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Impact and Give Back | SMH Foundation

Impact and Give Back | SMH Foundation

A Foundation of Care

By Liesel Schmidt 

As the world has changed, so have the needs of its people when it comes to healthcare. Time and technology have greatly impacted the way the medical community operates, providing it with resources that were once just vague imaginings of visionary thinkers. That said, it takes hospitals with more than just a bottom-line focus to really make a difference in the community, and Slidell Memorial Hospital is one of those community-minded organizations who see the faces of their patients and do the utmost to change their lives for the better.

 Offering advanced technology and innovative treatments to its patients, SMH is a local nonprofit community hospital that has been providing quality care to the local community for 60 years, leading the way in healthcare on the Northshore. Located in the heart of Slidell, SMH offers a 223-bed acute care hospital with expert physicians, specially trained staff, and a level of care that makes it unique to other hospitals. Its specialty departments include the SMH Heart Center and the SMH Regional Cancer Center—the only facility of its kind in East St. Tammany, where patients can be diagnosed, treated, and rehabilitated in one convenient location—an expanded Emergency Room, and Outpatient Rehabilitation therapists who are certified in LSVT-BIG treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, as well as operating the only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of its kind in the area and offering a New Beginnings Program for moms coping with Opioid Use Disorder. 

Recognizing the growing healthcare needs of the community that could not be served without major funding, the SMH Foundation was created as a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization in 2008. “Our purpose is to aid SMH in their efforts to improve the quality of life in our community,” says Laurie Panzeca, Executive Director of SMH Foundation. “Fundraising efforts enable us to grant funds to hospital departments that provide patient and caregiver support programs, equipment upgrades and additions, and renovations that serve the community. Hospital philanthropy directly connects the power of generosity to impact the health and well-being of our community. Our organization offers a vehicle for the community to ensure the longevity and sustainability of having SMH as a nonprofit community hospital.”   

Over the course of its lifetime, the foundation has helped countless individuals, each of whom likely have no idea of the work that the organization does behind the scenes in keeping the hospital running at peak performance. “The work of the SMH Foundation and funds received benefit over 25,000 individuals annually,” says Panzeca. “Chances are that most of the patients that are treated at SMH have benefited from SMH Foundation funding that were granted to SMH. The funds that are raised by the SMH Foundation are dedicated to departments at SMH such as the SMH Regional Cancer Center; the Heart Center; the Emergency Department; Labor and Delivery; Outpatient therapy; Community Outreach that includes health screenings, education, and the Fit as a Firefighter program; the Imaging Center; and Cardio-pulmonary rehab.”   

In the fight against cancer, the SMH Foundation has done amazing things for patient advocacy, proving their heart for the community. The foundation offers a host of resources, support programs, care packages, screenings, and celebrations like the survivor “pinking of the fountain.” Cognizant of just how greatly a patient’s appearance may change during the course of cancer treatment, SMH has included in its Regional Cancer Center a fully staffed and equipped Appearance Center. “We assist patients with enhancement of their personal appearance,” says Panzeca. Services and products available to patients include transportation assistance, cosmetics and makeup tutorials, skin care, prosthetics, mastectomy garments, hats, scarves, and wigs.    

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SMH’s pediatric clinic also participates in the Reach Out and Read program, which is funded by the SMH Foundation. “The program offers books to pediatric patients from birth to five years old, supporting the belief that all families should have the tools and information they need to make reading aloud a daily routine,” says Panzeca. “Through this program, the foundation helps integrate reading into pediatric practices. The providers advise families about the importance of reading with their children and share books that serve as a catalyst for healthy childhood development.” 

Finding funding is, of course, critical to the cause; and the foundation’s donors are its lifeblood, assuring that equipment and services remain excellent at SMH and helping the hospital offer the highest quality of patient care possible. “The foundation raises funds through direct donor engagement and hosting annual special events, and our focus is connecting donors that care about healthcare and the health of our community to opportunities for giving,” Panzeca explains. “The dollars raised by the foundation are from local corporations, individuals, and charitable foundations. The foundation then grants the funds collected through a formal grant process to SMH departments.” 

Naturally, the last 18 months have affected some of the foundation’s fundraising efforts. “Although the SMH Foundation is financially healthy and stable, our fundraising strategies include special events such as our signature special event, the Rooftop Rendezvous, which is on hold. Special events like this and our annual golf event represent 30 to 40 percent of our annual fundraising budget,” Panzeca explains. “Still, our purpose has not changed over the last 18 months, nor will it; we have only refined our fundraising efforts based on the needs of the SMH staff and our community. Our foundation is a small shop with only two employees, a volunteer board, and office volunteers. Our success is due in no small part to their commitment to their work and our purpose.” For more information on SMH Foundation, visit

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