By Patti Samar
Sara Tait is a people person.
And in her role as a major gift specialist at the McLaren Port Huron Foundation, Tait enjoys nothing more than building long-lasting relationships with donors or potential donors, helping them realize their dreams of, perhaps, leaving a legacy at the hospital, oftentimes in tribute to a loved one.
During this time of Coronavirus 19, Tait continues to build relationships with the community through her work at the hospital, but in a very different way than she is accustomed to doing.
Tait and her four co-workers within the McLaren Port Huron Foundation office have temporarily stepped into new roles. Instead of working behind-the-scenes in an office suite, the Foundation staff volunteered to serve as front desk greeters at the main entrance to the hospital. All patients, visitors and anyone seeking entrance beyond the front desk are met by Foundation staff.
“We are screening every individual coming through,” said Tait. “We are guiding them to wherever they need to go so they aren’t wandering around the hospital.”
An employee of McLaren Port Huron for 19 years, Tait understands the need for all hospital staff to be flexible in order to meet patient and community needs.
“By taking on this role with one dedicated group of staff, it’s a lot cleaner way of handling everyone coming in through the entrances,” she said. “We understand the need to have the consistency out there.
“And it’s given us a whole new perspective. Patients are a nervous wreck coming into a hospital under these circumstances, and we are the first person they are encountering. We try to be a friendly face. It’s a whole different world than what I’m used to.”
Tait said that she has been able to make use of a lot of the people skills she’s honed through years of fundraising and community involvement into her new role.
“I’m a people persona to begin with,” she said. “I empathize with my donors who have maybe lost someone, and I can usually pick up on how someone is feeling. Working with donors is just working with people.”
In her usual role, Tait works with donors giving at levels of $10,000 or more to the hospital. “I work with people who want to give to something that resonates with them, or a program or scholarship. I sit down with them and figure out what their passion is so that their needs are met, and they are happy their donation is being used in a way that they want it to be.”
And, even in this new and temporary role, she is still working on donor relations.
“Food is coming in,” she said, noting that many members of the community – both businesses and individuals — have very generously stopped by the hospital bearing meals or treats for hospital staff.
“We’ve developed a protocol for that,” she said, so that everyone who has donated will be properly recognized and thanked. “Plus, we’re trying to divvy up those donations and make sure everyone from all departments is getting that recognition.
“Supplies are also being donated,” she said, noting area businesses and others have dropped off masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
“There are people bringing in donations and their generosity to that, whether it is food or supplies, shows great empathy for other people. The general human concern for each other has been amazing.
“These are not the typical donations that I’m used to receiving.”
But, she noted, they are just as meaningful.
“I’m so proud of our staff here,” Tait said. “I’m hearing consistently how great the nursing staff is in taking calls. And so many people walk by us at the desk and say thank you for working. It has made me say that more when I’m out and about shopping. People stop and thank people for their military service and I understand that now so much more.”
Thank you, Sara, and the rest of the staff from the McLaren Port Huron Foundation staff, for stepping up and serving the community during a time of need.
For more information about making a donation to the hospital, please contact the McLaren Port Huron Foundation.