Leading a Legacy

TidalHealth Foundation President Jessica Hales continues its mission to make a positive impact on the local healthcare community

Written by Kristen Hampshire
Photography by Grant L. Gursky

The true spirit of giving is the fact that anyone can contribute. Everyone can be a philanthropist, which is a philosophy that drives Jessica Hales’ passion for serving nonprofit organizations and now TidalHealth Foundation as its president.

“When you think about the word philanthropy and the words, ‘I am a philanthropist,’ you tend to think that you need to have a lot of money or a lot of time to volunteer — there are all these guidelines,” she relates. “But you can give a dollar and you are a philanthropist. Everyone has the ability to give to what they are passionate about, and every dollar and minute counts.”

Hales joined TidalHealth Foundation in May 2022, bringing high-level fundraising experience and philanthropic strategy to the organization, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year — one of several milestones in 2023.

A Groundbreaking Initiative
On October 17, history came full circle when the foundation broke ground for the Edward Q. Wilgus Community Clinic, the health system’s newest primary care practice that is currently occupied by Hotel Esther, a property of significance. It was the home of Dr. Robert Naylor, an English physician who bought the land in 1893 to build a hospital in a region that lacked access to care. His dream was to open a 30-bed clinic, but he never saw it come to fruition due to his untimely death in 1899 at the age of 69.

“It’s truly amazing to have this doctor’s vision come to life,” says Bryan LeCompte, owner of Yard Designs, Inc. and a TidalHealth Foundation board member for the past 15 years. “In 1895, he started something, and we are going to finish it.”

LeCompte owned the property and was intrigued by the idea of creating a community clinic that would double as a graduate medical program to infuse the region with healthcare talent.

Bryan LeCompte and Jessica Hales

“I wanted to memorialize Dr. Naylor’s efforts to create and launch healthcare on the Eastern Shore,” LeCompte says. “This builds on his concept and ideas to reimagine his vision.”

An outpouring of support at the ribbon-cutting affirmed the importance of this initiative to the community, Hales says. “Now is a pivotal time in healthcare on the Eastern Shore,” she relates. “By starting a graduate medical education program at TidalHealth, we are addressing the need to build a pipeline of physicians to ensure the best quality healthcare for community members today and for generations to come.”

The SPARK campaign, an effort to raise $5 million to support required resources to establish the program and Wilgus Clinic, is a “pay it forward” initiative,” Hales explains. It is designed to attract outstanding resident physicians and provide a place for them to learn and practice — and stay in the community.

The Wilgus Clinic will redevelop a deteriorating property to deliver care to an underserved population. Also, it’s a symbol of investment and stability.

Continuing the Legacy
The Wilgus Clinic and SPARK campaign follow LeCompte’s successful founding of The Giving House in 2018 to honor Marie Waller, a beloved nurse who raised her family on the property, and serves as the endowment home for TidalHealth, with the mantra: “Every home needs a foundation, and every foundation needs a home.” LeCompte says, “I am passionate about the TidalHealth Foundation and supporting The Giving House to continue the home’s legacy.”

LeCompte says Hales is just the leader to continue driving TidalHealth Foundation’s remarkable impact in the community.

In August, Hales was named one of the “40 Under 40” by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP). Born and raised on the Eastern Shore, Hales is rooted in the region and committed to securing the best healthcare for community members. Prior to assuming her role at TidalHealth, Hales was director of development and executive director for the foundation at Wor-Wic Community College, of which she is an alumna. She was senior development director of March of Dimes and Eastern Shore development director. She started her career in public relations and marketing at Atlantic General Hospital.

Hales, too, is coming full circle as TidalHealth Foundation’s president. She says, “When this opportunity came about, I had to jump on it because it’s healthcare on the Eastern Shore, which is my passion.” CS

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