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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Katie Monger and her daughter, Charlie, read a book at their home in West Valley City on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Monger, a CHG employee, used the company's Employee Compassion Fund to help pay bills after her husband, Troy, died.

MIDVALE — A Utah company is building a culture of kindness and giving through an initiative aimed at helping its employees help each other during their times of greatest need.

And CHG Healthcare Services' Employee Compassion Fund is one of the reasons the Midvale-based company has landed on Fortune magazine’s "100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ranking it among the top employers across the country.

Established in 2014, the fund was created to help employees who are suffering a financial burden. The compassion fund provides tax-free grants to help CHG employees facing financial difficulties immediately after an unforeseen personal hardship or natural disaster.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Katie Monger and her daughter, Charlie, are photographed in their home in West Valley City on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Monger, a CHG employee, used the company's Employee Compassion Fund to help pay bills after her husband, Troy, died.

Turn of fortune

In 2016, Shawn Farnworth, a senior information technology security analyst at CHG Healthcare Services, was living a pretty normal and contented family life with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. But their relatively idyllic lives would change following a visit to the doctor when Missy — as she was known to her family and friends — was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkins lymphoma, an incurable, chronic yet treatable form of cancer.

The news came in August, just as the couple's eldest son was preparing to begin a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The doctors told them that treatment would require chemotherapy from the middle of September through the end of January 2017, he explained. At that point, they figured their health insurance would pay for the majority of her care. However, what they didn't expect was the amount of noncovered expenses that would arise after an unanticipated update on her condition, he said.

"They diagnosed her (again) saying cancer had transported itself into her spinal fluid," Farnworth said. "So we're going to have to have more chemo treatments."

"It was the worst Valentine's Day ever," he said. Sadly, five rounds of chemo and radiation treatment were not enough, and Missy died in October 2017.

Having used most of their savings already, the family found itself in a financial lurch, he explained. One day at work, Farnworth said his manager urged him to apply for assistance from the company's employee-sponsored CHG compassion fund.

Applicants must be a full- or part-time staff employee with the maximum amount available for each incident capped at $2,000 and a minimum amount of $500, according to the company website.

James Boley, CHG Healthcare
Kevin Ricklefs, senior vice president of talent management for CHG Healthcare, chats with co-workers in his office in Midvale. For the 10th straight year, CHG Healthcare has made Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ranking it among the top employers across the country.

'Whoever needs it'

The fund relies primarily on individual donations from employees and support from CHG to underwrite the program.

Each contribution helps, and when combined with donations from others can provide financial assistance for employees facing unexpected life challenges, explained Kevin Ricklefs, senior vice president of Talent Management for CHG.

"The money goes to whoever needs it," he said. "When somebody gets into a situation where they have a financial need because of a hardship, then the fund pays them out. We're all helping out is the concept."

To maintain anonymity and fairness, applications are reviewed by a third-party administrator that is a nonprofit organization, he said. "This allows the fund to kind of administer itself," Ricklefs said.

As for why the fund has become so successful and appreciated by the company's employees, he said it provides a way for people to support each other in their more difficult life circumstances, he said.

"I believe this (goes for people) in every organization (that) most people want to help out when something happens," he said. "This is a way to do that."

There are no restrictions on how much employees can contribute or how many times they can receive grants from the compassion fund, he noted. Generally, the fund has paid for itself, he said, and starting in 2018, the company began matching 50 percent of employee contributions, which may allow the maximum grant amount to increase.

"This is just one example of 'putting people first.' Sometimes you get in financial situations," Ricklefs said. "This is just our way of saying we understand that. We care for you as an individual and we want your best self here."

Meanwhile, Farnworth said he begrudgingly applied to the compassion fund with help from his manager and was approved. He used the $2,000 grant to pay some bills and household expenses that had eaten away the family savings during Missy's illness.

"That was my rainy day fund that I spent with all the other medical payments," he said. "To have that money basically helped me to survive because at that point I passed my budget and looking for something else to help me out."

He said initially he was reluctant to accept the money, but eventually was convinced to do so by a colleague.

"It was weird that I was accepting help instead of me giving help," he said. "I don't want to feel needy (so) it's hard to accept service or help from other people. But when you get in a situation where you have people at your company that really care for you, it's pretty cool."

Farnworth said working at a place where co-workers and company leaders look out for you in vulnerable times is something to be especially grateful for.

CHG assignment coordinator Katie Monger found herself in a similar circumstance when her spouse was diagnosed with a serious illness that left him hospitalized in intensive care last summer, she explained. Both were employees at CHG when the medical emergency struck and eventually depleted their finances, she said.

Monger applied to the compassion fund to help with expenses and was approved. Unfortunately, her husband passed away a few months after coming home from the hospital. It was then a co-worker suggested that she apply again for additional funding.

"I felt weird about it because I had just gotten money to help with the hospital (bills)," she said. However, she took the advice and was approved again, which helped pay some bills while she was on bereavement leave.

She said working for a company that puts it's people first and having co-workers willing to help in difficult times has been blessing.

"My nature is to not ask for help because I think that there is someone who needs it more than I do," she explained. "Every time, I'd said that to my colleagues they'd say, 'That's what it's there for. Your situation warrants it.'"

James Boley, CHG Healthcare
Shawn Farnworth chats with a co-worker at his desk at CHG Healthcare in Midvale. Farnworth, a CHG employee, used the company's Employee Compassion Fund to help pay bills after his wife, Melissa, died.

Company to work for

For the 10th straight year, CHG Healthcare has made Fortune magazine’s "100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ranking it among the top employers across the country. This year the form came in at 67.

Each year, Fortune gathers comprehensive feedback to establish its annual nationwide list. Employees are surveyed on elements of compensation, diversity, paid time off and other perks.

CHG employees cite the company's mantra of "putting people first" as one of the main reasons for the high workplace approval rating, with the compassion fund as a prime example. To date, the fund has distributed 72 grants to CHG employees worth more than $119,000.

While senior culture specialist Tyra Pounds has never had occasion to utilize the fund, she contributes to it every pay period because of her desire to help her fellow co-workers.

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"My co-workers are my friends and I want to be able to help them out when they are in times of need," she said. "It's really impactful for me to know that I am helping someone that I know."

She also noted it if the need ever came up, the fund would be there for her as well, which provides a sense of support.

"This (fund) really speaks to our core value of putting people first," Pounds said. "The company really lives by that (value) by creating a program where we can put each other first rather than it being just 'lip service.'"

James Boley, CHG Healthcare
Kevin Ricklefs, senior vice president of Talent Management for CHG Healthcare, left, chats in his office with senior culture specialist Tyra Pounds. For the 10th straight year, CHG Healthcare has made Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ranking it among the top employers across the country.