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Leaving home to attend a funeral out of state is emotionally draining for anyone. For Kelli Phelps, a master social worker at our Fresenius Kidney Care center in West Virginia, this hardship became unimaginable when she discovered that a freak ice storm had struck while she was away, and three trees had fallen on her roof.
“I was in shock,” she recalls. That was the start of her nightmare. Phelps piled her belongings under plastic sheeting and stayed with family while she figured out what to do next. A few days later, the ice started to melt and flooded her apartment. It was clear that she had to find a new place to live — and fast. Phelps needed help, both with coordinating and financing her move. Upon hearing about her struggles, Phelps’s supervisor told her about the company’s CARES Fund.
CARES stands for Compassionate Assistance and Relief for Employees in need of Support. The fund offers grants of up to $2,500 in financial assistance to eligible employees. Established more than a decade ago, this grant program was designed to assist our employees in times of unforeseen financial struggle due to natural disasters or personal hardships.
The program is funded through donations from the company, but also through direct donations from employees. These donations led to more than $1.7 million in grants in 2021 alone going to employees in need.
“As a leading healthcare employer, it’s no surprise that our employees stepped up not only to care for our patients, but also each other,” says Brian Silva, chief human resources officer. “Our employees have yet again showed their compassion and generosity. And the donations have made meaningful impacts in the lives of employees who have faced personal tragedy.”
Phelps applied for funding and received a grant that helped her move. “It meant a lot to me because it let me get the utilities on,” she says. “It helped me be able to start living in my apartment.”
We employ more than 70,000 people, and it’s inevitable that our employees will face hardships. Randy Webb, an area technical operations manager, was one such employee. “I found out I had a tumor and I had to go in and have brain surgery,” he says.
After three surgeries, multiple hospital stays, and ambulance rides, the bills piled up. Although he’s worked for the company for over 30 years, he didn’t know the CARES Fund existed. After finding out about the program, he applied and received a grant. “It was a burden lifted off my back,” he says. As a result of his experience, Webb plans to donate to the CARES Fund himself when he’s able — to pay it forward to other employees.
Our CARES Fund can also assist employees after the loss of a loved one. In late 2020 and early 2021, Brandon Peak, one of our home therapies nurses, was in a tough situation. His mother, the legal guardian of his niece and nephew, was ill and could no longer watch over them. Peak brought the two young teens to live with him while his mother convalesced. Sadly, Peak’s mother passed in January 2021. With the added costs of childcare and a funeral, the financial burden became too much.
Peak applied for the CARES Fund and was selected for a grant. That grant was a major help while he arranged his mother’s funeral.
“The CARES Fund helped a lot,” says Peak. “Due to COVID-19, many state offices were closed so it took two months to get a death certificate, but the CARES Fund worked with me to get the documents needed from the funeral home. They paid the funeral home directly and I never received a bill, which was wonderful.”
The CARES Fund has had an impact on the lives of many of our employees who are at times faced with sometimes unthinkable circumstances. This program is largely made possible by employees who want to help their peers. We are committed to supporting our people. By providing grants to employees in need we can provide some small aide when it’s most needed.