Money raised will go to expanding, improving the emergency room

Published in the September 6 – September 19, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

Photo courtesy St. Louise Hospital Foundation
From left, Mayor Steve Tate, Andy Pashby, George Chiala and George Chiala, Jr. at An Evening in Tuscany, 2012 wine event at the Chiala’s home.

Last year, the nurses, doctors and staff at St. Louise Regional Hospital’s emergency room made decisions that impacted the quality of life — and even the continuation of life — of about 27,000 people. Contributing to that mission are the volunteers of the St. Louise Regional Hospital Foundation who support the philanthropic needs of the South Valley’s hospital.

The foundation’s Harvest Moon Gala at Guglielmo Winery Sept. 16 will be a tribute to the nonprofit’s founding board member and longtime chair, George Chiala. The event will raise money to fulfill one of the philanthropic South Valley farmer’s dream — to expand the emergency room to better serve the South Valley community. Currently, the ER has only eight beds to take care of the many people who come in for medical treatment.

Mary Beth Anderson, an organizer of the gala, serves as the foundation’s board secretary. She is passionate about the mission of the foundation and remembers when she decided to join the board six years ago.

George Chiala with his wife, Alice Chiala when he received the Leadership Excellence Award from Leadership Morgan Hill in 2016.

“It was our dear friend, George Chiala, who sat down with me over a cup of coffee and asked that I think about participating — and who can say no to George?” said with a laugh. “So I had some time on my hands to devote to that opportunity and I jumped in with both feet.”

The last fundraiser was held two years ago at Chiala’s Morgan Hill estate. The formal fundraising events were put on hold as St. Louise and O’Connor Hospital in San Jose underwent the process of coming under the new ownership of Verity Health System. Money from this year’s gala will go to the George Chiala Fund started by his family to provide improvements to the hospital. The foundation also intends to launch a program at the gala to raise an additional $25,000 to be used to help uninsured women get mammography examinations to detect breast cancer. The exams will be done with special medical equipment which will be installed later this year at Morgan Hill’s De Paul Health Center and St. Louise.

The foundation carries on Chiala’s spirit with a goal of ensuring everyone, regardless of income or demographics, has access to good quality health care, Anderson said.

George Chiala

“I think what it boils down to is that when you got to know George, you learned how sincere he was about a positive legacy that would go beyond him — that (legacy) having to do with health and education,” she said. “He saw a need to offer medical services to those who couldn’t afford it. He had very unique perspective on the South County society — and the farm society as well — on social justice, health care and education.”

The gala organizers hope the event — which is now sold-out — will reflect Chiala’s gentleman manners and mischievous humor, she said.

“It’s going to be a wonderful evening. It’s going to incorporate a lot of the things George loved the most,” she said. “He loved watching the love of his life, his wife, Alice, dance. He liked a good glass of wine. He loved people.”

Besides Anderson, the foundation board includes Joe Aiello, Frank Angelino, Sue Ball, Judith Bonino. Glenda Garcia, Rita Gutierrez-Fisher, Jill Kirk, Norma Ludergnani, Erin Monroe, Bernie Mulligan, Debbi Sanchez, Steve Tate, Annie Tomasello, Chris Vanni, James Watson, MD, John Hennelly, Jordon Herget, and Dub Drees, the foundation’s CEO.

Many of the board members were recruited by Chiala to be involved in the foundation’s activities.

“We all have the same goal — to improve the quality of healthcare for all citizens and residents of South Valley,” Anderson said. “There’s no reason why St. Louise shouldn’t be the most vibrant hospital in Santa Clara Valley. It’s going to be very interesting with the new ownership how this all plays out. We at the foundation are very excited about the corporation and the new ownership and we’ll see what happens.”

The foundation plays an important role in the quality of service the South Valley hospital provides, said Katie Robinson, senior director of development at Verity for O’Connor and St. Louise. Her job includes overseeing the fundraising efforts at both hospitals. The upcoming event will not only raise money but also bring attention to the importance of having a local hospital to take care of the region’s residents.

“The Harvest Moon Gala is a tribute to George Chiala Sr. who served as chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the foundation for many years,” she said. “He passed away in early January and one of his major goals for St. Louise was to expand the emergency department to meet the demands and needs of all community members who come to the emergency department at St. Louise.”

The foundation is important because even though St. Louise has gone through a series of management transitions over the years, it has stayed true is the services that it provides to the people of the South Valley community, Robinson said.

“Our nurses, our physicians, our staff members continue to provide excellent care,” she said. “I think our foundation board members are really critical in talking about what we offer to the community. They’re our ambassadors in letting folks know about the expansion to the emergency department, letting people know we are going to have new mammography centers and getting more people to use the services provided by St. Louise.”

Educating the public to support the hospital’s various programs is another area of activity for the St. Louise foundation.

All board members are passionate about helping out with the foundation’s focus, Robinson said.

“I’ve worked at a number of organizations in healthcare and higher education and this board is the most enthusiastic, committed, energetic, focused board I have ever worked with,” she said. “Very early on, every single board member stepped forward with a gift for our annual appeal. They are very engaged with the special events and putting on this gala.”