Joanne Pulles, HCA vice president of community relations and president of the HCA Hope Fund, described the work of the 501(c)(3) charity that has helped over 18,000 HCA families in 10 years and talked about how they’re celebrating a Decade of Hope. During our talk, she expressed that, for HCA employees, whether you’re in Alaska, Florida or Texas…a nurse, doctor or CEO, the Hope Fund connects us all. It’s the culture of HCA – to help people. We asked her a few questions to learn more.

What is the HCA Hope Fund?

The HCA Hope Fund is a public charity that we created to help our employees in times of need. We’re proud of the Hope Fund and the work we do because it’s unique. There are only a handful of companies that have charitable funds that they manage for their employees. Companies oftentimes use community foundations or other community entities in times of disaster, but in terms of having a year-round charitable fund that you operate like other parts of the business, we’re part of a very small group of companies.

How did the Hope Fund come to be?

It was inspired by the 2004 Florida hurricanes – Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne – and our employees’ significant need as a result of those storms.  HCA personnel around the rest of the country really wanted to help and didn’t know how. So, we established a bank account where people could give – and they did. Even though it was not a charitable deduction, people gave anyway.  We helped hundreds of our colleagues through that fund.

Just one year later, how did the Hope Fund respond to Hurricane Katrina?

Well, after the 2004 hurricanes and our response, we began exploring what worked well, what didn’t and just different ways to help in the future.  We weren’t quite ramped up when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans where HCA operates Tulane Medical Center, but we were able to provide support very quickly. I remember us working though that Labor Day weekend, to help. While the 2004 hurricanes inspired the Hope Fund, Hurricane Katrina was when it really came to life with more than $4 million in grants to our colleagues in need. It was truly a defining moment for our company and the way that we care for each other.

What is Hope Fund Week?

Like Hurricane Katrina, this is the 10-year anniversary of the Hope Fund. It’s a very special time. With HCA’s support, we are declaring the week of September 14, Hope Fund Week. It’s a time to celebrate the HCA Hope Fund, recognize the decade milestone, acknowledge our givers, and most importantly, remember all the people that, together, we’ve been able to help over the years. There will be events planned at local hospitals; we’re hoping people share their support of the Hope Fund through social media (there are prizes involved!); and we’re expecting that almost every one of our over 200,000 employees will have a touchpoint with the Hope Fund during the week.

Is there one Hope Fund recipient that really touched you?

There are so many stories. There was a woman in Nashville who was affected by the historic 2010 Tennessee flood. I would be in meetings with her and be constantly reminded that something like a natural disaster or an injury or illness could affect any of us, at any time. That’s where the Hope Fund becomes real for people – when you’re able to help someone you know.

Take a minute to view how the HCA Hope Fund impacts employees across the organization.