Hutcheson Health Foundation gives away most of its remaining money

The former Hutcheson Medical Center campus in Fort Oglethorpe.

The Hutcheson Health Foundation has given away most of the $750,000 it had left.

The foundation, a charitable wing of the Fort Oglethorpe hospital that closed last year, gave the money to other local health care operations that serve North Georgia, board members said. That includes about $100,000 each to Erlanger Health System and CHI Memorial Hospital.

The money given to Erlanger will go toward building a new children's hospital. It was given in the name of Leonard Fant, who served as a CEO for both Erlanger and Hutcheson. Julie Taylor, president of Erlanger Health System Foundations, said the children's hospital serves about 14,000 children from Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties.

CHI Memorial, meanwhile, will use the donation from Hutcheson on mammography screenings, lung cancer education and screenings for uninsured people from those three counties.

Hutcheson opened in 1953 as part of a federal government program to provide health care to rural communities. Local mill workers also donated to the construction of the hospital with money taken out of their paychecks. The hospital was controlled by a board from Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties. Bankrupt, it closed in 2015 and was purchased by a private company.

The foundation was created to solicit donations and make big purchases for the hospital.

"We tried to spread all the money to all three counties as evenly as we could [after the hospital closed]," said Bob Peck, foundation chairman.

Betts Berry, a board member, said the foundation met multiple times to discuss options for where to donate the $750,000 that it still had when the hospital closed. In addition to the two Chattanooga hospitals, the foundation also gave money to:

  • The Family Crisis Center of Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties
  • The Children's Advocacy Center of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit
  • Backpack Blessings, a YMCA program that gives food to low-income children in Walker County
  • The Center for Hope in Fort Oglethorpe
  • The Primary Health Center of Dade County.

"We were extremely diligent in investigating the prospects," Berry said. "One reason: We wanted to be good stewards of the money. But people trusted us when they gave gifts to the foundation to do what would best benefit the hospital."

Kristy Lawson, the director of the Family Crisis Center, said the $80,000 her organization received will go toward the medical needs of the center's clients - victims of domestic violence. It also runs a group home for foster children.

Tammy Cole, a foundation board member, said they gave money to a total of 15 groups.

"Prior to receiving funds," she wrote in an email, "each organization had to sign a Charitable Agreement, agreeing to use the funds as restricted by the Hutcheson Health Foundation and for the purpose of providing for the healthcare and wellness needs of our community."

The foundation still has money left, Berry said. The board is waiting to see if it has to make any more housekeeping payments, like to an insurance company to cover liabilities. Then, they will disburse the remaining money.

The board will then disband.

Contact staff writer Tyler jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.