Benevolent Fund gives help, hope to employees, community

UAB’s 2011 Benevolent Fund campaign “Give Help, Give Hope” is under way, and the ambitious drive follows two years of record-setting pledges.

This year’s goal is $1.85 million, which would top 2010’s $1.7 million.

“UAB employees very generously pledged $1.7 million this past year, so we’ve got an aggressive campaign for 2011,” says Lisa Higginbotham, Benevolent Fund program manager. “If there is one thing we’ve learned from previous campaigns, it’s that UAB employees can be counted on to be generous. We come from a very giving community, and I think that says a great deal about our employees.”

Record pledges have been received each of the past three years, rising from $1.63 million in 2008.

The Benevolent Fund is UAB’s own system for supporting charitable health and human service agencies by providing a mechanism for employees to help those in need in the Birmingham area. Decisions regarding the solicitation and distribution of funds are made by a council of UAB employees who are elected by fellow employees to serve two-year terms or appointed by the UAB administration.

Money pledged by UAB employees supports more than 120 non-profit organizations in the Birmingham metro area, including United Way, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Childcare Resources, Alabama Kidney Foundation, American Heart Association, North Central Alabama chapter of Susan G. Komen, Salvation Army and YWCA to name a few.

The Benevolent Fund also supports the emergency-assistance program for UAB employees. Financial awards may be made to employees who qualify under the guidelines. The program helps pay grocery bills, rent or mortgage payments, electric, gas and medical bills. Emergencies usually are related to loss and damage caused by fire, tornado or other natural disaster or a medical emergency that causes leave without pay. Nearly $200,000 was given to employees in crisis in 2009 and 2010.

Higginbotham has been the coordinator of the Employee Emergency Assistance Program for the past seven years and presents all employee cases anonymously to the council of UAB employees. She says 172 employees received assistance in 2010, and 80 percent of those who had their case presented were approved.

“Roughly 80 percent of the employees who are awarded assistance are off work for medical reasons,” Higginbotham says. “They’ve exhausted all of their leave time, and they don’t have a paycheck coming in. This provides them an opportunity to focus on getting better and getting back to work rather than spending a lot of energy worrying about how they’re going to maintain their bills — sometimes health insurance, rent or power.”

First campaign

This is Higginbotham’s first campaign as Benevolent Fund program manager. Higginbotham, a two-time UAB graduate, originally came to school to pursue a career in engineering. She loved mathematics, but she found that her classes didn’t excite her as much as she hoped.

Higginbotham began to re-examine her career goals. She had great joy as a teenager working with what is now known as The Arc of Alabama, a volunteer-based membership organization made up of individuals with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities and their families. She decided social work was where her heart was leading her.

“I wanted to find something that made me happy and made me feel good,” Higginbotham says. “I just felt drawn to helping people.”

Higginbotham has worked in child-abuse prevention and early childhood education. And when the opportunity presented itself to work with the Employee Emergency Assistance Program, she jumped at the chance.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to help people immediately and directly,” she says.

Higginbotham moved into the administrative side of social work to use her math background, she says. She’s not afraid of statistics or numbers and enjoys tracking data and preparing reports to present to community leaders.

“The thing I love about the Benevolent Fund office and working here is the variety of issues I see every day, whether it’s an employee in crisis, making referrals to agencies so people can get help beyond what we are able to provide or making connections with new resources in the community,” Higginbotham says. “And the generosity of our employees can’t be stated enough. In fact, this past year, UAB has become the fifth largest corporate donor to the United Way of Central Alabama. That’s a testament to our employees’ generosity and the commitment we have to support the community in which we live and work.”

Faculty and staff are encouraged to consider contributing to the 2011 Benevolent Fund at a level appropriate for them. Some common contributions include:

  • One hour’s pay per month (just 12 of 2,080 hours for a full-time employee)
  • 1 percent of annual pay per month
  • A continuous fixed amount each month
  • A one-time payroll deduction or gift by check

Employees also are allowed to designate up to three agencies they would like to receive their gift.

“The thing I like about having all the options to give is that every employee can become a part of the Benevolent Fund and offer help and hope to those in need,” Higginbotham says. “I know the amount I give is not enough to pay somebody’s mortgage or keep their utilities on. But my donation with your donation and someone else’s donation can make a big difference to an employee in need or a young family who may have a child who is sick.”

For more information, visit www.uab.edu/benfund, call 934-1581 or email benevolentfund@uab.edu.

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