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Health Care Non-Profits Make Lasting Impact On Bowling Green



By Sadie Fowler

Bowling Green is filled with people who truly care about their neighbors. In short, it’s considered by many to be a great place to live as a result of the wide variety and convenient availability of jobs, restaurants and services, including those in the healthcare industry.

Many of Bowling Green’s local non-profit organizations are fueled by leaders who not only work hard to provide great services to residents in need, but leaders who are truly passionate about what they do.

Below, meet the leading ladies behind some of Bowling Green’s nonprofits in the healthcare industry.

 

Kathy Smith
Med Center Health Foundation

Kathy Smith has been with Med Center for more than 27 years and served the Foundation for the last 10. She’s currently the director of annual giving and considers it an honor to be a part of the organization she loves.

The Med Center Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Med Center Health.

“Although we are relatively young for a Foundation we have raised more than $30 million dollars for our community since 2000,” Smith said.

The Foundation’s main initiatives include the Community Clinic and The Dental Clinic, the Hospitality House, The Medical Center-WKU Health Sciences Complex Simulation Lab and The Medical Center Cancer Treatment Center.

Smith leads the organization’s employee giving program and also leads the efforts of its annual fundraiser, the Charity Ball. Additionally, she has several other areas of responsibility related to operations and board management. Prior to transferring to the Foundation, Smith led the organization’s annual service awards program.

“I have always enjoyed special events and of course raising money for a great cause!” she said. “I love meeting and working with people who are committed to making our community a better place now and for the future. It is always amazing to see how genuinely kind some of our greatest leaders in this community are as they work to serve others less fortunate. My greatest belief is that these leaders have not forgotten where they came from. Their commitment to serving others and making this a better place is humbling.”

Smith says one of the biggest challenges she faces in her role is educating people about the Foundation and all it does.

“Everyone is so busy in their lives that sometimes there is not time to stop and listen,” she said, adding that she’s always had a desire to give back and serve her community. “If everyone did something, no matter how small or large, what a better place this world would be for all of us.”

Something Bowling Green residents might be surprised to learn about Med Center Health is the depth of the organization’s “giving” to the regional community.

“Med Center Health is a great leader in our region,” she said. “With that said, no one truly knows how much they do each day. The people who make up our organization still believe in the greater good of mankind.

Our employees are amazing. They not only take care of those who come to our facilities for healthcare, but also financially support our mission. To date, more than $1.96 million has been donated through our employee giving campaign.”

Smith says she’s extremely proud of the work she does with her team.

“The strength that we have from our organization’s backing and the Kathy Smith belief in providing the best healthcare possible in this region make us a leader above leaders,” she said.

Currently, Smith is busy preparing for the next Charity Ball, which will be held Nov. 10, 2018 at Sloan Convention Center. The annual event is a massive fundraiser for the Community Clinic and The Dental Clinic and is a confirmation of what can be done in the community when everyone comes together for a great cause.

In her mission to serve others through her role at the organization, Smith says she’s driven each day by the following principle: “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”

 

Jill Isom
American Cancer Society

It would be difficult to find someone who could say that cancer has not had an impact on their life in some way, which is why Jill Isom believes the work done at the American Cancer Society is so important.

At a very basic level, the American Cancer Society can be described as an organization that helps fight cancer of all kinds and on all fronts by providing services, support and resources like cancer.org, the National Cancer Information Center, and local programs like Road to Recovery and Reach to Recovery, which helps patients and their families right here in Bowling Green.

Isom has worked for the American Cancer Society since January of 2012 and whole-heartedly believes in its mission to help eliminate the burden of cancer for so many who have been affected by it.

“We are making a difference in so many lives each and every day,” Isom said. “It takes the community to rally behind us to do what we do, and I count our volunteers among the very best. I was involved as a volunteer many years ago when my dad was first diagnosed. I am now blessed to work for the organization that I volunteered for.”

Isom says she loves and finds great satisfaction in the work she does with volunteers and also loves the interaction she has on a frequent basis with cancer survivors.

“It’s pretty great when you see your work come full circle,” she said, adding that the most important aspect of her organization’s success is dependent upon its relationship with members of the community. “I think most, if not all, non-profits thrive on the relationships that are built with the communities. It truly takes a village to accomplish a mission of a non-profit, so volunteers are our key asset.”

Isom says the biggest challenge her organization faces is educating the community on the programs and services that are available to patients and their families. Many people simply do not realize all that’s available to them as a resource in their battle against cancer.

Isom is excited about her organization’s upcoming initiative called Real Men Wear Pink, which is now in its third year.

“I can’t wait to see what our ‘real men’ of 2018 are able to do!” As Isom goes about her life, both professionally and personally, she’s inspired by her simple belief that kindness is key.

“I believe we should all show kindness, help those that need help and leave this world a little better than we found it,” she said. “If we can do that I believe that’s a life well lived. My faith is well-represented in that.”

 

Melanie Plumb
Hosparus Health

Melanie Plumb is passionate about the work she is able to do through her role at Hosparus Health, which is a hospice care provider aiming to take care of people in their last six months of life. They provide a full spectrum team approach with their registered nurses, Chaplain, social workers, bereavement counselors, certified nursing assistants, nurse practitioners, doctors and others who help patients with their needs at home, hospital, or wherever they may be residing during these difficult final months.

Plumb says she was called to serve in her role at Hosparus, where she has worked for the past two-and-a-half years.

“A nursing leader does not get to hospice care in a straight path as a person is called to do this type of mission,” she said, explaining what motivated her to work in this role.

