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When Al Burke became the financial advisor for Hosparus Health’s retirement plan in the mid-1990s, it didn’t take long for that business relationship to develop into something much more. As he met with staff members individually, he was moved by stories of our care. Those stories, as well as a personal experience with hospice, inspired Al and his wife of 48 years, Mary Jo, to give back.

“Hosparus people are special people,” he says. “Mary Jo will attest to the fact that every time I had meetings with Hosparus employees, I would come home and tell her stories about the most touching examples of their compassion.”

Al adds, “I heard from employees not only about their work, but their families. Many of these people were not only taking care of dying patients every day as part of their vocation, but they also had family situations where they were the caregiver at home. They were always very inspiring stories.”

In 2006, Mary Jo called Hosparus for her mom, who was in Sacred Heart Home nursing facility. She says our care allowed her to step away from being her mom’s caregiver and just be her daughter. “It alleviated a lot of pressure off me and my sisters,” she says. “Hospice allowed my mom to pass away the way she wanted to, and she died with dignity.”

Making a Bigger Impact

Al and Mary Jo are longtime donors to Hosparus Health, but it was a fundraiser put on by the Ruch Foundation about five years ago that prompted them to increase their commitment and focus on professional development.

During the event, which raises money for nursing scholarships, a Hosparus nurse who had received some of the funding shared what it had meant to her.

“She spoke beautifully about how the Ruch Foundation’s grant had allowed her to continue her education,” Al says. “Mary Jo and I were both moved by that, and we said, that’s something we could really get behind.”

The couple decided to create a scholarship fund that is open to all staff, not just nurses. “It’s been great to hear stories about social workers and chaplains and other employees who’ve been able to use our funds to continue their education,” he adds.

The idea of a professional development fund also appealed to Al and Mary Job because of its immediate impact. “To me that it was a way to directly help people rather than establishing something that might trickle out a little bit of money every year. We wanted to see the money make a difference right away,” Al says.

“Everything’s important. While long-term giving is crucial to the organization’s future, we wanted to do something that helped people now,” he adds.

Since the Al & Mary Jo Burke Education Scholarship was established in 2017, 28 scholarship grants have been awarded to Hosparus Health employees.

Building Lasting Relationships

Though Al is no longer Hosparus Health’s financial advisor, he says that does not change his passion for the organization.

“My experience with Hosparus employees, working with them and their retirement plan, was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career. It was inspirational, and it drove me to want to be a better person. So, it wasn’t just a professional relationship, it was a life-changing relationship. I’m very grateful that many of them became dear friends, and many former employees are my clients today.”

Al adds that he encourages both clients and friends who are navigating serious illness to call Hosparus Health sooner rather than later.

“When I hear a story from my clients that Mom is really struggling or Dad is really sick and we’re not sure what to do, the first thing I always do is encourage them to contact Hosparus because so many people don’t understand that you don’t have to be on your death bed to get services.” Al says. “They don’t have to go through those anguishing situations alone.”

The Burkes says they plan to support Hosparus Health and our employees’ education for as long as possible. They also advise others to donate whatever they can.

Thank you, Al and Mary Jo, for your support and continued advocacy for Hosparus Health! To join them in making a gift, please click here.

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