That gift was an act of tzedakah, which is the closest word in Hebrew for philanthropy.”
In 1954, City Hospital ranked first among all hospitals in the United States when it came to honors and awards. At the top of the list was the Nobel Prize in Medicine that went to City Hospital pediatrician Frederick C. Robbins, MD, for research that led to the development of the polio vaccine. Hospital and community leaders wanted to build on that momentum, to ensure innovative, life-saving research continued at Cleveland’s public hospital. They also knew that laws placed restrictions on tax-supported hospitals when it came to how they spent their money.1 So, on July 15, 1954, they created the Cleveland City Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) agency founded to raise money to “[a]id in the growth and development of the City Hospital of Cleveland, Ohio, as a municipal institution of increasing promise and performance in the public interest.”2
Among the initial trustees listed on the Articles of Incorporation were Edward L. Worthington, an investment broker and civic leader who served as welfare director for the City of Cleveland, and US Representative Frances P. Bolton, the first woman from Ohio elected to Congress.3
In its first few decades, the Foundation’s strongest supporters included the Bolton Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the de Beaumont Foundation, the Fox Charitable Foundation, and the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation. The occasional fundraising gala helped as well, with much of the early philanthropy focused on seed money to help launch new research.4
But things changed in 1998.
That’s when MetroHealth CEO Terry White invited Frederick Unger to serve as Vice President for Development to manage The MetroHealth Foundation and re-energize fundraising for The MetroHealth System.
Mr. Unger had recently retired as Eaton Corporation’s Director of Community Affairs. In his 15 years there, he had helped the international power management company distribute more than $60 million in corporate gifts to charitable organizations in communities where the company had manufacturing facilities. What appealed to him about this new assignment, he said, were three challenges: developing a first-rate fundraising program to support the work of such a worthy organization, creating an effective communications program to support that effort, and modernizing the work and functioning of The MetroHealth Foundation.5
He began his work on March 16, 1998,6 with the overarching goal of helping MetroHealth raise money to broaden research, expand medical education, and improve patient care. He was also charged with a second, more specific, goal: to bring in donations to build a skilled nursing home on MetroHealth’s West 25th Street campus, one that would replace the Cuyahoga County Nursing Home and provide care to the underserved. His responsibilities increased a year later when Saint Luke’s Medical Center closed, followed in 2000 by the closing of Mt. Sinai Medical Center. For MetroHealth, that meant more indigent patients, more free care to provide, and one more fundraising task for Mr. Unger—one he was happy to tackle.