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Addressing Community Needs 

Throughout its 100-year history, St. Mary’s has offered social service and community outreach programs that were necessary, often innovative and always welcome. Below are a few historic milestones that help tell St. Mary’s story.

Additional Timelines

1912- The sisters established an endowment program to ensure resources for the hospital’s continuing needs.

Sr. Mary Ursula Pock roamed the city and farmlands seeking donations of cash, produce or poultry in exchange for free hospital care. For $10 or its food equivalent, donors would be guaranteed free care for a year. A gift of $5,000 guaranteed free hospital care for six months of each year, and $10,000 assured free care for life. If recognition was important to the donor, he or she could contribute $200 so that a private room would bear his or her name.

1927- St. Mary’s physicians offered free physical examinations to all babies born at St. Mary’s during the prior year. The Baby’s Day event each May was part of a growing trend toward early recognition and, consequently, more successful treatment of disease.

1933- The Dane County Board and Dane County Medical Society set up a free medical care clinic at St. Mary’s for the indigent sick. St. Mary’s rented facilities and equipment for a nominal fee and provided volunteer physicians and nurses to care for patients.

1940- The Gray Ladies, a Red Cross volunteer organization, established a chapter at St. Mary’s Hospital. When World War II resulted in a shortage of nurses, the Gray Ladies added First Aid to their volunteer efforts. In 1945, the war ended and many of these same volunteers formed St. Mary’s Auxiliary, which temporarily disbanded but in 1950 became a permanent extension of hospital services to benefit patients.

1963- The migrant worker clinic at Endeavor, Wisconsin, opened and became a special volunteer project. Physicians, nurse, aides, and other health professionals at St. Mary’s Hospital visited the mission once or twice a week during the growing season and provided free health services to the community. 

1973- Educating the community about health topics and improving overall health was the goal of the hospital’s mass communications, including a twice-yearly newspaper supplement and, later, a series of one-minute health spots for radio. The next year (1974) marked the genesis of a county-wide senior services directory, which was transformed during the late 1980s, with the help of St. Mary’s and Dean, into the “Over 60 Resource Guide.” In 1977, St. Mary’s distributed more than 30,000 copies of “In Case of Emergency” phone book to better prepare the public with information and emergency numbers.

1978- Schoolchildren were welcomed into the hospital for Tour ‘n’ Tools, a health education and awareness program that today is known as Hands on Health.

1981- St. Mary’s HealthWorks was established, providing a range of classes that improve one’s overall health and well-being.

1982- St. Mary’s Hospital initiated a personal monitoring service (now called Home Help Monitoring) for people who are physically handicapped or medically vulnerable. The system easily summons emergency assistance as needed. 

1982- St. Mary’s Adult Day Health Center opened, providing supervised daytime care for adults who need medical oversight and assistance with activities of daily living. 

1987- GoldenCare began, offering free membership to seniors in an effort to keep them active and healthy. Today, the program provides special resources, learning opportunities and social outings for people age 60 and older.

1987- St. Mary's realized that religious sisters, who devote their lives taking care of others, were lacking resources for themselves. That's when Taking Care began, offering free screenings and an annual health forum for women religious from across the state. Due to dwindling congregations, the program ended in 2006.

1988- The SSM Care Fund was established to provide health care services for the needy. Every SSM Health Care facility or health business was required to provide a minimum of one-fourth of its pre-charity bottom line to direct care of indigent patients or submit the difference to the Fund for allocation elsewhere.

1990- The opening of St. Mary’s Care Center extended the hospital’s ability to provide long-term nursing care and rehabilitation services. 

1991- St. Mary’s began a hospital equipment recycling program to distribute discarded items to charitable organizations and missions worldwide. At the same time, the SSM Health Care System began coordinated communications among its entities regarding environmental issues.

1996- St. Mary’s was a founder of a parish nurse program called Partners in Congregational Nursing. Two Madison hospitals partnered with local congregations and other communities to provide holistic health care in a friendly setting. 

1996- A St. Mary’s health educator began to visit area middle schools with a message of Be Smart, Don’t Start, which is also the name of the program that highlights the health dangers of tobacco use. 

1998- The Dean & St. Mary’s Neighborhood Asthma Clinic opened to help Madison’s low-income communities manage a chronic illness that too often goes untreated, resulting in even more expensive care. The clinic provides free screening, diagnosis and treatment to improve quality of life for patients. 

2003- Established with gifts in honor of St. Mary’s president and his wife, the Gerald and Charlotte Lefert Endowment Fund helps hospital patients and Care Center residents who have a non-medical need that supports their health and healing.

2008- Lincoln Elementary School became part of the St. Mary’s family through the Foundation for Madison Schools’ Adopt-A-School program. St. Mary’s provides staff volunteers, health programming and career direction to meet a wide range of the physical and academic needs of the underprivileged school.

2011- St. Mary’s Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities teamed up to raise money for Wisconsin’s first Ronald McDonald Family Room right inside St. Mary’s Hospital. Constructed in 2012, the facility’s proximity to pediatrics and the neonatal intensive care units provides respite and overnight accommodations for families as well as peace of mind that they are only steps away from their critically ill children.



St. Mary's Hospital     700 South Park Street     Madison, WI 53715-0450     (608) 251-6100
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