Jim Hahn Memorial Gift inspired by a notebook helps EGH Nurses

Nursing Education Endowment gift changes lives forever

“God gave me this cancer to make a difference.” ~ Jim Hahn

In the fresh moments of grief, it’s hard to think clearly about how best to carry on a legacy. Family and friends want to do more than send flowers, cards and emails. They want to be part of a lasting tribute that will touch untold lives for generations to come.

Cindy Hahn needed time to find the right way to honor her husband, Jim, after he passed away in April 2021. A notebook, an inner conviction, and the patience and support of a community led Cindy to direct Jim’s memorial gifts to a newly created Nursing Education Endowment at Beacon’s Elkhart General Hospital (EGH). The endowment is the first of its kind at EGH and is aimed specifically at clinical education.

The Beacon Health Foundation began fundraising for the endowment in mid-2021. It is one of many efforts by Beacon to help address a critical shortage of trained nurses and nurse educators. Elkhart General expects to need 300 new nurses in the next five years to meet job expansion and a growing senior population. The hospital will need even more nurses to replace nurse turnover.


Physical care, emotional support, patient advocacy define nursing roles

“The notebook embodies who Jim was. It was his way of saying, I know who you are.’” ~ Cindy Hahn

Nurses, schedulers, navigators, receptionists and countless others became almost like family for Jim during treatment for colon cancer at Elkhart General in 2020. After Jim passed away, Cindy found a notebook that Jim kept with all of his appointments. He also journaled the names and quick reminders about the people who surrounded him with care every day.

“The notebook embodies who Jim was,” Cindy said. “It was his way of saying, ‘I know who you are.'”

A new ring of nurses, patient assistants and respiratory therapists surrounded Jim when he returned to the hospital with COVID-induced pneumonia in March 2021. This time, the nursing team deeply touched Cindy as she and her family sat outside Jim’s isolation room every day for over a month.

Here, she could unpack her emotions, fears and confusion with Jim’s nurses. Cindy leaned on all of them, especially Ashley, affectionately referred to as “Awesome Ashley,” who was on duty the day Jim died.

“Nurses have such a profound effect on families,” said Cindy. “They were always there, knowing, understanding, caring for us as much as they cared for Jim.”

“Words can never express how much the professional, caring and devoted nurses meant to us day in and day out at the hospital,” said Jim’s sister, Patty Moore. “The nurses were our family’s link to our most-loved Jim when he couldn’t communicate.”

Everyone believed with all their hearts that Jim would pull through this time, just like he did after surgery and seven rounds of chemotherapy to treat cancer. Jim had even told Cindy, “God gave me this cancer to make a difference.”

Jim was right. His life continues to inspire generosity and kindness throughout the community, thanks to his family’s support of the endowment.


Gifts today make a difference tomorrow

After Jim passed away, friends, family, even strangers from across the country wanted – and needed – a way to express their sympathy and recognize the impact Jim made on their lives. They wanted to be part of a lasting tribute to Jim.

Plenty of people figured the funds should support a youth basketball program. After all, basketball was in the family blood. Jim already had a legacy as the Concord High School basketball coach during the record-setting era of 1983 to 1994.

“Basketball scholarships bothered Jim,” Cindy said. Oftentimes, student athletes already had significant financial support offered from recruiting colleges. Scholarships have lots of regulations, and more often than not, additional home-town athletic scholarships became void or replaced by the college offer. Maybe there was another way to support those who did not have the money or family support to go on to college but had a dream to better their lives.

Cindy knew in her heart she needed to grieve with her family before making a decision. A close circle of friends surrounded Cindy with a healing strength and grace. Coworkers at Welch Packaging, where both Jim and Cindy worked, expressed overwhelming support for her. Customers and business owners across the country reached out to Scott Welch, president of Welch Packaging, for guidance on how to honor Jim’s legacy.

With encouragement from Scott and guidance from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Cindy set up a non-endowed, donor-advised fund to receive donations in Jim’s memory.

It also gave Cindy and her family what they needed most – time. They had a full year to process through the swirl of emotions and let the right answer come to them on how to direct the funds to honor Jim.


Nursing education endowment will support education forever

“We hope our continued support of the nursing endowment fund will encourage others to contribute to this much needed program to bring additional nurses to Beacon hospitals” ~ Patty Moore

By early 2022, Cindy knew how best to carry on Jim’s legacy. The Nursing Education Endowment at EGH had the right fit. Its structure removes barriers, like career stigmas and tuition costs. It will help hospital associates pursue their passion for health care and give them an opportunity to have an impact on their personal lives as well as the community.

“I was thrilled,” Patty said. “There is such a need for nurses and if this endowment fund will assist a nursing student with schooling expenses, that’s wonderful!”

When it is fully funded, the $1 million endowment will offer two avenues for EGH associates. Associates in support positions can pursue their interest in a nursing career through the scholarship program. Current nurses can apply for scholarships to further their careers as nurse educators. A critical shortage exists for both.

Two local families, who choose to remain anonymous, have generously offered a 1-to-1 match, up to $250,000 each. Gifts received to the new fund benefit from the match, including Jim’s memorial gifts. The endowment is expected to be fully funded by the end of 2023 with the first scholarships awards expected to be deployed in 2024.

“We are so grateful for the support of families like the Hahns who have seen the need firsthand and recognize we must grow more local nurses to help care for a growing number of patients close to home,” said Susan King, Foundation President.

Find out how you can make a lasting difference in our community when you give to causes that inspire you. https://foundation.beaconhealthsystem.org/give-now/