Erin McCallon-Estremera, CAVS understands the impact of a helping hand. As a Volunteer Coordinator in Hartford Hospital Volunteer Services, she has seen and felt the spirit of giving on a daily basis for over two decades—it’s the main reason she believes she has the best job in the Hospital.

“It’s lovely to have a job where you’re truly making a difference,” shares McCallon-Estremera. “What we do in Volunteer Services is a win-win for everyone—we have an opportunity to impact the volunteer experience, patient and family experience, as well as our hospital colleagues’ experience. We see it and we feel it.”

According to McCallon-Estremera, the success of her department’s programs and services is due in large part to the Hospital’s volunteers, as well as her colleagues from across all areas of the Hospital—who do a great job of embracing the volunteers and recognizing them for their contributions.

“You come to Hartford Hospital and it’s like a family,” says McCallon-Estremera. “We have great colleagues and there’s amazing collaboration across the whole hospital. We’re very fortunate and we love the work we do in Volunteer Services, but the magic really happens outside of our department’s doors.”

It’s that workplace culture of family and collaboration that led to the creation of Hartford HealthCare’s Colleague Assistance Fund—a program McCallon-Estremera has been involved with since its first iteration as the Hartford Hospital Employee’s Disaster Fund, which was later renamed as it expanded into other hospitals in the Hartford HealthCare system.

The Fund—which sustains itself on contributions from Hartford HealthCare employees—is a confidential program that provides financial assistance to help colleagues during an unexpected hardship. A married mother of two and grandmother of two, McCallon-Estremera knew how a sudden emergency could reverberate through a family’s finances—and so she has contributed to colleague assistance programs for over twenty years.

It was her awareness of the Colleague Assistance Fund that led her to apply for a grant when her family faced their own financial challenge—and it was a concern for her colleagues’ unfamiliarity with the program that led her to share this story.

“I applied for a grant because medical bills from unexpected emergencies and hospital visits created a major financial burden for our family,” shares McCallon-Estremera. “The grant was a huge relief for us and I want to share our story because I don’t want there to be a stigma amongst our colleagues that keeps them from also applying to the Colleague Assistance Fund.

“There is no shame in applying to the Fund if you need it,” adds McCallon-Estremera. “You can be financially responsible, stick to a budget, and be a good planner—but at any moment you can experience unexpected circumstances. Colleagues should know you’re not alone and that Hartford HealthCare has a benefit that can help you.”

The Colleague Assistance Fund process is confidential—however, McCallon-Estremera says she’s happy to share her story because she is so appreciative of her colleagues’ contributions to the Fund and wants others to know about its availability and the incredible benefit it provides to people and families who have fallen on hard times.

“I think asking for help can sometimes be difficult, especially when it’s about money—people don’t want to feel exposed and they’re already stressed from the situation,” says McCallon-Estremera.

“It’s important for our colleagues to know that we’re all the same. It’s OK to speak up about the Colleague Assistance Fund and it’s a really good thing to support and utilize. I am very grateful to those who have contributed—a single drop has a magnificent ripple effect, every little bit can help your colleagues in need.”

When misfortune strikes our colleagues, Hartford HealthCare can be there to help. The Colleague Assistance Fund provides one-time financial assistance to help colleagues make it through unexpected hardship. Examples of items covered include household expenses such as rent, mortgage and utilities, medical expenses, car payments, insurance, and repairs.

Here are the different ways you donate to the Colleague Assistance Fund:

Learn more about the Colleague Assistance Fund: