Rebecca and Bryan Derr weren’t home on their 23rd wedding anniversary in 2015 when their house caught fire. Squirrels in their attic had chewed through electrical wiring next to the highly combustible nest they’d made. By the time the fire department quelled the flames, over half the inside of their house had burned.

Patrick Dowdle (left), who administers the HCA Hope Fund, with Rebecca Derr

A police officer showed up at their church just as service was letting out with a piece of their mail. “A neighbor had told him where we were, so he came and told us our house was on fire,” said Rebecca Derr.

The brick house didn’t look that bad from the outside. “When you think your house burned down, you’re thinking all the way down to the slab. But when I got there, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s good,’ and then I go in, and the smell hits you, and you see your pictures melted and just black everywhere.”

Firefighters were still inside, and Derr walked out. “I kept thinking, ‘It’s just stuff. It’s just stuff. It’s just stuff.’” If it had started a few hours before, that might not have been the case. She is grateful for that.

“Unfortunately, the fire affected our bedrooms and office, bathroom, hallway, going into the kitchen, and the first part of the living room,” said Derr. That night, when they went to stay at a hotel, she said, “We didn’t have anything except for the clothes that we had on.”

Much of what was lost was irreplaceable. “My mother had passed away about six years ago at that time. So I had some of her things in there, grandma’s quilts in there.” It was troubling to have lost all her family photographs. Her daughter, away at her first year of college, lost all her athletic trophies, academic awards, and keepsakes.

Rebecca Derr

Rebecca Derr has worked at Parallon in Louisville since 1999. Throughout her nearly two decades, she has worked in several departments. Like most employees, she started as a collections specialist. Currently, she’s a support specialist who follows up on insurance claims.

Despite her tenure, Senior Manager for Rebecca’s department, Sharika Hazley, had some serious convincing to do to get her to accept assistance from the HCA Hope Fund. “This is what it’s for. You’re family. You need to do it,” Derr recalls her saying.

The fund was established in 2004 when employees across the nation wanted a way to help their coworkers recover from Florida hurricanes that year. When Katrina hit the next year, the employee-run, employee-supported 501(c)3 charity had just been formalized. One hundred percent of the staff’s voluntary contributions go to assisting their coworkers in crisis.

“We did have insurance, thankfully, and to be honest that’s one of the reasons why I did not want to use the Hope Fund,” said Derr. HR manager, Patrick Dowdle, spearheaded the effort, filed the forms and kept Derr informed about the funds.

Within just a few days, the Derrs had in excess of a couple thousand dollars from the fund, which helped immediately. They had little savings as they were paying for their daughter’s college outright. They had insurance, but the check would take quite some time to arrive and didn’t cover everything.

It took nearly four months for a restoration crew to get the house back into livable condition. The Derrs stayed in hotels at first — not a simple thing to do during Derby season. They spent a night here and a night there wherever they could find a room until they could secure a temporary apartment. The money from the HCA Hope Fund paid for food, hotel rooms, new clothes — all the things the Derrs needed to survive until the insurance came through.

“I mean, we didn’t have suitcases — we had nothing,” said Derr. “That helped a whole lot.” Her coworkers took up a collection and so did her church. She describes the experience as humbling. She’s grateful, and contributes to the HCA Hope fund to give back.

“I think I’ve cried more over my pictures being gone, so my sister, thankfully, she scanned and sent me a bunch.” She’s reached out to others and managed to replace some of what was lost.

Just over two years later, Derr is still hunting for a replacement couch. The process of getting things back to normal is ongoing. While she rolls with changes at work, change at home is unsettling for her. Getting things close to what they were before is an ongoing project two years later. “I’ll get it eventually,” she says with a laugh.

Contribute to and learn about the HCA Hope Fund. Parallon employees raise money through bake sales, donations, PTO contributions, and more to support their peers through the hardships of their lives including illness and disaster. The company supports its employees with mentoring, tuition reimbursement, comprehensive insurance, and more.

To learn about working at Parallon, click here.

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