All of these words have been uttered by those who have benefited or worked with the Christy-Houston Foundation to describe its impact on the residents of Rutherford County. Founded in 1986, the foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in Rutherford County with an emphasis on healthcare by distributing grants to programs and projects with a similar goal.
“Christy-Houston has been a visionary charity dedicated to all of Rutherford County’s health and security,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg.
In its 21-year history, the Christy-Houston Foundation has awarded some $68 million in grant dollars to local nonprofit entities in Rutherford County. The foundation was endowed with $44 million; its assets are currently around $107 million. The largest benefactors over the last two decades have been Middle Tennessee Medical Center at an estimated $10 million and MTSU at an estimated $7.5 million.
The Christy-Houston Foundation formed after the sale of the Rutherford Hospital to St. Thomas Hospital and Baptist Hospital in 1986. The hospital was originally established in 1927 through a contribution from the Commonwealth Fund of New York City. It was renamed, Middle Tennessee Medical Center, in 1982.
“The Rutherford Hospital board voted to put the money into a new private foundation since the original funds came from a foundation,” said Robert B. Miflin, executive director of the Christy-Houston Foundation.
The foundation was named after Simeon B. Christy, who chaired the original board of directors for Rutherford Hospital and Frank K. Houston, a New York businessman who was the catalyst for the Commonwealth of New York City to establish the hospital.
The foundation’s board of directors meets monthly to consider grant requests of which it receives an average of 50 a year.
“We are looking to serve the largest amount of Rutherford countians with our grant dollars,” Miflin said, adding that 96 percent of all award dollars were used in Rutherford County.
Each year, the board will give 5 percent of its average assets minus expenses in grant awards. Christy-Houston will give an estimated $4.5 million in grant awards in the 2007 calendar year.
“Christy-Houston has been a wonderful friend to the university,” said Joe Bales, vice president of development and university relations at MTSU.
Most notably, the foundation provided the original funding for the university’s Cason Kennedy Nursing Building, which opened in 1994, and another grant in 2005 for an expansion of the facility.
Christy-Houston also has provided funding for nursing scholarships and for the installation of heart defibulators — 90 across Rutherford County.
“Having someone that understands the mission of the university and appreciates the importance of healthcare is rare,” Bales said. “Those donors are not on every street corner. We are fortunate to have them in our community.”
Gordon B. Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of MTMC, said MTMC and the Christy-Houston Foundation have maintained a “very special relationship” since the hospital sold 21 years ago.
“The Christy Houston Foundation has continued to support MTMC with various grants, which have given us the opportunity to make improvements to the hospital so that we can continue to provide quality health care to our community,” he said.
The foundation donated the land where the MTMC Wellness Center is now located. Other grants received by the hospital allowed for the renovation of the Baptist Women’s Pavilion, the furnishing of the special procedure suite and renovation of the surgery suite.
“MTMC is very appreciative of the Christy-Houston Foundation, and we thank them for their wonderful contributions that they have made which make our community a great place to live and work,” Gordon said.
Other major grants awarded by the Christy-Houston Foundation include the donation of all or most of the funds to construct the following buildings: Linebaugh Public Library, the Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County, the Rutherford County Health Department, the Rutherford County Domestic Violence Shelter and the Salvation Army of Rutherford County.
“Without their graciousness, we would probably not be in existence,” said Mark King, administrator of Community Care of Rutherford County. Grant awards allowed the nonprofit nursing home to reconstruct a wing and modernize its facilities in 2002.
Following renovations, the nursing home went from 86 percent occupancy to 98 percent, which is well above the state average.
Murfreesboro attorney and founding Christy-Houston board member Matt Murfree said the formation of the foundation has been a “win-win for our community. I don’t think any of us could have seen the impact it would have on the community.
“I can’t drive down the street without seeing something we have built,” Murfree added. “I think the future is going to be even brighter. Every time, I go to a meeting I am excited about what we are doing.”
Foundation board chairman Ed Loughry said there is no question that the Christy-Houston Foundation is “something unique” — something not found in most communities.
Bragg said one Christy-Houston Foundation gift, in particular, stands out to him.
About five years ago, the foundation gave $3 million to MTMC for the purchase of 68.5 acres – the site of its future hospital, which kicked off the development of the Murfreesboro Gateway District, the city’s premier location for new retail, office and residential development.
“That vision energized the whole Gateway area as they have energized much of the community through their charitable giving,” Bragg said.
Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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