A benefit to the community

Published 11:25 am Monday, November 6, 2023

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St. Luke’s Hospital is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. What exactly does this mean? 

“Nonprofit” often means different things to the writer and reader. And “nonprofit” is often used interchangeably with “tax exempt.” Congress created nearly three dozen tax-exempt categories. Each tax-exempt section establishes conditions required to comply with IRS requirements. One condition common to each section is they shall refrain from paying any part of an organization’s net earnings to benefit a private shareholder or individual. 

 Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code refers to public charities, which include private foundations, religious organizations, and other institutions of goodwill. These organizations, St. Luke’s included, must be able to justify how they serve and administer services for the betterment of their communities. Examples of IRS-assigned goals for 501(c)(3) include relief of the poor, the distressed or the underprivileged, and advancement of education or science. 

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Public charities embody the best of America. Polk County has many wonderful nonprofits that shape our highest ideals, boldest dreams and noblest causes. Many of these beloved charities have led the way in giving, feeding, healing, sheltering, educating, inspiring and nurturing people of every age, gender, race and socioeconomic status. 

Seventy-two percent of Americans help strangers and 42% of us volunteer. Our generosity grew during the pandemic. Donations in 2020 and 2021 donations were more significant than 2019. Sixty percent of Americans gave an average of $574 last year. Adjusting for inflation, America’s charitable giving today is nearly seven times more than in 1954.

To qualify as a 501(c)(3), St. Luke’s must demonstrate we provide benefits to a class of persons that is broad enough to benefit the community and operate to serve a public rather than a private interest.

Rev. Rul. 69-545 provides the following factors that demonstrate community benefit:


  • Operating an emergency room open to all, regardless of ability to pay
  • Maintaining a board of directors drawn from the community
  • Keeping an open medical staff policy
  • Providing hospital care for all patients able to pay, including those who utilize Medicaid and Medicare
  • Use surplus funds to improve facilities, equipment, and patient care; advance medical training, education, and research.



Our 501(c)(3) status affords St. Luke’s to receive grants from the government, foundations, and private donors. Through our Foundation, we can facilitate tax deductions to individual donors. We depend on generosity to advance healthcare here at the Hospital. 

Our recent capital campaigns include 3D mammography, computed tomography and upgrades to a 60-year-old facility. Through these campaigns, we have brought new services to our community and improved the health of residents! Through the generosity of foundations like the Ann Jacob Toms Fund at Polk County Community Foundation and Carolina Foothills Foundation, we’ve provided free, life-saving screenings for qualified community residents, like 3D mammograms, and cardiac calcium scoring. The Ann Jacob Toms Fund also funded the renovation of the Tom Raymond fitness trail behind the Hospital for the health and enjoyment of our community members, Ache Around the Lake Race, and Men’s Health Fair and Car Show.

The Hospital has also received state grants to start our cardiology program and was recently awarded a grant to start a new outpatient mental health program in 2024. 

We are so appreciative of those who support our organization through giving!

We make our annual review publicly available through our website under the “About Us” section (StLukesNC.org). Please read the report to learn about our services to Polk County and neighboring communities. The “fiscal highlights” section of the annual review summarizes our operating statistics over the previous fiscal year. I want to highlight one area in particular:

In 2022, we provided FREE to segments of our community:


  • $ 2.0 million in assistance to uninsured patients
  • $ 1.1 million in unpaid bills from patients    
  • $ 2.1 million to subsidize health clinics 
  • $ 412 thousand in community benefit programs
  • $ 5.61 million in TOTAL community benefit


There’s no denying that healthcare is expensive. But St. Luke’s benefit to the community is undeniable. We want you to remain healthy through healthy eating, active living, and prevention measures. So please support us when you see St. Luke’s hosting health fairs, screenings, educational events, and activities that advance community health, like our recent Ache Around the Lake. Engage in those events every time you’re able. See your primary care provider for all recommended screenings and health reviews, and utilize these tests to remain healthy.

Owen Arthur said something that caught my attention: “For he who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”

Our hope is that we provide you a more joyful and healthy life by our being in this community.