By Jim Wogan
It’s a striking coincidence that in the same month the former St Mary’s Hospital will close its doors after providing medical services in East Tennessee for nearly 90 years, the foundation created in the wake of its sale in 2011 has announced grants that now total $7.5 million for charity, education, and health-care missions in the Diocese of Knoxville.
The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation announced on Dec. 1 awards totaling $680,000 to benefit 20 Catholic organizations and ministries in 2019.
“On behalf of the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation, and based on the recommendations of its board of directors, I am pleased to announce these grant distributions,” said Bishop Richard F. Stika. “As we have every year since the foundation was established, we are once again offering much-needed financial resources that will benefit Catholic initiatives, both large and small, in this diocese. The good works of our schools, parishes, and ministries will be strengthened thanks to these funds.”
In 2019, the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation will contribute more than $335,000 for education and school needs, including tuition support; more than $153,000 to support charitable requests, including those of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee and a variety of parish-sponsored charitable initiatives; and nearly $200,000 for health-care needs, including support for the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic — a mobile clinic that provides free medical services to the underserved and uninsured in remote communities throughout East Tennessee.
“The awards we are able to offer this year are vital, and since the foundation was established there have now been 33 Catholic organizations and 65 different initiatives that have directly benefited from these St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation grants,” said John Deinhart, staff officer of the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation board.
A report recently issued by the foundation highlighted distributions for 2019 in addition to the overall impact of grant distributions since 2011. It included figures showing a dramatic impact on Catholic organizations, parishes, and the communities they serve.
“While St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation grants are awarded to Catholic organizations and ministries, the real profound and positive impact is the direct benefit on thousands of people living in the Diocese of Knoxville who may or may not be Catholic,” Mr. Deinhart said.
For instance, since 2011, the St. Vincent de Paul mission at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Newport has received more than $120,000 to serve the poor and vulnerable in its region. Cocke County, where the parish is located, is one of the most impoverished counties in Tennessee.
In 2018, Good Shepherd Parish received 10-20 calls for assistance each week through its St. Vincent de Paul mission, which provided assistance for gas, groceries, baby supplies, and resources for those facing eviction or the loss of utility services. Total client expenditures exceeded $60,000. A grant from the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation covered one-third of the St. Vincent de Paul’s support for clients. The parish covered one-third of the costs, with outside donations covering the rest. This year, the program received a grant of $20,000.
Other parishes have received more than $170,000 for their own charitable initiatives, including food pantries, family support, and a host of smaller, but equally impactful, projects.
For example, Holy Spirit Parish in Soddy-Daisy received $35,000 in two installments from 2013-15 to assist in the creation of a food pantry there. St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Mountain City has received more than $45,000 for building and program support for its food pantry.
Through its education component, diocesan schools have also benefited.
St. Dominic School in Kingsport received more than $23,000 for classroom technology between 2014 and 2016. Similarly, St. Mary School in Oak Ridge was able to upgrade school and classroom technology with more than $41,000 granted in 2016. Notre Dame High School and Knoxville Catholic High School also have benefited since 2011, as have many of the diocesan foundational schools.
Ladies of Charity has received more than $140,000 since 2011 to provide food and emergency assistance to the underserved, unemployed, and underemployed in East Tennessee. This year, Ladies of Charity received a $2,000 grant for a program aimed at emergency assistance for prescription medication for clients who cannot afford the cost.
“The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation is doing exactly what it is supposed to do, and its impact has been remarkable and it will be long-lasting,” said Bishop Stika.
“The current owners may be closing the hospital, but when Mercy Health Partners sold St. Mary’s to its current owners, I thought it was critical that the funds we received from that sale in 2011 help continue our mission as Catholics. The investment of that money has provided the annual distributions that have benefited all of those who need our help the most,” he added, noting the fact that the owners of the former St. Mary’s hospital have announced that the area’s first Catholic hospital will close permanently on Dec. 28.