This Little-Known Nonprofit Raised $308K For Bryn Mawr Hospital

Behind The Scenes Of Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Women’s Board

by Tara Behan Marmur, contributing editor

Bryn Mawr Hospital receives a lot of accolades for its world-class surgeons, top-tier specialist doctors and award-winning nurses. Behind the scenes, however, there are countless people who make significant contributions to the hospital’s overall mission of providing excellent healthcare to its patients. One of those groups is the Women’s Board of the Bryn Mawr Hospital.

The women’s organization was created in 1893, the same year that the hospital was founded. Since then, the group has provided financial assistance and resources to various medical initiatives at the hospital, particularly those that effect women and children.

Bryn Mawr Hospital 1893
Bryn Mawr Hospital circa 1893, the year it was founded. Photo courtesy of brynmawr.org.

In fiscal year 2023, the Bryn Mawr Hospital Women’s Board raised just over $308,000 for the Bryn Mawr Hospital Foundation. More than $100,000 of that donation went towards the improvement of Interventional Procedure Suites, with the remainder being divided between maternity and baby equipment, NICU bed and bedside equipment, the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center and other determined needs of BMH. 

Along with those top projects, the Women’s Board annually donates to causes relating to women and children, from funding the hospital’s breast milk program to donating funds to BMH’s Wig Program for oncology patients. But not all of the board’s work is focused on women and children.

“The Women’s Board recently completed a pledge to renovate and modernize all of our cath labs,” says Cinda Johnson, executive director of the Bryn Mawr Hospital Foundation. “Prior to that, they helped us double the capacity of our inpatient psychiatric unit from a 20-bed unit to a 40-bed unit. That’s so important because we are the only hospital within Main Line Health that provides inpatient psychiatric care. Whatever our needs are, the Women’s Board always steps up for us in big ways.”  

Jen McAleese
(L-R) Women’s Board president Jennifer McAleese, Bryn Mawr Hospital president John Schwarz and Women’s Board past-president Rhonda Mordy.

Currently, the active 29-member board is led by its president, Jennifer McAleese. A graduate of Villanova University who had a background in finance before moving into the nonprofit sector, McAleese has experience working locally with Philadelphia-based organizations like Project Home, Ken’s Krew, and First Tee. “Volunteering and the nonprofit world have always spoken to me,” says McAleese. “When a friend asked me about joining the Women’s Board, I learned more about its mission and I knew I wanted to be involved. It’s the best group of women working for a fabulous mission—helping the hospital’s mission to meet the health care needs of its community.”

Bryn Mawr Hospital
Jen McAleese (left) with Women’s Board members at the 2022 Fashion Emergency event at Boyds in Wayne.

This year, McAleese will lead the Women’s Board in organizing fundraisers like the upcoming “Fashion Emergency” fashion show at Boyds in Wayne on Oct. 26 and an annual golf outing in the spring at Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova. “Bryn Mawr Hospital doesn’t have an events team,” says McAleese. “Running events is very time consuming and a drain of resources for the marketing department of a hospital. So I feel like the Women’s Board, in a way, functions as its events team, too.”

The Women’s Board also supports the highly popular and lucrative Thrift Shop on County Line Ave., around the corner from the hospital. The Thrift Shop attracts shoppers from throughout the Main Line and the greater Philadelphia region. Members of the Women’s Board help maintain the Thrift Shop through mandatory volunteer hours spent sorting through donations, pricing and tagging clothes, and other pertinent needs.

“The Women’s Board has been our philanthropic partner, providing impactful support as the hospital has grown, modernized and advanced for our community,” says John Schwarz, president of Bryn Mawr Hospital.  “It’s through the passion and hard work of the Women’s Board that we are able to amplify the exceptional care we provide. Their invaluable contributions are making a profound difference in the lives of those we serve.”

Bryn Mawr Women's Board
Main Line Tonight’s Diane Oliva (left) with Women’s Board supporters at the 2023 Fashion Emergency event at Boyds.

For over a century, the Women’s Board of the Bryn Mawr Hospital has brought together women from throughout the Main Line and western suburbs who either have personal connections to BMH or who are simply committed to the importance of having a reputable healthcare provider like BMH in their community.

At its inception, the board was called the Board of Lady Visitors. As its name stated, the board focused solely on visiting patients in the hospital wards. In 1920, the board embarked on its first fundraising campaign with the goal of funding a building that would house a maternity ward. That goal was realized a mere four years later. The Maternity Ward was one of a handful established by the board. When there was a shortage in the housekeeping department during World War II, the Women’s Board stepped in and provided hours of volunteer assistance, which eventually led to the formation of the volunteer department in 1956. The Women’s Board was also behind the inception of what is now the BMH Gift Shop, as well as the BMH Thrift Shop, with proceeds from both benefitting the hospital.  

The Women’s Board works closely with BMH’s Development Team to understand the most pressing needs of the hospital and where the dollars they raise will have the most impact. “A significant portion of our annual funding will go toward a top project,” says McAleese. “And the key need for this year is investment in Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Robotic Surgery Program.” The Hospital currently has one surgical robot that’s in high demand. Having additional surgical robots increases surgical volumes, decreases wait times for surgeries and allows treatment of more patients.

The Women’s Board plans to continue stepping up for BMH as it has for more than a century. As long as there is a need, which there always will be, the Women’s Board will be there to contribute. For more information, visit the the Women’s Board website.

Want to learn more about Bryn Mawr? Read the Insider’s Guide To Bryn Mawr.

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