By Julia VanDeren, LeadingAge Indiana Annual Magazine 2022
The BHI Foundation has a long history of enhancing the quality of life for the residents of BHI communities. It was started in 1986, when BHI was Baptist Homes of Indiana. There are many examples of enhancing residents’ lives in very direct ways such as adding dog parks, aviaries, and greenhouses to communities, improving community libraries, and importantly, enabling residents whose financial resources have been exhausted to continue residing in their community.
The BHI Foundation also explicitly recognizes that BHI residents benefit when the staff who care for them are supported and encouraged to continue growing in their careers through education. To this end, the Foundation operates a scholarship program and a student loan repayment program for BHI staff. And of course, during the height of COVID the Foundation made possible some additional one-off initiatives to support staff such as supplying basic groceries and meals for staff members to take home and bringing meals into staff on shift.
The scholarship program is available to BHI employees who maintain a 16 (or more) hour a week work schedule while they pursue their education. Even new employees are eligible. A generous 100% of tuition at a state university-or an equivalent amount if the employee attends a private university-is reimbursed, as well as up to $750/semester for textbooks, lab fees, testing fees, and the like. Applications for the scholarship are reviewed by the foundation director, the executive director at the employee’s community, HR, and the employee’s supervisor(s) to ensure that scholarships are awarded to employees in good standing. To receive the end of semester reimbursement, participating employees must earn a “C” or better grade in the courses they seek reimbursement for. Employees who participate in the scholarship agree that upon completion of the course, degree, or licensure program that they pursue, they will continue to work full-time for BHI for an equivalent length of time, up to a maximum of two years.
The student loan repayment program is similarly generous. Employees become eligible to apply after 120 days on the job, provided they work a minimum of 16 hours a week. Applicants must provide documentation of outstanding student loan debt incurred in a course of study relevant to the applicant’s job. Once accepted for loan repayment, the Foundation pays $500 per quarter for up to $10,000 – or the balance of the student loan debt if it is a lesser amount-while the employee stays employed at a BHI community.
Given its 35 year history, the BHI Foundation is fortunate to be able to operate largely off of investment income. BHI holds an annual golf tournament to raise funds for the foundation. Otherwise, donations and estate planning gifts, typically from residents or their families, constitute annual fundraising. In some cases, donations or gifts are given with the expressed intention of supporting employee education.
It certainly is not lost on BHI that these two Foundation programs are powerful tools in their recruitment and retention arsenal. Jennifer Zvokel, the BHI Foundation Director, cites several examples of individuals who have advanced their careers while staying with BHI and taking advantage of these programs. Amongst these examples is the current Director of Nursing at Hoosier Village, who started with BHI as a CNA.
“For many years, I have dreamed of one day becoming a nurse. I began my career at Hoosier Village, BHI, as a certified nurse aide nearly eight years ago. With the help of the BHI scholarship, I have obtained a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree as a registered nurse. Today, I am Director of Nursing Services at Hoosier Village.”
– Netra Turner BSN, RN
The BHI Foundation continues to look forward. Among other things, a situation they are monitoring is what will happen with federal student loan debt as the economy and labor market correct post-global health crisis. The Foundation remains committed to structuring their programs and identifying new opportunities to support staff. Zvokel explains that she checks in with nurse leaders to gain insight into what opportunities there may be for enhancing residents’ lives and supporting staff. She notes that “it does us no good to have these great programs if they are really not connecting with where the highest needs are.”