SSM Health-St. Mary’s Hospitals in Jefferson City and Audrain County recently donated $25,000 to the Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri’s Disaster Relief Fund, citing a renewed emphasis on inter-agency collaboration following a catastrophic tornado and ongoing flooding in the area.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight and Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the diocese’s director of pastoral and charitable services and liaison for Catholic healthcare, accepted the June 19 donation from Mike Baumgartner, president of SSM Health Mid-Missouri; Joshua L. Allee, regional mission leader for SSM Health Mid-Missouri; and Bev Stafford, director of the St. Mary’s Foundation.
The money will go toward helping survivors of the May 22 tornado in Jefferson City and Eldon.
Mr. Baumgartner recalled speaking to a man whose home no longer had a roof, whose utilities had been rendered useless and whose every earthly belonging was out on the curb, waterlogged.
“And he’s still staying there,” said Mr. Baumgartner.
Another person told him how she had to crawl out of her damaged mobile home after the one next door to hers landed on top of it.
“How do you survive something like that?” he asked.
He noted that within a half-hour of the tornado, the SSM St. Mary’s Emergency Department in Jefferson City was prepared for an influx of patients. All of the hospital’s Emergency Department doctors and general surgeons were ready to assist in any way.
“Everybody was there,” said Mr. Baumgartner. “Everybody stepped up.”
He said the SSM mission is “alive and well and doing great” — but in the disaster’s aftermath, “the need continues.”
“Hopefully, this helps,” he said of the hospital’s contribution.
Ms. Stafford talked about the importance of SSM Health, the St. Mary’s Community Foundation and Catholic Charities working in partnership since the disastrous tornados left some of the area’s most vulnerable people in even greater need.
“What we’re all really doing by carrying-out our various missions together is to maximize our resources,” she said.
Mr. Allee recalled that Jesuit Father Jean Pierre Medaille, who founded the Sisters of St. Joseph in France in 1650, instructed the sisters to divide up the city, go and find out the needs of the people, and meet those needs as much as possible.
“And when they couldn’t do it alone, he told them to find likeminded partners to work with them,” Mr. Allee noted.
“That’s exactly what we do in community ministry,” he said. “And Catholic Charities is very likeminded in their mission of charity.”
“When we pull together, we can do a whole lot more,” Bishop McKnight responded.
Ms. Stafford said SSM and Catholic Charities are collaborating to address the long-term effects of the stress and trauma brought on by the tornado and local flooding.
They plan to hold community forums on July 18 and 19 in Jefferson City and Eldon to address mental health and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of the disaster.