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Volunteers, Community Leaders Reflect on 30 Years of Foundation's Work

With 30 years under its belt and more than $4 million raised, the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation continues to pursue its vision "to build a community that is the healthiest region in Washington State."

In 1982, the Enumclaw Community Hospital Foundation (now the ) came about at a time when the Enumclaw Regional Hospital was showing signs of its age.

Having been built in 1949, the building was more than 30 years old. The town of Enumclaw was growing in population, recalls Barbara Russell. And as it was one of the last community-owned hospitals in the nation, said Margaret Rector and Virginia Hessler, it was also having financial difficulties in maintaining its facilities and equipment.

Since 1982, the foundation has played a vital role in the operations of the local hospital for nearly three decades, raising more than $4 million to purchase new equipment, update facilities, and start initiatives that continue today such as the local that gives free rides to seniors and disabled residents who aren't able to make it to medical appointments otherwise.

Enumclaw Regional Hospital , which is now operated by Franciscan Health System. Though the Foundation's focus has now largely shifted to initiatives benefitting the general health and well being of the Plateau area, its influence and reach has in no way diminished.

It currently oversees five task forces in the community:

  • Neighbors Feeding Neighbors, which addresses the hunger issues of the Plateau youth, families, aging and homeless;
  • Foothills Healthy Community Coalition, which looks at the community's drug and alcohol issues to find solutions to keep residents safe;
  • LINCCK, which focuses on violence prevention and building a kinder, more caring community;
  • Mental Health, which is examining those issues and their impact on Plateau society; and
  • AskFLIN.com, which developed a comprehensive online healthcare resource for the community.

There's also the Mobile Dental Van that the Foundation supports in conjunction with and the Books for Babies program that provides a book package to the families of all newborns born at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Why the Foundation Matters

The Foundation's leaders and supporters took some time out Thursday to celebrate its 30-year milestone with a celebration at .

Rene' Popke, Executive Director of the Foundation said of the gathering, "It's truly amazing to reflect back on the hardworking hands that have touched healthcare in this community."

Patch got an opportunity to chat with several citizens, supporters and volunteers who had a hand in making the Foundation a success. Here's what they said:

Margaret Rector and Virginia Hessler: The women were among the first supporters of the Foundation and organized its first Holiday Fantasy fundraiser in 1989. A point of pride for both women was a 1991 fundraising challenge that they were able to meet. The hospital's emergency room was severely lacking at the time, Hessler recalled, to the point that her husband as a patient was kept in the hallway due to lack of space. The Foundation was approached by a then anonymous donor (later to be revealed as Dwight and Doris Garrett) with a matching challenge that if it could raise $325,000, they would match that amount towards the construction of a new ER. "The whole community took part in it [the fundraising]," recalled Hector, and a year later, the funds were raised and construction began.

Barbara Russell: As Rector's daughter, she played a first-hand role in a lot of the fundraising efforts spearheaded by her mother. Russell also worked in the hospital's gift shop for four years. Recalling the early days of the Foundation's work, "the community was very giving," she said. "Our little town was willing to give but didn't know how. They knew they needed improvements to the hospital but needed someone to start it." With the Foundation in place, "it just brought the community together."

Betty Gunther: She is a 45-year resident of Enumclaw and has donated a lot of her knitting to the Foundation for various fundraisers as well as served as a hospital volunteer. "It has been a gift that we have the Foundation," she said. "Our hospital wouldn't be here without the Foundation and the support from the community."

Jackie and Bob Jorgensen: The Foundation has given so much to the hospital in everything from equipment to support to vehicles, said Jackie. "It's united the community in many ways. We're very blessed to have the Foundation and the hospital." Bob added the hospital has always had high quality doctors and even some of the "best doctors in the world."

Dr. Robert Gramann: , Gramann said the Foundation has been so supportive of the hospital for so many years. "They allowed the hospital to keep up with the technology," he said. Ultrasound machines and CT-scanners are expensive. Enumclaw historically has a "we can do it ourselves mentality," he said. But the Foundation made it clear that "we have to have everyone behind it to make it work."

Terry and Lisa Parker: Lisa said she appreciates the work the Foundation does not only in supporting the hospital but also various health-related projects in the community including the Dental Van and Books for Babies. It cares for the physical and mental well-being of the people in the community. "As a family, we appreciate that," she said. Husband Terry concurred: "I'm grateful for the work that they do."

Donna Russell-Cook, President of St. Elizabeth Hospital: For the hospital, it's important to have the support of the community, and it's important that the Foundation remains here. "They have a good sense of the needs that are specific to the area," she said.

Greg Unruh, President of the Franciscan Foundation: "The [Enumclaw Regional Healthcare] Foundation is truly exceptional," he said. "It has such a rich history. These folks are passionate - they love their hospital and their community. It's definitely unique in that regard."

How as the work of the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation affected your quality of life in the Plateau? Tell us in the comments below.

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