A moment with: Karen Sloan

Photo of Karen Sloan

Karen Sloan serves as the Annual Fund Coordinator for CHI Memorial Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although she originally joined CHI Memorial 34 years ago, Karen has only been in philanthropy since 2015. Having made that move, she encourages everyone to take advantage of the learning opportunities available through CommonSpirit Health and to learn everything they can about philanthropy from their colleagues.

Karen was born in Buffalo, New York but the south is her home. She is an associate member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who founded CHI Memorial in 1952 with $3 million in donations from the community. Karen is proud to continue their work and their mission as the hospital prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

Philanthropy is …
Philanthropy is making life better for other people. I'm blessed, on a daily basis, to witness the generosity of our donors. They truly want to make a lasting impression on the health of our community, not just for today, but for future generations.

Can you tell us about your background and how you came to Memorial?
I have a bachelor's degree in marketing and public relations from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I came to CHI Memorial in 1988 and helped manage the oncology program while I was going to school. When I finished getting my degree there was an entry-level opening in the marketing department and I was hired. I moved up gradually to where I was the PR representative for the hospital system. I did that for 11 years and then decided a change would be nice. I left the system to work for a local hospice organization for five years.

A friend lured me back, saying there was “A rare opening in the foundation office in annual funds, and I think you'd be perfect.“ I resisted but she said “You have to work with [foundation President] Jenny Nicely … she is the best in the business.” So I came back eight years ago as the Annual Fund Coordinator for the foundation. I feel very, very fortunate and very blessed and grateful for the opportunity.

Is there a specific project or story that stands out to you?
In October of 2019, we established the Greatest Needs Committee, made up of rank and file employees representing areas of service across the health system. We take 50 percent of whatever employees give through payroll deduction or other methods and we allow departments to complete an application to have access to some of those funds. The committee reviews each application. Since we started, we've given out $130,000. That means that our hospital in Georgia got new wheelchairs, our emergency department got electronic way-finding boards in the midst of COVID, which was very helpful, the laboratory got a microscope and the imaging department got a new specialized stretcher for patients undergoing imaging procedures. Those are just a few of the many projects and programs that have received support.

What do you love most about your job?
What I love most about my job is the variety. I have my hands in a lot of different parts. I do the employee giving program. I do the grateful patient program where I get to honor employees with our special awards … I've recognized housekeepers all the way up to our Chief Medical Officer. I do the monthly newsletter for the Foundation. I also do social media and Podium as well as our annual report every year. I work with the Friends of Memorial and I also serve on a variety of committees within the hospital system. I feel it's important when I’m raising funds for the employee campaign that I immerse myself within the health system.

What inspires you?
So much. I'm really inspired by the employees at the hospital and at the health system, especially their dedication during COVID … working long hours with very ill people. One of my proudest moments was right as the vaccine came out. The foundation team was responsible for getting everyone registered to receive the vaccine. We were actually on the front lines of giving the vaccine and its follow-up. I'm very, very proud of that work. It was a lot of long hours, but it really made a huge difference and it made me feel like we were part of, hopefully, helping to save lives.

What have you learned through your work?
I've learned how incredibly generous people are. I never really realized that when I was working on the marketing and PR side. I didn't fully grasp how people are impacted by the care they receive and how they want to make a difference, not just today, in this time of their lives, but they really want to make a difference for people that come after them. It's been very gratifying and very heartwarming.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I came from a large family … I had seven brothers and sisters … I didn't really have a lot of specific ambitions but I did want to go into a field of helping. I always knew I wanted to be a helper. So philanthropy definitely fulfills that.

When you leave the office, what does relaxation look like for you?
Before COVID hit, I went every day after work to our fitness center here at CHI Memorial, and I would do a 45 minute workout. I just recently started back to the fitness center, so when I leave here that's where I go. I enjoy the fitness aspect of it, but also enjoy the camaraderie … and the fact that the employee giving program helped pay for the center.
I really enjoy my family time. I enjoy time with my husband and spending time with my three beautiful granddaughters. I just love being around them, and of course my two grown sons, but I really enjoy the grandchildren! I do have elderly parents now, so I try to spend as much time with them as I can knowing that time is limited.