The Goodwill Ambassadors

January 10, 2013

New leadership team reaffirms Guild’s strong commitment to support the Health Center.

WRITTEN BY SANDI DRAPER PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PRESSEY

Kate Prudente and Ana Belden
Ana Belden, left, and Kate Prudente will lead the Irene Dunne Guild in 2014.
Kate Prudente and Ana Belden are following in the footsteps of Irene Dunne, an actress in the 1930s and ’40s and five-time Academy Award nominee. No, the two aren’t walking the red carpet. Rather, they are following Dunne’s leadinglady role as a philanthropic supporter of Saint John’s Health Center. Prudente and Belden are the new president and vice president, respectively, of the Irene Dunne Guild (IDG), a group of philanthropic women that has been raising funds for programs and services and volunteering in many ways at the Health Center since 1987.

Prudente became involved with the Guild in 2006 when she attended its “Think Pink” women’s health educational event and luncheon. She became acquainted with Belden through various Guild events.

They also have children of similar ages, so their paths crossed for several years before they joined forces for the Guild. In addition, Prudente’s husband is an internist and current chairman of medicine at Saint John’s Health Center, and Belden “comes from a family of doctors.”

“I wanted to find a way to become involved,” Prudente says. “I started out in the membership committee, but for the last few years have served on the committee that selects which new hospital projects we will fund, which is extremely gratifying.”

The Guild has about 120 members who are asked to volunteer for at least one Guild program. “Some members definitely have favorite projects,” Prudente says. “But ideally, they rotate in and out of committees so that they can work with different women in the Guild and use their skills and energies in new ways.”

She adds, “Our outgoing president and vice president, Catherine Corlin and Judy Piro, are terrific examples, as they have both served the Guild in countless ways, including chairing the Caritas Gala and serving on numerous Guild committees. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps and represent this group of women who accomplish wonderful things for Saint John’s in a very understated way.”

Guild participation is a wonderful way to give back to a hospital that’s dedicated to the community, says Corlin. “The care at Saint John’s Health Center is compassionate and also cutting edge. We are ranked one of the 50 best hospitals in the country. The members of the Guild are very dedicated to the Health Center. Most of them receive their care here.”

Guild members range in age from their 20s into their 80s, Corlin notes. Members can become deeply involved in activities or, if they work or are are busy with young children, can volunteer for a minimum number of hours.

The new team of Prudente and Belden will bring out the best talents of the members, Corlin predicts. “I’m really looking forward to working with them. They will be a great leadership team.”

Prudente says Guild members are proud to represent the Health Center. “For the coming year, I hope to emphasize our role as goodwill ambassadors to the community as in our mission statement. With the new sponsorship of Saint John’s, I believe Guild members – who are active, dynamic women in the community – can play a key role in helping communicate some of the changes at Saint John's.”

And speaking like a true vice president, Belden says: “My #1 goal is to serve Kate, our members and our Foundation. If I do that, I know I will be serving the hospital and the community and its needs.”

Among the Guild activities are:

  • The Patron Drive, a letter-writing fundraiser campaign held each year that has raised more than $850,000 for special projects at the hospital.
  • Caritas Gala, an annual black-tie dinner award ceremony hosted in partnership with the Foundation trustees that has raised more than $11 million, since inception, for the benefit of the Health Center.
  • The Irene Dunne Guild Gift Shop, started with a grant from the IDG and staffed with Guild members and hospital volunteers.
  • Angels of the ER, a nationally recognized program that trains volunteers to assist patients and families in the emergency room.
  • Think Pink, a women’s health and wellness educational event held each May.
  • A multi-media library, which provides books, CDs and DVDs for patients and their loved ones and magazines in hospital waiting areas.
  • Treats for Caregivers, which provides monthly healthy snack baskets to various departments on a rotating basis.
  • Toys in the ER, which provides toys to pediatric patients and to children waiting with patients in the emergency room.
  • Care and Share Closet, which is maintained by Angels who organize donated, gently used clothing to distribute to patients, as needed.

Actress Irene Dunne became known as the “First Lady of Saint John’s” for her more than four decades of contributions to the Health Center. One of her granddaughters continues the family tradition as a Guild member.

“One of the most attractive things about the Guild is the many ways that members can get involved—from distributing treats for caregivers in the hospital and volunteering in the gift shop to helping plan and execute our major events,” Prudente says. “The Guild offers a nice mix of ‘front-line’ and ‘behind-the-scenes’ volunteering. We are very excited about the future of Saint John’s.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Irene Dunne Guild, please contact Cookie Galanti at 310-829-8423.