Frances Sheehan Comes Home to Delaware County

Frances Sheehan

Frances Sheehan

After 30 years of commuting from her Swarthmore home to Chester County, Frances M. Sheehan is coming home to Delaware County to head up the new Crozer Keystone Community Foundation. She comes to the Crozer Keystone foundation after 15 years at the helm of the Brandywine Health Foundation, a nonprofit associated with Brandywine Hospital, and prior to that, with Planned Parenthood of Chester County.

CKCF was created as part of the 2016 sale of nonprofit Crozer Keystone Health System to for-profit Prospect Medical Holdings. After CKHS’s obligations were paid, the remainder went into the independent foundation, which will continue Crozer Keystone’s community health programs. CKCF will also develop its own grantmaking and fundraising initiatives toward improving the health of DelCo residents.

The Swarthmorean talked last month with Fran at Hobbs Coffee in Swarthmore. She did not need the caffeine in order to radiate energy and enthusiasm about her new position and CKCF’s mission.

The Swarthmorean: How will your work at CKCF differ from your previous situation at Brandywine’s foundation?
Frances Sheehan: I was the first CEO at the philanthropic arm of Brandywine Hospital. We started with two staff, and grew to 10. We distributed $15 million in grants to groups that helped expand access and delivery of health care. Here, I’m starting off with 58 staff, including the employees of the community health programs that the hospital system was running: the healthy start program, the nurse family partnership — both of which are aimed at getting women into prenatal care, getting families into health insurance, children into pediatric care — which are evidence-based programs that have been shown to be effective. Our headquarters is in Media, but we have staff in Chester, Springfield and Upper Darby.

We also handle the WIC [Women, Infants and Children] federal program; we receive the funds and employ the nutritionists, visiting nurses, and community health and outreach workers. The foundation enables the continued operation of countywide health programs. We’ll also be fundraising for additional dollars, and grantmaking. As an independent public charity, we are not only able to bring in additional funds to the community, it is our responsibility. So we have inherited a certain asset base from the sale, but there is so much need, so much opportunity.

TS: What sort of opportunity?
FS: We see ourselves partnering with other foundations that may have similar interests. For instance, we’ve already had a donor come forward and make a nice gift specifically restricted to addressing mental health issues. So we will be in conversations with the Scattergood Foundation, which is active in that special area. We are serving all of Delaware County, where there are disproportionate percentages of poorer children, senior citizens, and immigrants. We will look at where the needs are, but also where the opportunities are for us to really move the needle. People don’t realize that in another year, Medicare is moving into managed care. Health foundations can play a convening role among all those senior-serving agencies, to help them make connections that can improve services down the road.

TS: Is there any advocacy role for foundations?
FS: Brandywine and now Crozer Keystone foundations are part of the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative, headed by [Swarthmorean] Ann Torregrossa. We’ve really benefited from her public policy experience and knowledge. For instance, during the Corbett administration, we partnered with the Pennsylvania Economy League for a study that showed that it was to the economic benefit of the state to expand Medicaid. We were not successful at convincing the Corbett administration of that, but it laid the groundwork, and when Governor Wolf came in, the state immediately expanded it.

TS: How will the CKCF support existing community health initiatives?
FS: We will go through a community needs assessment and strategic planning process. At BHF, our strategic plan focused on a series of issues that were of importance to us: getting people enrolled in health insurance, providing health care to those who are uninsured or on medical assistance, primary care, addressing chronic diseases, maternal health.

As the years went by, we expanded our role — for instance, helping young people be successful, because all the statistics show that high school graduates live longer and healthier. And sometimes we have the opportunity to bring additional dollars to the table [for larger development projects]. Foundations like this can have a tremendous impact on their communities.

TS: How big is the CKCF?
FS: That’s a little up in the air right now. There is a final audit that will show what the asset base will be. This is going to be the largest foundation serving Delaware County, and that’s really exciting. And we’ll expect to grow through private donations and bequests, as time goes on.

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