The Meaning of Care Magazine

‘It’s Who We Are’: Fremont Health Foundation’s Caring Coworkers Fund Helps Employees Weather the Storm

Published: Dec. 20, 2023

DeAnn Varilek knows a thing or two about juggling responsibility.

As the environmental services (EVS) lead at Methodist Fremont Health, she’s a jack-of-all-trades – inspecting patient rooms to ensure they’ve been properly cleaned, scrubbing floors and showers, and being a go-to resource for coworkers with questions.

At home, she’s a single parent supporting her 13-year-old granddaughter.

“It’s hard on a single income to support a child and maintain your living expenses,” said Varilek, who has worked in the EVS Department for 30 years. “I’ve done a lot for my kids and my grandchild, and sometimes that’s the consequences you pay for being single.”

She’s at ease when others rely on her, but a string of knee and back surgeries over the years have put her in an unfamiliar position: relying on others.


DeAnn Varilek and her granddaughter
DeAnn Varilek and her granddaughter

“A Weight Lifted Off Your Shoulders”

After a knee surgery in 2021, Varilek found herself in a tight spot. Her income was limited while she recovered, and her rent was due soon.

She turned to the Fremont Health Foundation’s Caring Coworkers Fund for financial assistance.

The Caring Coworkers Fund is fully funded by contributions from Methodist Fremont Health employees and aims to financially support employees facing extreme hardship due to unforeseen circumstances. The fund provides up to $1,500 annually to each eligible employee. Each year, it provides about $25,000 in assistance to employees at Methodist Fremont Health and Fremont-based Methodist Physicians Clinic locations.

“We all know that a crisis could happen to any of us at any time,” said Shawn Shanahan, executive director of development and community health for Methodist Fremont Health and the Fremont Health Foundation. “There’s not very many places you can work that offer a benefit to help their own employees during a time of crisis. It’s great to have these funds available for our employees during difficult times.”

Those times have included regional and international events. In the aftermath of historic flooding in early 2019, the fund stepped in to assist affected employees. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the fund was there to help families wrestling with the financial fallout of a COVID diagnosis. During those high-profile events, anonymous gifts to the Foundation allowed it to exceed $1,500 in assistance, when necessary.

Varilek knows how impactful the program is. The money she received in 2019 helped her make ends meet until she could return to work.

“It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders because you don’t know what you’re going to do,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t have very many options. You don’t have a savings account to tap into or a spouse. It’s definitely a relief.”


Every Dollar Counts

In the years since she first applied for assistance, Varilek has had additional surgeries. She’s leaned on the Caring Coworkers Fund twice more – which is why she feels so strongly about supporting the program herself.

“We just went through the Caring Campaign, and our whole department donated,” she said. “I usually mark my donation for the Caring Coworkers Fund because it’s helped me. Granted, it’s not much – $1 per pay period. But if everybody does that, it adds up.”

The Foundation sees more requests for assistance each year, Shanahan said, so every dollar truly makes a difference. It’s a safety net in times of crisis and the epitome of The Meaning of Care.

“We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves,” she said. “The Caring Coworkers Fund is in perfect alignment with our mission and values. It’s who we are.”

If you’d like to contribute to the Caring Coworkers Fund or any Fremont Health Foundation initiative, click here or contact:

Shawn Shanahan
Executive Director of Development and Community Health
Fremont Health Foundation
(402) 727-3566

Fremont Health Foundation News

Golf Classic Raises Over $39K

Thank you to everyone who sponsored and participated in the 22nd annual Fremont Health Foundation Golf Classic on Sept. 18.

It was a wonderful day of golf, fun and philanthropy! The event raised over $39,000 to support the Medication Assistance Program (MAP) at Methodist Fremont Health. The MAP is a community benefit program that provides critical assistance to patients in obtaining medications who are uninsured, underinsured, or have financial needs.

Thank you to our event sponsors:

FNBO – Presenting Sponsor
Allo – Cart Sponsor
RVR Bank – Putting Green Sponsor
Specialized Engineering Solutions – Driving Range Sponsor
Rawhide Chemoil Inc. – Dinner and Awards Sponsor
Hy-Vee Fremont – Lunch Sponsor


Methodist Fremont Health gala

Save the Date

Each year, the Fremont Health Foundation hosts a gala event for the community in an effort to build support for the Foundation.

The next event, Fremont Health Foundation’s Masquerade Gala, is Feb. 24 at Christensen Field. Save the date and plan to join us!

Click here for more details as they're available.

More Resources

About the Author

Patrick Smith, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, has over a decade of experience writing and editing for newspapers and other publications. He enjoys meeting new people and telling stories that highlight Methodist's mission to deliver The Meaning of Care.

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