"Monumenta Requiris Circumspice" - Anonymous Roman philosopher
PHOENIXVILLE - The above quote has been attributed to a variety of ancient seers. But one concept is crystal clear: The person must have known that the best way to build a lasting monument to your life is "to look around you and serve others."
The Phoenixville Community Health Foundation has been the umbrella organization to provide an unbelievable number of health and human services during the few years of its existence. Much of the credit to the organization's outstanding success must be attributed to president and CEO Dr. Louis Beccaria, his resourceful staff and a dedicated board of directors led by board chairman Richard Kunsch, Sr.
Established in 1997 as a public charity as a result of the merger of the Phoenixville Hospital with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the Foundation began its commendable accomplishments "to improve the health and quality of life in the community."
Choosing the best chief executive officer to command the many-faceted operation of the organization resulted in the selection of Dr. Beccaria who began his duties in September 1998. Soon the personable gentleman became best known as Lou as he quickly became an important part of community life. Many residents first made his acquaintance through the PCTV program, "Poking Around Phoenixville."
However, behind the scenes, Lou was gathering his cadre of volunteers and coordinating programs which reached deep into the daily lives of not only those who needed a helping hand but also those who have unique abilities to serve others through special talents or interests.
Beccaria had served as president of the Stewart Huston Charitable Trust in Coatesville before assuming his present duties. His expertise in using investment funds to benefit the community became a valuable asset for his new position. The Foundation basically uses the interest from a $32 million endowment fund to support a variety of health and human services both at the hospital and in the community.
During recent months, the Foundation authorized $8.2 million in grants of which $3.7 million directly benefited Phoenixville Hospital. Normally about 40-50 percent of the grants go to the hospital according to Beccaria.
Expansion and upgrade of the emergency room, improvements in the cancer center, plus new facilities for ambulatory surgical care and neo-natal intensive care to better serve patients at either or both of the Phoenixville and Limerick centers are examples of recent use of grant money.
Beccaria, with the help of the Foundation staff, has the responsibility to recommend grant requests to the board. Normally there are many more grants requested than funds available. Strict procedures are followed to maintain the integrity of the requests and to insure the best possible use of the money for the benefit of the community.
"A new three-year strategic plan will be discussed at our board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 14," Beccaria noted. "We are looking at mental health issues as well as an increased emphasis on youth philanthropy in cooperation with Phoenixville Area School District.
"We hope to teach young people to become part of our volunteer base to allow us to make our services more accessible to those who need them."
Beccaria emphasized that the Foundation programs are both co-active and reactive. Knowledge of the dental programs for those up to age 18, vision and prescription programs are available but we must break down barriers to inform those who need them the most according to Beccaria.
"We are always seeking more partners to help us accomplish our goals," he said. "Service clubs, churches and other community organizations such as PACS are important to our mission but we also train individuals to become active volunteers where there are needs."
Last Wednesday, the Community Health Leadership Academy, sponsored by the Foundation, graduated 11 more "grass-roots" volunteers to join the winning team.
Beccaria shared a primary goal. "We have learned that Phoenixville has more than the Chester County average of residents who have no health or medical insurance. This is a serious problem that we plan to address during the coming months," he noted. "We must provide a safety net for such folks."
For its grantmaking programs, the Foundation has adopted the same geographical area as served by Phoenixville Hospital. This includes 12 municipalities in Chester County and seven in Montgomery County.
Recently, four area individuals were named "Champions of the Community" at a dinner held at Phoenixville County Club. The Foundation was also honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Philadelphia Chapter, as the outstanding Delaware Valley Foundation for 2003.
Sound the "Rocky" theme. Beccaria and buddies are the true champions of the Phoenixville area and their fight has just begun!