Judith McKernon

Easing the Burden of Medical Costs

When illness hits, many people who can otherwise pay their bills on their own are suddenly stuck. Debt from surgeries and emergency room visits can quickly pile up, adding stress to the healing process.

That concern sparked the creation of the Blue Horizon Health Fund, which helps families in northwest Litchfield County cover medical expenses through one-time grants. It was founded nearly 70 years ago by John Noble and his wife, Ethel, of Sharon. They selected Thomas Wagner to run the fund as trustee, who in turn appointed his daughter, Judith McKernon, as his successor. The Lakeville resident considers it a gift from her father to advance the fund’s vital mission.

“We have older people in the community who are on Social Security as their only means of staying afloat,” Judy said. “The majority are on a very limited income, and they just don’t have anything in the bank for that $1,000 for dental work” or other unexpected expense.

In 2007, Judy brought the endowed fund to Berkshire Taconic to invest and grow its assets. Foundation staff work directly with town social workers to identify residents who require assistance. Since BTCF manages the finances and paperwork, Judy can concentrate on helping her neighbors get back on track.

“I get the fun of saying, ‘Yes, let’s help that person’ or even, ‘Couldn’t we do a little more on that bill?’” said Judy, who has approved almost 200 grants totaling nearly $115,000 since bringing the fund to BTCF. “Nothing feels better than helping somebody get through a bad time.”