Foundation raises over $1 million in the past two years

Community invited to appreciation dinner hosted by West River Health Foundation

Nearly 200 people came out to the Granary in Hettinger to enjoy supper from the West River Health Services Foundation, to say thanks to its donors. (Courtesy Photo)
Nearly 200 people came out to the Granary in Hettinger to enjoy supper from the West River Health Services Foundation, to say thanks to its donors. (Courtesy Photo)

WRHS Foundation

This past Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Foundation at West River Health Services provided a “Community Appreciation Banquet” for any and all of their contributors who have given $1 or more to the Foundation over the past two years. In addition, people who have not given but have always wanted to, could give $1 or more at the door and gain entrance. It was a gorgeous fall day in the 70s, allowing nearly 200 giving area folk to attend this event at The Granary in Hettinger. Once registered, they all enjoyed a cheeseburger, hamburger or skinless bratwurst, with potato and macaroni salads and chips for sides, brownies for dessert and refreshments of pop or water. Kennedy’s Fresh Foods provided the tasty sides, dessert and utensils; Dakota Packing and the Adams County Development Corporation provided the meats (sounds like an Arby’s commercial!); and Pepsi Cola, via longtime local sales representative, Ron Dragoo, donated all of the Pepsi soda products and water.

Upon entering The Granary, most everyone was greeted by West River’s Fund Development Officer, Ted Uecker, and immediately couldn’t help but see six of the huge, 12-foot by 24-foot outdoor billboards for the “MRI” and “One Room At a Time Together” campaigns billowing from the rafters of The Granary. With Harry Connick Jr. piano music filling The Granary, the mood was set for an enjoyable evening. Jim Goplin, Director of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, and Mark Resner, Vice President of the WRHS Foundation Board of Directors, did all of the grilling for everyone; as Sheri Uecker, Chuck Christman, Al McIntyre, Barb Stadheim, and Cody Jorgensen helped serve up all of the awesome sides and refreshments.

Once supper was completed, the Foundation’s Director Ted Uecker welcomed everyone to the banquet, thanking them for their amazing support over the past two years. He led them through a power point presentation of exactly where their $1,013,578 donated dollars have gone over the past two years. But, for starters, he gave a brief history of the organization, all the way back to Jan. 4, 1950 when Community Memorial Hospital began. At that time, there were three physicians, 14 employees and 28 hospital beds. Then came the building of the satellite clinics in the 1960s, with six of them still in operation today in New England, Mott, Bowman, Scranton, Dickinson and Lemmon, S.D. Of course, today, West River and Western Horizons employs over 340, including 16 physicians, 10 mid-level practitioners, nine visiting specialists and over 100 hospital and living center beds! What an amazing growth of a healthcare system over 66 years! Some have even called West River “the Little Mayo on the Prairie!”

A brief history of the WRHS Foundation was also provided for the attendees – incorporated in 1984 as a 501 (C) 3 charitable organization, licensed by the state of North Dakota and led by a volunteer board of directors from area towns. The Foundation goals two years ago were to start rebuilding the organization “from within” with our own employees, then forming “Partnerships for the Future” with area families, businesses and organizations.  And lastly, right from the beginning, the goal was to raise $500,000 for the new $3 million MRI Scanner and MRI Building Addition.

Although the “MRI” ($681,064) and “One Room..”($153,015) Campaigns accounted for over 82 percent of the over $1 million funds raised, there were also quite a few other areas that received gifts.  Yes, it was revealed on this night, that the “One Room..” Campaign surpassed its $145,500 goal to renovate 42 resident rooms at Western Horizons Care Center. All of the new flooring is in place, 90 percent of the painting is completed and the new lights, sinks, toilets, shelves, curtains and bedspreads are on their way!

It was also presented that $62,723 has went toward 19 various smaller equipment purchases through our “Partners In Health” membership program — including $9,977 for a new handheld ultrasound; $8,800 for new lobby furniture in our Lemmon Clinic; $7,000 for new nursing software; $5,000 toward two new vital signs machines at our Hettinger Clinic and Surgery Center; $4,500 for a new sit to stand lift at our Care Center; $4,399 for new automatic doors at our Assisted Living Center; and there’s more.

Our “Endowment Fund” has brought in $54,440, which has been safely invested. This fund allows us to utilize the interest earnings from the total principal to improve our equipment and facilities. Although our interest earned this year was not a significant amount, we are building this fund for the long term. North Dakota offers a 40 percent tax credit for gifts of $5,000 or more to this fund (and who knows, with the state making so many budget cutbacks, how long this amazing state tax credit will be available?). The “Mott Clinic Matching Challenge Campaign,” spearheaded by a guaranteed anonymous $5,000 matching gift, if we could raise $7,500; went off the charts and brought in $34,083! We’ve already begun making improvements to our Mott Clinic’s patient exam rooms, bathroom, hallways and front door. The “Scholarship Program” at West River has given out $28,000 via 37 scholarships to 29 students from eleven area towns. Hopefully we can convince some of these individuals pursuing medical careers to return to West River and join us.

The “Fun Run & Walk” has been a staple at West River for 28 straight years! Over the past two, it has raised $9,520; which historically has been kept within the organization to improve health and wellness activities, mainly at our Rehabilitation Center, but also at our Care Center, Assisted Living Center and other in-house projects. However, the past two years, almost 40 percent of the net profits have been given back to the community through the Hettinger Food Backpack Program, The Granary, and local softball, baseball and swimming programs. We plan to continue this embracing of our area communities’ health and wellness through our 29th Annual Fun Run & Walk next July 4th.

Of course, the following Foundation sponsored or attended events, with the participation of our service area citizens, has also helped us raise these over $1 million in funds — “Adult Proms”, “Foundation Nation Golf Scrambles,” “Ambulance Appreciation Program,” “Auxiliary Turkey Luncheon,” “Burgers & Brats Event,” “Lemmon and Hettinger Farm & Home Shows.” Uecker covered most all of the events held through the Foundation over the last two years, thanking the constituents for their amazing gifts along the way.

Following the power point presentation, a short work-in-progress video, developed by Laboratory employee Orby Reyes, was presented to the crowd. The video was developed through Orby’s amazing use of his drone, with magnificent aerial views of West River Health Services, Western Horizons Care Center, the new Thunder Spirit Wind Farm and Mirror Lake. The crowd gave Orby a huge ovation for his outstanding use of technology and love of his new home – Hettinger.

Thereafter, new WRHS CEO Matt Shahan thanked the community for their unending support of the organization. He also stated that he is committed to the future independence of West River Health Services.

Special thank you’s to all of the attendees of this banquet. Because of you and nearly 700 total contributors, we are making positive improvements to West River Health Services and Western Horizons Living Centers. Also, thanks to Loren Luckow, manager of The Granary; Jim Goplin with ACDC and Mark Resner for their tremendous grilling; Sheri Uecker, Chuck Christman, Al McIntyre, Barb Stadheim and Cody Jorgensen for serving the food; Pepsi Cola and especially Ron Dragoo for historically supporting the Foundation and donating the pop and water; Mike Larson, Kevin Pagel and Charlie Ahman for posting all of the banners on the ceiling (and then taking them down as well!); Mike Jorda at Dakota Frontier Cooperative for use of their lift; Erin Timm and Cindy Hamm for amazing assistance with the power point presentation; Stephanie Woodley for generation of donor list; and Kim Schalesky and Laura McWilliams for registering all of our guests.

By the way, we raised another $2,526 on this night – more giving for the good health of our community.  Thank you. Until next time, let’s not take this amazing “healthcare close to home” for granted. With your continued help, we can remain independent and move forward with new improvements to our services.