|A devastating natural disaster often moves people to offer assistance. Many offer prayers…some write checks…some send supplies…some rally support from others…some travel to offer physical assistance. Rarely do most of these combine.|
Meet the Hartwell Foundation, and its chairman Larry Smead.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, a team from Hartwell, led by Dick Hackett and Rusty Hensley, traveled to Hancock County to view the target of the storm’s bull’s eye. Once-beautiful communities were reduced to massive piles of debris after Katrina’s destructive winds and massive tidal wave claimed everything in their way.
They were overwhelmed by the catastrophic damages, and reported that to Smead…who joined them on a subsequent visit. They clearly knew they wanted to impact the most people possible through a common resource. Learning from city and county leaders that medical care and housing were critical, they chose an avenue to affect both.
Through The Hartwell Foundation, a private 501c3 organization, high-end recreational trailers were purchased to house Hancock Medical Center’s physicians and essential staff who lost homes.
“It was simply the difference between returning to practice medicine in Bay St. Louis or moving to another city,” said Internal Medicine Specialist Rowe Crowder. Having lost both his medical office in Bay St. Louis and beachside home in Waveland, Crowder was tempted by lucrative recruiting offers from across the country.
“I love this community and my patients; but having a place to live kept me here,” said the longtime resident.
A total of 20 trailers were provided by The Hartwell Foundation as a gift to the Hancock Medical Center Foundation, who leases them free-of-charge as needed to those providing essential medical services at the hospital.
Many physicians have moved trailers alongside their former homesites while rebuilding or restoring their residences. Others are located in a recreational vehicle park owned by Casino Magic, who has partnered in the effort. A few are reserved for physician specialists and hospital consultants who must remain close to the facility, while scarce hotel availability exists in the region.
“We are indebted to The Hartwell Foundation’s generosity and insight into the needs we’ve encountered as we rebuild our medical community,” said HMC Administrator Hal W. Leftwich, DBA, FACHE.