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Our History

Gratitude and Philanthropy: The Birth of The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital

As part of the 1996 merger of Barnes Hospital and Jewish Hospital, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital was born, carrying forward a rich history of philanthropy from both institutions. 

*This history is excerpted from A Legacy of Caring: The History of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. For more information or to purchase this book, please contact Betsy Dennis at Betsy.Dennis@bjc.org or 314-286-0451. 

Early Barnes and Jewish Philanthropy 

Throughout its history, Jewish Hospital was a philanthropic focus of the St. Louis Jewish community, attracting gifts from prominent families or their foundations: the Shoenbergs, Steinbergs, Waldheims, Wohls, and Yalems, among others. Early on, the dedicated Auxiliary served as the fundraising and volunteer arm of the hospital, which later established an active development office. 

Like Jewish Hospital, Barnes Hospital initially relied on its Auxiliary to raise money for special projects, such as new technology and a bridge walkway from the hospital’s garage. Sometimes, grateful patients established funds named for their physicians.  

At both hospitals, memorial gifts have long provided a way for family members and friends to honor a loved one or recognize a special occasion. The back pages of Jewish Hospital’s 216 newsletter, along with the Barnes Hospital Bulletin, were filled with the names of tribute gifts honoring patients or their doctors. 

The Birth of the Foundation 

After the merger, the Barnes-Jewish Foundation was established and adopted new fundraising strategies. The Foundation also expanded in size and scope. From 13, its staff grew to 26 by 2016 and donations were coming in from many sources: 5 percent from corporations, 9 percent from planned gifts, 16 percent from other foundations, and 71 percent from individuals. 

“The perception is that corporations and foundations give the most money, but that’s just not true,” says Susan Ell, vice president and executive director of the Foundation. “Generous, grateful patients and families are still at the heart of our fundraising. One of our donors, a cancer survivor, said she gives in appreciation of those who did the research that saved her life—and in the hope of helping other patients.”

Sometimes these gifts are especially poignant. One Kentucky donor sent $10 to support heart and vascular care, saying simply: “Love your hospital. Not much, but all I can send.” A father from Arkansas wrote a heartfelt letter of thanks for his daughter’s care at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and he tucked in a check for $400. 

Grants and Awards 

Over the years, the Foundation has supported research, provided scholarships to nursing students, paid for such state-of-the-art equipment as a new iMRI unit, helped establish the hospital’s first cultural diversity program, and provided money for endowed chairs, among many other initiatives.

In the community, the Foundation supports projects that parallel the mission of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, including programs that promote health, wellness and prevention or reduce disparities in health care access within areas served by the hospital. It has also supported such outreach programs as Beyond Housing, the Effort for AIDS, and St. Patrick Center, supplied as many as 30,000 free flu shots annually to the public; helped support diabetes outreach efforts; and provided money for a new “Cheers” van that takes nursing students from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College into the community. 

The Foundation’s Future 

Over time, much has changed at the Foundation. In 2011, its original name—the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation—became The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The board of directors also has evolved. Once required to have 20 board members each from the former Barnes and Jewish Hospitals, it now represents a cross-section of the broader community. 

Many other aspects of hospital life, such as medical technology and health care options, have also changed dramatically. But one focus remains the same. Barnes and Jewish Hospital were founded, through generous donations, to provide medical care to patients of any religion or economic background—and today, Barnes-Jewish Hospital continues to offer the same broad-based care, thanks to the continued generosity of the community.