Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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December 23, 2013
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Human kindness surrounds our community

“This is a perfect time of year to celebrate kindness, and we’re fortunate to find endless examples of it in our community,” said Debbie Plass, vice president for marketing and business development at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH).

“It happens on a person-to-person level, but there are also many groups doing wonderful things for those who live and work in our community,” she said.

Volunteerism not only supports the community, but provides healthy boosts to individual self-confidence, physical health, and life satisfaction, Plass said.

“At the hospital, one way that employees help each other is through the Share the Spirit program,” said Plass.

The Share the Spirit program was created by SNMH employees as a way to support projects that benefit the hospital and those who work there, according to Sally King, who co-chairs the group along with Sandee Buckmaster. Buckmaster coordinates the holiday giving program, which is a fund sustained through Share the Spirit employee contributions.

“We use our Share the Spirit Family Fund during the holiday season,” King explained. “It’s a program to provide for our fellow employees who have hit hard times financially. The fund provides for a Christmas dinner large enough to feed everyone in the household, and a gift card for each family member.”

This year 20 employees and their dependents will benefit from the fund, King said. Employees are recommended by their managers or by a fellow employee, and those selected are contacted to see if they wish to participate in the confidential program, she added.

“Over the years I’d say we’ve provided about $16,000 of support through this fund,” King said.

The Share the Spirit Committee also maintains a Crisis Fund that can be tapped throughout the year in cases of immediate need, such as a family death, a house fire, or other emergency. An additional project fund has been used to create a memorial garden for deceased staff and volunteers, help create a physicians’ lounge, and provide helmets for injured bikers seen by the Emergency Room.

“I just like the idea of employees helping employees through Share the Spirit,” King said.

One of the largest examples of people volunteering to enhance the community is that of area Rotary Clubs, Plass said. The Grass Valley Rotary, Nevada City Rotary, Nevada City 49er Breakfast Rotary, Penn Valley Rotary, and South Nevada County Rotary, have combined their efforts for the last two years to complete minor to major repairs and maintenance projects at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

“The first year we made a significant difference, and this year we probably did over $100,000 in repairs and improvements,” said Scott Spencer, owner of Spencer Construction, who has organized and coordinated the effort both years. He is a member of Grass Valley Rotary.

Working together, and with the help of many local businesses, the Rotary army completed nine projects this Spring, including the demolition, reframing and roofing of a 5,000-square-foot arena concession area.

“It’s been overwhelmingly successful,” Spencer said. “The fairgrounds had been forced to let things fall into disarray due to state budget cuts. Bill Schultz, who was on the fair board then, made us aware of the needs, and I went around to each club to inform and recruit them into the project.”

Spencer deflected praise for his efforts and insisted that it go instead to the many Rotary volunteers, along with businesses that contributed funds and materials. Dave Matson Construction, DMCE Concrete, Steve Halverson of Viking Roofing, and Jeff Morris of JSM Construction, gave significant support, Spencer noted. BP Landscaping donated trees to plant, the Hanson family and Hanson Brothers Construction, and the Caseywood family and Lumber Supply also donated lumber and roofing material.

“We have an amazing community where people come together to support projects like this,” Spencer said. “We had at least 180 Rotarians who spent a full day, and up to 220 volunteers working at one point. Many are business owners, but they devoted an entire day working hard together doing things that needed to be done. I think Rotary deserves the kudos.”

Another community program that was acknowledged in the hospital’s recent request for community examples of human kindness is the Read Me a Story program, which is spearheaded by pediatrician Dr. Sarah Woerner. The program distributes free books to children through clinics and some physician offices.

One crucial role is fulfilled by Susan Forga, and the Sierra Foothills Soroptimists organization to which she belongs. Forga orders the books, applies bookplates honoring donors, and delivers them to Dr. Woerner as needed.

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Woerner and all she does in this community,” Forga said. “She came to Soroptimists looking for a volunteer, and I thought it was something I could do. It’s straightforward and simple, and I thought it was a wonderful thing for children to be provided free books.”

The Soroptimists donate money to help fund the program, she said.

Forga has spent a career working with children as a school secretary, and has been at Deer Creek School since 1979, and others before that. She estimates that Read Me a Story has given away about 40,000 books to local children since it began in 1999.

The hospital recognizes the strong commitment of many who serve, and congratulates our five local Rotary Clubs, the hospital’s employee-driven Share the Spirit Program, and the people who coordinate Read Me a Story, for all that they do to make this a better place to live.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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The Union Updated Dec 23, 2013 06:18PM Published Dec 23, 2013 06:18PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.