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    A Family Fundraising Effort from Behind the Frontlines

    April 11, 2020
    “I just reassured him that I was going in to help, and that this is what we need to do for society as a whole."

    When people think of front-lines health care workers, they rightfully imagine those in direct care.

    But legions behind the scenes fuel the critical work of the front lines, and University accounting graduate Melissa Schnipp ’96, of Bogota, New Jersey, is among them. So are her 10-year-old son, Antonello, and husband, Dan.

    Melissa is site finance controller at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Palisades Medical Center, a community hospital increasing its ICU beds and converting floors to serve a community hard-hit by COVID-19. Her role in this pandemic, she explained, is “keeping the cash flow moving, monitoring the materials supply chain, pushing all the paperwork through and making sure emergency purchasing gets accomplished.”

    At Hackensack Meridian, workers in many roles have been redeployed as the virus progressed, and Melissa has been no exception. Originally working from home when the crisis became full-blown, she had been, at points, called back to the physical site to play various roles. It was during her time at home, though, when some bonus family bonding led to a special mission for the Schnipps, initiated by Antonello.

    While Melissa was working at home, she said, her family heard more than usual of one another’s work or school conversations, giving her a new understanding of her husband’s and son’s days and them of hers.

    “They got to hear some of the safety calls and the things we talk about every day,” she said. Antonello, understandably, had been worried about his mother, especially when she was going into the medical center.

    “I just reassured him that I was going in to help, and that this is what we need to do for society as a whole,” she said, noting that value was formed early on while a student at Scranton.

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    “He asked why there wasn’t a cure, and I explained we need research,” she recalled.

    Antonello had an idea. Having already dabbled in fundraising efforts, raising money for childhood cancer and for the American Heart Association, he asked Melissa if he could raise dollars to help find a COVID-19 vaccine.

    He explained his mission as simply as any 10-year-old would: “I wanted to get research so people wouldn’t get sick and nobody would die.”

    The Schnipps used the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation’s platform to set up a personal page, The “Big A COVID-19 Combat Fund.”

    “Because he is 10 we set the goal at $1,000 and told him we’d match whatever he was able to raise,” Melissa said. “We sent emails out and a few Facebook posts using the URL link for his team site."

    The page reached its goal in a week, has now hit $1,150 and is still active. The money will go to Hackensack Meridian’s Center for Discovery and Innovation, which is researching and working on a vaccine.

    Scranton, Melissa said, laid the groundwork for this.

    “Dean Michael Mensah taught me well,” she said. “He always stressed we were going to face things in life that were not ‘textbook.’ When we got into the world, we would need to be prepared for anything.”

    “That lesson really resonates with me now,” Melissa said, as does the way the University stressed service. “My compassion and passion for service – and my trying to instill the same in my son – definitely came from Scranton.”

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