and then, I have an assistant, and I have a program coordinator that coordinates the events. So it’s just three of us.”

Despite this, the foundation has been successfully raising capital for some of the hospital’s largest endeavors, including raising $5 million for its brand-new, state-of-the-art, $52-million facility on the outskirts of Jamestown. So far, Barnes has raised $3.9 million from a town of 15,000 and the surrounding areas.

Resisting change

The main challenge Barnes encountered in her campaign was convincing the predominantly elderly population that a new hospital was even needed. Most objected to seeing the hospital move to the immediate outskirts of town. As Barnes explained, this could not be avoided.

“We had absolutely no place to grow there,” she said. “We were up against a hill, so we couldn’t go out. We were in the middle of the town, so there was no place to add on.”

Jamestown started as an inpatient hospital, but a good share of its business is now outpatient. Barnes explained that updating the hospital to support outpatient services became a piecemeal endeavor and a situation that could not be handled anymore.

“We had remodeled the old hospital at least 6 times, and it was a 1930s building,” she said. “Therefore, we were trying to do work that was completely different than it was in the thirties.”

With the initial resistance, it took some creative thinking on Barnes’ part to start raising the $5 million from the community, but in the end, the solution was simple. She began another newsletter in addition to her quarterly “Appleseeds” newsletter. In this newsletter, though, she printed stories of the people who were giving larger gifts to the new facility, naming something, and telling why they were doing it.

“The more people the community saw giving, the more they got on board,” Barnes said. “Now, I really don’t have a lot of challenges, except for the fact that I could run out of people! Everyone wants to join in on a successful endeavor.”

The community is now completely supportive of the new hospital. As Barnes described it, this local enthusiasm is a complete turnaround from the campaign’s early days. In fact, the campaign has attracted a list of big donors, including Basin Electric Power Cooperative out of Bismarck, Thrifty White Stores, Alerus Financial, First Community Credit Union, Gate City Bank, Jamestown Sun and Forum Communications, Otter Tail Power Co., Wells Fargo Bank, and many larger individual donors.

“At the beginning of this large endeavor, I was petrified,” Barnes said. “$5 million is a huge amount of money for a small town whose people weren’t all on board with the new hospital, then you have the uncertain economy and the fact that I didn’t hire a consulting firm to help.  However, now I feel so good at how it’s going, and I know I can reach that total mark of $5 million! It has been phenomenal.”

Probably the best-known gift of the campaign came from a man with whom Jan worked for the last two years. Upon his passing, he left $1.6 million to the new hospital. It was not only the largest gift of the campaign, but it was also the largest gift in the history of the foundation.

These gifts and donations have gone a long way in purchasing equipment for the new center.

“So far, since we have started the campaign, we have bought several pieces of equipment for the new medical center,” Barnes said. “These were all, of course, from donations from the community again.”

The hospital has been able to buy an infant protection system, an infant warmer with a neo-puff, and a central fetal monitoring system for the Family Birthplace; a pediatric protection system for Patient Care Services; and an auto box for Respiratory Care.

“All these were pieces of equipment that the hospital had never had before,” Barnes said. “The total for this equipment was $323,653. We are now working on some equipment for our new Orthopedic Surgeon, which is also a first for us.”

Other drives and events

Raising money for the new facility is only one of Barnes’ responsibilities. Throughout the year, the foundation hosts different events to keep donations flowing into the hospital’s coffers. The biggest event is “Breakfast with Santa,” which is held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“We have a really fun day for the kids where they come and they’re served breakfast by elves,” Barnes said.

This is followed by entertainment, such as magicians, clowns, or a storybook reading.  It concludes with an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Clause who give each of the children a gift. Everything for the event is donated, and all of the proceeds go to support the hospital’s children’s services.

The foundation also has a campaign titled “Partners for the Future” whose initial goal was to raise one million dollars for the hospital’s endowment fund.

“That’s where I went around to smaller businesses that couldn’t give us big amounts of money and asked them for a $100-a-year donation for our endowment fund,” Barnes said.

“Partners for the Future” has been so successful that the campaign is now going for its second million.

Probably the most important event that the foundation has is the “Hour Club,” an employee-giving program. Employees can give their hourly wage or an hour of vacation to the foundation each month, and this is taken directly out of their check each pay period. It is an easy way to give without any hardships.

At this time, the foundation has 155 employees in the program who have pledged $185,000 over the next five years to help with the new hospital.

“It’s fantastic,” Barnes said.  “Our employees are wonderful, and they don’t just come to work to do their jobs. They actually care about giving back to the place that employs them. I started this program 15 years ago, and I can’t even begin to tell you how many pieces of equipment and how many programs they have helped with through the ‘Hour Club.’”

Finally, there’s “The Big Splash,” held annually in January. This campaign brings in over $10,000 each year for the Hospice Program. Basically, participants jump into a pool in the middle of winter.

“The nice part is, we don’t do much with it,” Barnes said. “The HOGS from Harley Davidson actually put it on. I just show up and thank them.”

Making community come first

Barnes emphasized that Jamestown Regional Medical Center is a community-owned hospital. This is why local support is so vital to Jamestown’s success.

“We are not owned by any big conglomerate, and we want to remain independent, because at the stage of being independent, what we do is what is best for the patient,” Barnes said. “They aren’t just a number, and it isn’t just the bottom line. We actually want to do what’s best for the patient.”

Being in a small town, many patients who come to Jamestown Regional Medical Center are a family member of someone who works there, a neighbor or a friend of one of the employees. This personal connection ups the stakes in providing quality care. In fact, many pieces of equipment that the hospital has obtained have been purchased from community donations.

“We have bought lots and lots of different pieces of equipment for the new hospital that many smaller hospitals just wouldn’t have, and it’s because of our great community and their desire to support the hospital,” Barnes said. “They want to support the hospital, because after all, it all comes back to them.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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