How the CRMC Foundation marked a record 2016

COOKEVILLE – The Cookeville Regional Charitable Foundation served a record number of patients in 2016. How? Increased awareness, its director says, and donors who likewise answered the call.

But that’s not its only marker of growth. The Foundation also recently added two popular community programs to its fold. A move that could help stretch given dollars even more.


John Bell, who is entering his third year as Foundation executive director, said they officially served 1,840 patients last year, a 26 percent increase from 2015. He attributed that gain to donor support. Income and expenses for the year both topped $1 million.

“We’re growing. I’m happy to say. But the need always amazes to me,” he said.

The Foundation, he said, has existed for exactly a decade, but misconceptions still exist. The Foundation does not, for example, pay a patient’s hospital bill; it does, however, help with medicine and medical equipment, utility bills, groceries, transportation expenses and more.

“Some folks, I think, are starting to understand what it is we do,” he said.

An increase in marketing efforts have helped with exposure – newsletters and media and the like. The Foundation also hosts regular events. The Golf Classic and Pink Gala are its largest.

In all, there are 14 different dedicated Foundation funds, ranging from mental health to pediatrics. Cancer care is the largest. Since Foundation administrative and staff expenses are covered through sponsorship from Cookeville Regional Medical Center, 100 percent of gifts remain restricted for specific charitable services.

“When we get a request, it’s usually because a health care provider – a doctor or a case manager or whomever – understands that a patient is going to have a need after they leave the hospital,” Bell said. “Usually that’s for either medicine or medical equipment that’s not covered by insurance, but we also cover some very simple things for groups that you wouldn’t necessarily think of immediately. Groceries for families, even utilities, or sometimes even transportation.”

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The Foundation recently added two new programs. They absorbed Carmen’s Fund, an existing nonprofit which offers free CPR training, named in honor of Carmen Burnette, a former CPR coordinator at Putnam County EMS who passed away unexpectedly in 2011, and the Putnam County Imagination Library, which supplies free books to kids from birth to age 5, from the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency. A lot of families sign up for the program while in labor and delivery at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, making it a good fit.

“It simplifies things,” Bell said. “If we can cut down on some of those overhead expenses, we can stretch those donated dollars even further than before.”

As for goals for the remainder of this year, Bell would love to see continued growth by same margin. They will make a push for more direct gifts. For example, about 5 percent of donations received are earmarked for the Cancer Fund. But cancer makes up 22 percent of their expenses – a “huge” gap.

“We have to run events to make up that funding,” Bell said. “And a lot of folks wait for an event that they like before they (donate), but those events are expensive and we lose some of that revenue immediately. Whereas, if they just make a gift to us, 100 percent goes to those patients.”

Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at

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