Emory Report
November 17, 2008
Volume 61, Number 12

Where to turn

Faculty and Staff
Assistance Program

Office of the Dean of
Chapel and Religious Life


Emory Center for
Pastoral Services

Student Counseling Center


Emory Alliance
Credit Union



Emory Report homepage  

November 17
, 2008
Crisis helps to deepen bonds

By carol clark

When the economy is booming, it can be easy to lose track of what’s really important in life. The current financial crisis is bringing into sharper focus the value of relationships to family, friends, colleagues and the larger Emory community.

“The community aspect of the economic downturn is extremely important,” says Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the chapel and religious life. “It’s an opportunity to deepen the best part of who we are at Emory.”

Attendance for campus religious gatherings has been especially high this fall, she noted.

“I think when there are crises, people tend to want to connect more.”

People are riding bikes and walking more, providing more chances to connect. “Like a lot of people, I’m not spending as much time and energy expanding the work I do. I’m really trying to be present in the community and in my relationships,” Henry-Crowe says. “I’m enjoying the deeper conversations I’ve been having.”

“We are all interdependent. None of us live totally on our own,” says Elwood Spackman, executive director of the Emory Center for Pastoral Services. In addition to providing pastoral services for patients and their families throughout the Emory Healthcare system, the center dedicates a team of chaplains for staff support. Employees can turn to these chaplains for counseling, and referrals for additional help, should they have work-related or personal issues.

“We are beginning to see more staff members stressed out by their financial situations,” Spackman says. “Some of them have spouses who have lost their jobs, and they face the possibility of losing their homes due to that loss of income.”

The Emory Healthcare system employs about 9,000 people, a number of whom are single parents. “Some of them are having a hard time making ends meet. It’s especially tough on young families,” Spackman says. “We’re seeing extended families moving in together, which can ease financial problems but increase other kinds of stress.”

Spackman says he appreciated the fact that President Jim Wagner and John Fox, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare, quickly responded to the economic crisis by sending out letters to staff, emphasizing that they consider people the most valuable resource of the University. “We’ve got an administration that is sensitive enough that they’re willing to do what they can to ease the struggles and anxieties of employees,” Spackman says.

A Financial Communications Committee, headed by managers from various parts of the University, has formed to assist managers in dealing with questions that could arise with employees.

“We’ve had a small increase in the number of employees inquiring about withdrawing from their 403(b)s,” says Del King, a member of the committee and associate vice president of human resources. Human Resources sent out a letter with tips to keep in mind regarding the retirement savings plans in turbulent times.
Taking money out of retirement funds is “the employee’s choice, and there are times when that’s the only choice one can make, but the benefits staff is trained to help employees make sure they’ve exhausted all other possibilities,” King adds.

The Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) is a University-wide resource, available free to all 22,000 employees in need of short-term counseling or referrals. “We’re getting more people who are facing problems related to finances,” says Robin Huskey, manager of education and outreach for the FSAP. “They are worried about having gas for their cars, food for their children or money to pay their rent or mortgage.”

In addition to providing counseling and lifestyle workshops, FSAP can refer employees to external resources for services such as credit counseling, special funds for fuel bills, emergency shelters, food banks or other assistance.

Emory Alliance Credit Union members can tap the Member Express Loan for emergencies or short-term needs up to $750. The FSAP worked with Emory Alliance to develop the loan terms, which are repaid via payroll deduction.

Even those who are able to make ends meet may need to tighten their belts. The FSAP newsletter features tips for reducing financial stress this holiday season, such as sending a family newsletter by e-mail instead of mailing individual cards.

Grassroots support systems have also sprung up around Emory. Spackman cited one department’s move to establish a kitty for those in need. “I think the concept is marvelous. It shows the nature of our community.”