Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Foundation money undergirds parish health programs

Fairview reconnects with its support base through nursing grants for congregations

Nonprofit groups in the Twin Cities enjoy regular infusions of much-needed
cash from area foundations. But not all of it flows through groups like the
Minneapolis, General Mills, Bush, and McKnight foundations.
Fortunately for ELCA Lutherans, there is one such organization committed to
underwriting their ministries — specifically health and wellness initiatives.
The Fairview Foundation, the benevolent arm of Lutheran-based Fairview
Health Systems, has in recent years entered into funding partnerships with
congregations within the Fairview Association of Congregations.
The Rev. Bruce Pederson, who manages church relations for Fairview, says
the health care giant hasn’t always maintained close ties to its original
constituents. “Those would have been the Minneapolis congregations within
the former Evangelical (Norwegian) Lutheran Church. There were 24 of them,
but over time their ties with Fairview became weak.” That led to a
reinvigorated Association, now comprised of 68 ELCA congregations in the
greater Twin Cities area. The number continues to grow.
According to Pat Peterson, Fairview’s Faith Community Outreach Manager,
funds for health initiatives in congregations became a special project when
the hospital network celebrated 100 years of ministry in 2005. “We
established a Centennial Celebration Fund and wanted to find a way to
cement ties to our core constituency. And matching funds for parish nursing
programs in parishes seemed a natural.”
The total currently-available funding is $25,000 a year, doled out in
matching grants for one of three kinds of local initiatives — parish nurse
start-ups, program expansions, and health fairs. Peterson said finding the
money wasn’t a foregone conclusion. But Kent Eklund, who heads the
foundation, supported the Centennial project. “We have some money for this,”
he told a planning group. Eklund told Metro Lutheran most of the
foundation’s funds go to internal programs at Fairview, such as chaplaincy
and hospice. Still, he said, “We’re giving the Centennial Fund $25,000 a year
for four years — we’re in the third year now — and I’m confident we can get
it renewed for an additional four.”
This is good news for Association congregations wanting to develop and
strengthen wellness ministries. Twenty-six of the member congregations
now have parish nurses, some more than one. (There are a total of 47 nurses;
some salaried, some not.) Any member congregation may apply for funding,
but receiving it is not automatic. “If the review panel decides a program may
not be sustainable as proposed, we send the paperwork back and ask for a
re-submission,” Peterson explained. That has only been necessary three
times.
Once funding is granted, the receiving congregation is expected to match it
with local funds. The formula is simple. Funding is provided over three years.
During the first, the congregation provides 25 percent. In the second year, it’s
a 50 percent match. At the three-year mark the congregation provides 75
percent, Fairview 25 percent. By the fourth year, the congregation owns the
program entirely.
Parish nursing is not limited to ELCA congregations in the Twin Cities.
Congregations within the LCMS and WELS have initiatives of their own. But
they don’t qualify for Fairview money. And qualifying ELCA congregations
have some hoops to jump through before they receive support. Only
registered nurses are eligible to lead such programs, and they need
certification. One popular certification method is to take a condensed course
through Concordia College, an ELCA school in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Concordia regularly offers certification training at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
Typical of local parish nurse programs that Fairview has helped to underwrite
is the one at Roseville Lutheran Church. Doreen Kapfer, RN, has led the
program for six years (there was a year-and-a-half hiatus after the first
three years). Salaried full-time, she gets volunteer assistance from a
colleague, Donna Denardo, RN.
According to Kapfer, Fairview has provided grant support for Roseville
Lutheran’s program, as well as funding (last year) for staff training and (this
year) for a health fair. Other funds have provided needed equipment,
education and books for staff members.
The Roseville Lutheran program, which pre-dates Kapfer’s leadership by two
years, began with a half-time salary for the nurse. The position has grown
over the years. It’s been especially welcome in the northeast metro suburb,
which is now one of the oldest (by age of residents) in the entire metro area.
Kapfer detailed for Metro Lutheran an impressive laundry list of activities she
and her associate manage. They include: blood pressure screening for
members (see photo); a cancer support group; a care team, linking healthy
members with not-so-able ones; a prayer shawl ministry; the “Faithfully Fit
Forever” exercise group; yoga devotions; a health fair (planned for this
month); monthly Bible study at a nearby nursing home; a disaster planning
team for the congregation; work with spiritual visitation teams; CPR classes;
nursing assistance for the congregation’s pre-school; flu shots for members;
“Growing Through Loss” grief support; and follow-up cards sent to those in
bereavement.
Kapfer no doubt illustrates an attitude shared by the Fairview funding unit
when she says, “Parish nursing gets to the real heart of nursing. It addresses
holistic needs of the individual.” Coming from a former hospital nurse, that’s
high praise for a program more and more Lutheran congregations are
embracing.