Howard County General Hospital matures, seeks $5 million endowment HOWARD COUNTY HEALTH

December 22, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Howard County General Hospital is growing up.

What began as a 59-bed, short-term care facility in 1973 has grown into a 213-bed comprehensive, acute-care medical center, equipped with some of the latest in technology, such as lasers and magnetic resonance imaging.

Last year, the Columbia hospital hired its first, full-time fund-raising executive, Sharon L. Akers.

As the chief operating officer and director of development, Ms. Akers oversees the Howard Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit fund-raising organization whose main goal is to raise $5 million for the hospital's first endowment fund.

"The hospital has never had an endowment fund," Ms. Akers said. "We're a young organization. Our first babies aren't even 20 years-old yet."

The first phase of the $5 million campaign will rely primarily on donations from boards and physicians affiliated with the hospital.

Businesses and individuals will be asked to support the campaign through major gifts of $25,000 or more.

The hospital plans to raise $2.5 million by September, when a new deadline will be announced to raise the rest of the money, Ms. Akers said.

Planned to coincide with the hospital's 20th anniversary, the endowment fund would finance a number of projects, including new equipment, educational programs, and help for needy patients, Ms. Akers said.

"As health-care costs continue to rise, we felt it essential that the hospital create this endowment to help the hospital in the future," said Victor A. Broccolino, president of Howard County General.

Spearheading the fund-raising drive are Roger W. Schipke, the Ryland Group's chairman, chief executive officer and president, and Ryland Mortgage Co. President Robert J. Gaw.

Ms. Akers said the greatest challenge of her job is raising money during a troubled economy.

"To be able to continue to provide services, the number of dollars must be stretched in many ways," Ms. Akers said.

But she is buoyed by what she sees as a change in the economy. "The economy is leveling off, and people are starting to be more generous," she said.

Ms. Akers can also see the direct impact of her fund-raising efforts on the lives of patients.

She recalls an 18-month-old Columbia boy who was born weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces, but who survived under the care of the hospital's Special Care Nursery.

"It does make a difference in people's lives. It's sort of an instantaneous gratification," said Ms. Akers.

Before joining the Foundation, Ms. Akers was acting vice president for development and communications at the Maryland Biotechnology Institute, a division of the University of Maryland.

She has also headed fund-raising efforts at the George Washington University and Medical Center, where she was director of business and foundation relations.

She was public relations director at Montgomery General Hospital, and director of development and marketing at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Akers was chosen because "we felt she had the right blend of experience and enthusiasm," said the hospital president, Mr. Broccolino. "She was a natural for the job, and we felt she could grow with the hospital."

"Everyone has crucial moments in their lives, especially in relationship to their health care," Ms. Akers said. "Now the hospital is in a crucial moment of its history, and it needs help."

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