South Shore Health’s Gift Basket Raffle: A Beloved Holiday Tradition

At South Shore Health, we have many beloved traditions around the holidays. Volunteers from the Friends of South Shore Health decorate the halls of South Shore Hospital. South Shore Medical Center collects donations for Toys for Tots. But one of the most unique—and cherished—holiday traditions is the Gift Basket Raffle.

From one-of-a-kind experiences to other inventive themes, colleagues source the contents of their team’s gift basket—soliciting donations or buying items on their own time, with their own money—each December. While most entries fit in a basket, kayaks, bicycles, and huge teddy bears have been submitted as prizes.

A variety of baskets on display
A variety of baskets on display in South Shore Hospital.

The baskets are then displayed in the South Shore Hospital Dining Room. Colleagues and visitors buy raffle tickets in the hopes of winning the great prizes.

But for those who don’t win a basket, they still feel good knowing the proceeds benefit a great cause.

The Gift Basket Raffle is the primary source of funding for the Generous Hearts Fund, a pool of funds raised by South Shore Health colleagues for South Shore Health colleagues who are facing extraordinary challenges. In 2018, the Gift Basket Raffle raised $43,000 for the Fund.

For the past seven years, Barbara Wahlstrom, Manager of Membership Services for the Friends of South Shore Health, has been responsible for coordinating requests for assistance to the top-secret council of five South Shore Health colleagues who determine which requests meet the criteria for an award.

“It’s not easy,” Wahlstrom says. “The stories we hear are incredibly devastating.”

Oftentimes, the request is a need for financial help to secure housing after an eviction or foreclosure. Sometimes, it’s a challenge brought about by a divorce or long-term illness. During harsh winters, requests come in for help with heating bills. For colleagues that need a car to do their job, such as our Home Care Division colleagues, the Fund may award an employee funds to help them secure a new vehicle if theirs breaks.

“The Fund serves as a bridge for a colleague to get back on their feet after a short-term or unexpected setback,” says Wahlstrom. “The committee evaluates the applications with that in mind. We don’t cover everything—just the most urgent needs.”

Annually, the Fund awards between $40,000 and $60,000 worth of assistance to colleagues.

The individual amounts vary widely—sometimes, it’s just a few hundred dollars. For substantial challenges, the committee has awarded as much as $4,000. None of it needs to be repaid by the recipient—although some colleagues do give back to the Fund if they’re able.

Colleagues must submit documentation of the challenge they face. Wahlstrom scrubs the applications of as much identifying information as possible. “I go through a lot of White-Out,” she says with a laugh.

If a majority of the top-secret panel agrees that the colleague needs help from the fund, Wahlstrom calls the employee to let them know their request was granted, and what dollar amount to expect.

“When I call people to tell them the committee granted their request, they’ll be crying,” Wahlstrom says.

Colleagues often send in thank-you notes to the Generous Hearts Fund.

“I wish to thank you all so much for approving the financial assistance I received from the Program! I was deeply touched and appreciated it very much!”

“Thank you so much for the gift,” another note reads. “It was greatly appreciated and took a lot of stress off of my shoulders.”

“None of us wants to admit we need help,” says Wahlstrom. “But if you need it, it’s good to know your colleagues have your back.”

Want to be a part of South Shore Health? Check out our careers page!