Through compassion and commitment, Plumb explained her primary mission is respect her patients’ journeys at the end of their lives and show them honor. She believes everyone in this world wants to leave it knowing that they made a difference while here.

Plumb most enjoys taking care of her team members at Hosparus so they can in turn provide good care to the patients they serve. She says the biggest challenge she and her team face is establishing boundaries with patients.

“As we all live in South Central Kentucky, it is natural for us to fall in love with our patients and family members we serve,” she said. “I am not sure we will get past this challenge and I am not sure that I want to. We care deeply for each and every patient and family as if they are our own.

Moving forward in a healthy way is the challenge I want for our staff. Loving our patients is not a challenge.”

One aspect of Hosparus some residents in Bowling Green may not fully realize is how many children they serve. Another thing many don’t realize is that Hosparus pays for palliative chemotherapy; radiation; and they also do many tasks within the home.

“We want to make a patient’s remaining time meaningful with life review and purpose,” she said. “We need more volunteers and if that means sitting with someone so their spouse can go to the grocery, walking the dog or sitting with someone so they do not die along. Our entire area needs caring people to help us give loving time to others. Please volunteer if you have any available time.”

Coming up: Plumb is excited about the organization’s September fundraiser, Hosparus of Barren River’s tasting event.

 

Danette Idlett
Life's Better

Life’s Better Together is a local nonprofit with one purpose — to provide financial assistance to families in South Central Kentucky with a child or a parent battling an ongoing chronic illness.

“Our goal is to help reduce the financial stress on these families so they can focus on what is most important, the treatment and recovery of their loved one,” said Danette Idlett, executive director of Life’s Better. “Our founders have committed to pay 100 percent of any administrative expenses, therefore all donations go directly to these families to assist them with everyday expenses such as mortgages, rent, food, utilities, travel, etc.”

Danette, alongside husband Matt Idlett, started Life’s Better Together in January of 2015 with a group of talented family and friends who all have careers, children and other endeavors, but chose to commit time out of their lives for a cause bigger than themselves.

“This organization is extremely personal to me, as it represents the battle my first husband, Aaron, fought against a terminal lymphoma that included almost two years of chemotherapy, full body radiation and immunotherapy — all without success,” she said. “Aaron passed away when our son was just three years old and we were extremely lucky during that time to have a huge support system of family and friends to help with everything we needed from mowing the lawn to picking up our son from daycare.

“Being sick takes a lot of work, from medications, to doctor appointments to treatments — it is consuming. Having the support of our families during our battle allowed me to step away from work and focus on our family during the most critical of times; so many people do not have that support.”

Danette described her organization as being a labor of love, and she’s appreciative of the many strong relationships she’s formed with families with whom she’s worked over the last three years.

“It is an absolute honor to feel their relief when they hear the words ‘we are here to help,’ to watching them overcome their medical battles, to connecting different individuals and businesses in the community in an effort to assist local families outside of simply a donation.

Like with many other nonprofits, Danette says her biggest challenge day-to-day is telling their story and spreading their mission to as many people as possible. With a nonexistent marketing budget, she says they utilized social media in the beginning to share their story to a large audience. They continue to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as much as possible for event marketing and mass communication.

“Now that I am full-time in this role, I am able to dedicate more of my days to presentations and networking, however there never seems to be enough hours in the day,” she said. “We have been extremely lucky to have the support of a local media company, Sublime Media, who have graciously donated their talents by making testimonial and marketing videos which helps relay our story and our mission to an online audience.”

Local leaders of the non-profit world work well together in Bowling Green, which is something Danette said people might be surprised to learn.

“Though we appear to be constantly competing for dollars, all of the leadership is extremely supportive of one another,” Danette said. “When another nonprofit receives a large grant or is recognized for something in local media, we are cheering one another on from the sidelines. Some of my greatest relationships are with directors of other nonprofits in Bowling Green.”

For more information on how to become more involved, visit lifesbettertogether.org. Danette is currently promoting their #25on25, which encourages people to donate $25 on the 25th day of each month.

“This campaign provides us with continual income allowing us to always be able to provide financial support for families in need,” she said.

 

Suzanne Vitale
Clinical Education Complex

The miracles seen each and every day at the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex (CEC) make the work of the caring staff and leaders behind the organization, which serves children with autism who are as young as 15 months, well worth it. The organization serves children across the autism spectrum all the way through adulthood through the various programs it provides.

“Many of the clients we have served are members of this community, so we have seen them benefit firsthand,” said Suzanne Vitale, founder. “Many of these kids are very, very bright. What we do here is help them reach their potential.”

Dr. Mary Lloyd Moore, executive director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex (CEC) says they have established several different programs to help their clients transition from one stage in life to another, from early childhood to college (their program for college students is called Circle of Support), and beyond. In fact, Moore said they are currently supporting 16 individuals who are attending Western Kentucky University.

Both Moore and Vitale spoke to the passion they feel about the work they do.

“We recognize that there is a need and there are families who need the best support possible as they make their way through life,” Moore said. “The folks at CEC understand those needs and are led whole-heartedly to provide the support necessary for achieving an independent and productive life as these children grow.”

Both women also agree that the miracles they see daily are beyond inspirational.

“We see some individuals come in who are not able to communicate but in time they will learn this skill in some way, whether it’s verbally, sign language or even written communication skills,” Vitale said. “To see them take that first step … that’s why we do what we do here.” Vitale and Moore said they welcome visitors to come, learn more and tour the CEC. For more information, call 270-745-4232 or email cec@wku.edu.

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