If you have ever found yourself alone and facing a critical health diagnosis, you know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the maze of treatments, procedures and appointments. Such challenges are what fuel the mission of the River Valley Health Foundation.

“Our purpose is to directly impact the health and wellbeing of Ohio Valley residents,” says RVHF Executive Director Cynthia Morrison.

RVHF is a not-for-profit public charitable organization that exists to improve the health of everyone in the Ohio Valley. The foundation works to identify areas of health care vulnerability and then partners with other organizations that address these issues. The group provides health care advocacy, striving to have a positive impact on current and emerging health issues and risks.

“We exist to empower residents in our service area to access health care services and to value, embrace and maintain their health,” Morrison says.

RVHF was created in 2017 following Alecto’s purchase of Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital. Previously known as Ohio Valley Health Services & Education, RVHF was reorganized as a stand-alone non-profit foundation to carry out the charitable outreach activities previously handled by OVHS&E.

The organization serves residents in Belmont, Jefferson, Monroe, Guernsey and Harrison counties in Ohio and in Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in West Virginia.

“It’s important to note that RVHF now operates as a completely separate entity from OVMC and EORH,” says Morrison. Because of its autonomous status, RVHF’s future is not determined by nor impacted in any way by Alecto’s management or financial resources.

TALENTED LEADERSHIP, FOCUSED MISSION

An attorney by trade, Morrison has been at the helm of the foundation since its inception two years ago. She shares leadership responsibilities with a board of trustees, which is headed by Orphy Klempa.

“We have a terrific board,” Morrison says. The 10 board members come from various backgrounds and include both physicians and laypersons. The group brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

“Our current focus is primarily on children and the elderly,” Morrison tells Weelunk. These vulnerable populations can sometimes fall through the cracks of the health care system. Morrison shares that she once cared for a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. This friend lacked transportation and family support and was unable to work during treatments. Morrison volunteered to drive her friend to appointments, staying with her while she was cared for by her medical team.

“Sometimes patients need someone to come along and listen to what the doctor is telling them and to help them process that information,” Morrison states. “Often, the patient is ill or simply too overwhelmed by their diagnosis to do that themselves.”

This personal knowledge of what a difference something as simple as a ride can make drives Morrison’s commitment to RVHF’s mission of service.

“A goal of the foundation is to increase access to non-emergency health services by providing transportation to the residents of the Ohio Valley,” says Morrison. For this reason, RVHF’s largest grant was awarded to National Church Residences.

The foundation gave NCR $50,000 to expand its health-related transportation services to more residents in Ohio and West Virginia. NCR provides affordable nationwide senior housing and operates Barnesville Manor in our local area. If someone you know is in need of medical transportation, contact NCR at 740-425-9001 to discuss eligibility and availability.

Presenting a check to National Church Residences — the largest grant award to date — are, from left: Orphy Klempa, RVHF board chairperson; Peggy Hickenbottom, NCR transportation director; Cynthia Morrison, RVHF executive director; and Pete Holloway, RVHF secretary/treasurer.

ADDITIONAL 2018 GRANTS

In addition to the large grant given to NCR, RVHF awarded a number of other smaller grants in their first full year of existence. Grants given in 2018 totaled $86,700. Some of those beneficiaries were the City of Wheeling, receiving $10,200 for a shade structure to protect children at the 36th Street playground, and Wheeling Health Right, which received $10,000 to purchase consumable supplies for its dental clinic.

The dental clinic at Wheeling Health Right is a recipient of a grant from RVHF.

Kathie Brown, executive director of Wheeling Health Right, is extremely grateful for the grant that her agency received. “The RVHF funding has allowed us to relieve pain and suffering for 2,034 patients with an equivalent of $1.6 million of donated dental care. In addition to being a great return on investment, patients smiling again, finding gainful employment and having better physical health is immeasurable,” she states.

Jesse Mestrovic, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Wheeling, also expressed his deep appreciation for RVHF’s grant. “This grant provided an excellent new addition to the 36th Street Playground at the South Wheeling pool. The grant went directly toward the purchase of a shade structure that will fit over the newly renovated playground. The structure will provide UV protection for our youth, help regulate temperatures on the asphalt playground and help preserve our equipment over time due to the corrosive effects of prolonged sun exposure,” Mestrovic says.

This new shade structure over the 36th Street playground was made possible by a grant from RVHF.

Other groups receiving RVHF funding last year were West Liberty University’s nursing scholarship program, West Virginia Society for Respiratory Care’s Asthma Camp for children and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine Foundation’s rotation physician housing assistance fund.

2019 AND BEYOND

This year, RVHF’s grant application deadline is Nov. 1. Funding determinations will be made on Dec. 15. Applicants are invited to apply online by clicking here. To be considered, applicants must meet eligibility criteria. In general, grants are not awarded to individuals. Any 501(c)(3) non-profit group that is not a private foundation and is located within the counties served by the foundation is eligible to apply. The average grant award is between $1,000 and $5,000 and cannot be used to support annual appeals, fundraising campaigns or general operating budgets.

The foundation has firm roots in the local community and plans to be active here for many years to come. Morrison says that she would love to see the group’s funding extend to help groups on the frontlines of the battle against the opioid crisis.

“We all know someone affected by it,” Morrison says sadly. “Education, religion, race, socioeconomic status — none of these matter. This crisis affects everyone and is one of the biggest health care issues today.”

To support RVHR’s vision of better health for everyone, you can make a donation by visiting their website.

Ellen Brafford McCroskey works in the Lawyer Development Department at Orrick’s GOC in downtown Wheeling, where she has been employed for eight years. A lifelong Wheeling resident, she is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School and Wheeling Jesuit University with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. Her hobbies include writing, photography, crafting and crocheting. Her pet causes are educating others on the need for solutions to the opioid crisis and the need for equality for all people, particularly her LGBTQ friends and family. Ellen resides in Warwood with her husband Doug, who is the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their extended family includes four adult children and their significant others; a number of biological and “adopted” grandkids; their dads and sisters; numerous in-laws and outlaws; and a clowder of rescued pets.

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