The vision of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, the new foundation with the La Porte Hospital has a very extraordinary goal for the La Porte County community and Maria Fruth, the President and Chief Executive Officer for the foundation, takes steps everyday to achieve it.
“We have the incredible vision to be one of the top 10 healthiest communities in the state of Indiana by year 2030,” she said. “It is going to take a lot of work and coordination in order to achieve this vision and will take collaboration with a lot of organizations in the community to see the vision come to fruition.”
In her position, Fruth works with an 11-member team who make up the foundation’s Board of Directors, who all come from different businesses and organizations throughout the county. Each person has a different background, but they all want the same outcome: to make La Porte County a healthier community.
Fruth, originally from Brazil, wants the same thing as well for La Porte, her home for the last 41 years.
“My personal goal is to structure a new foundation that has a very good base in understanding the community’s health needs. What are they? What are the community assets? Which organization is taking care of what wellness and health needs that the community has or need?” she listed. “My personal goal? For the foundation to blend the needs and understand who is already here and tending to what areas? And how do we grow their capacity and how do we tend to the needs not taken care of pertaining to the health and wellness?”
That is one lofty goal, yes, but Fruth believes in the hospital and foundation team, as well as the community.
She moved here after visiting the U.S. several times as an exchange student back in 1976. She met her husband Greg, they were married in Brazil, then they settled in La Porte where he began teaching and coaching at La Porte High School.
Fruth first began working as a buyer for local La Porte city stores before becoming the general manager at Portofino Grill and the Briar Leaf Golf Club. At this position, her goal was to fix it up to sell it, she said.
Then, in 1996, Leigh Morris -the former La Porte City Mayor - interviewed her for a position within the foundation, before the hospital and foundation changed to the current names and organizations, which occurred in 2016.
“When the hospital was sold, we created the foundation, which was an incredible opportunity for this community,” she explained.
The hospital was bought and transformed into a for-profit organization, thus the need to create a new style of foundation.
According to Fruth, more than 18,000 individual and corporate donors have supported the hospital and foundation with more than $24 million since 1978.
In addition to supporting the hospital’s daily functions, the donations have helped fund programs such as children and adult educational programs, new equipment, scholarships, more access to healthcare services, and many more.
“So, it is like turning the investment of the hospital back to the community with the creation of the Healthcare Foundation,” she said. “That’s the key point, this is the Healthcare Foundation and the mission is health and wellness. That is the personal goal, that we are doing a very good baseline in structure now, so that the foundation can continue to grow and improve the health and wellness of this community.”
If more and more people within the community are healthier, Fruth believes the entire community will benefit. More people will produce better things, whether it is through a business or just overall be a happier, friendlier neighbor.
More people can enjoy what the City of La Porte and the rest of the county has to offer, she said.
“I have lived here two-thirds of my life and I think this is an incredibly generous community with a lot of assets with the parks and the lakes,” she said.
The La Porte Little Theater, the La Porte Symphony Orchestra, the many, many restaurants… the list of amazing features the City of La Porte has to offer continued from Fruth.
“All this culture in this little Midwest town is pretty impressive,” she said.
Fruth takes her new Midwest roots back with her every year when she visits Brazil to see her family, but makes sure to return to enjoy the summers floating on Pine Lake and playing in the parks with her two grandchildren. She has three grown boys and enjoys traveling around the world.
She is a busy person though. The foundation is still building and Fruth is there to carve the path forward to that one goal.
“La Porte is pretty special,” she said. “We can get stronger and hopefully be able to be in the top 10 healthiest communities of Indiana for health and wellness. What these two things affect is incredible and when they are improved other things come along.”