Time is running out. For the past month, the Weiss Initiative Supplying Hope (W.I.S.H.) has been collecting school supplies from hospital staff and visitors. This week, the drive comes to an end, and W.I.S.H. will donate all supplies to McCutcheon Elementary School, located around the corner from Weiss at 4865 N. Sheridan Rd.
“Mr. Johnson, the assistant principal, has told me that he is so appreciative of our donation as so many children come from families that cannot afford such supplies,” said Monica Finocchiaro, M.D., director of the rehabilitation unit at Weiss.
Last year, W.I.S.H. held a similar school supply drive, which Dr. Finocchiaro called “extremely successful.” The group donated 800 items to the Swift Elementary Specialty School, 900 N. Winthrop Ave.
Dr. Finocchiaro started the W.I.S.H. organization because she saw potential to make a connection between two entities—the Uptown neighborhood and the compassionate staff at Weiss. In doing so, she helped make Weiss more than a place for people to go when they’re sick. It became a thriving source that brings good to the community.
“Weiss Hospital has so many caring and giving staff members that recognize the needs in our area. I felt that many people here would be willing to and would want to help the community in which we work,” she said. “The Uptown area, although up and coming, still has a large underserved population.”
Fortunately, many social services organizations exist in the neighborhood. Since January 2009, Dr. Finocchiaro has led the “small but committed” W.I.S.H. group in supporting those services. The group chooses a different organization to assist each month. So far, they have collected toiletries for Northside Supportive Services, prepared sandwiches and cold lunches for Inspiration Café, and donated food items to the food pantry at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church.
W.I.S.H. also promotes Jeans Days at Weiss, during which employees make a donation of at least $1 to wear jeans to work. Typically, more than 100 employees participate, and W.I.S.H. has given the money collected to Alternatives, the McCormick Boys and Girls Club, Sarah’s Circle, the People’s Church and the People’s Music School.
“We hope that by pooling our resources and ideas we can make an impact,” Dr. Finocchiaro said, adding that all of the organizations have been grateful, “and although the collections may not be extremely large, they make a difference in our community.”
Sometimes, though, W.I.S.H. takes action beyond the Weiss community. After the Haitian earthquake this past January, Weiss employees requested that the month’s W.I.S.H. project be a collection for Haiti. Vanguard Health Systems, the parent company of Weiss, offered to match each donation, and by the end, the Weiss donations gave more than $7,000 to various relief organizations.
For this month’s school supply drive, the impact is clearly visible. Piles of notebooks, pencils, pens, folders, tape, scissors and more fill a table in the Senior Center. As of last Friday, Weiss staff had donated close to 900 items, but Dr. Finocchiaro said she hopes to reach the 1,000 mark by the end of this week.
Moving forward, the group plans on collecting coats and hats for winter. They also regularly accept all types of clothing, which support the W.I.S.H. Closet, providing clothes to patients in need at the time of discharge.
“Weiss is so fortunate to have such a great group of people who want to help make a difference. W.I.S.H. has been successful because of the heart of the staff here,” Dr. Finocchiaro said.
To donate to the school supply drive, bring any pens, crayons, pencils, notebooks, paper, glue or folders to the WISE Senior Center, located on the first floor of the hospital near the C elevators. All donations must be in by Thursday, Sept. 9.