Area workers recognized for a job well done

Sunday, September 2, 2007
Journalist Sandy Riehn of the Southeast Missourian was photographed Wednesday. (Kit Doyle)

Paul Mackey

Saint Francis Medical Center

Saint Francis Medical Center keeps a file of letters it receives about employees who have left a lasting impression on patients and their family members, said Dana Hukel, manager of marketing and public relations at the hospital. The hospital regularly recognizes these employees, and for our Jobs Well Done feature has recommended nurse practitioner Paul Mackey as one of the hospital's employees who go above the boundaries of the job description.

A note from a family member of a patient reads: "My dad was a World War II veteran and was recently seen in Convenient Care at Saint Francis. Following his appointment, prescriptions were called in to a local pharmacy. When I went by to pick them up, the pharmacist stated that they had already been paid for. I questioned him abut it and was told the nurse practitioner at Saint Francis had asked to pay for them as a 'thanks for services rendered in World War II.'"

Mackey said he is touched by the nomination, but feels it is his privilege to help World War II veterans. It has been his honor, he said, to have met three veterans who had seen action at the Normandy Beach Invasion.

"It is indeed a privilege to do something for those guys," Mackey said. "They are the epitome of what American men should be all about. I think Tom Brokaw -- as much as I disagree with his politics -- put it very, very well when he called them the greatest generation. They are men who were totally dedicated to something they believed in. They were totally committed to it and were willing to pay the price, whatever it may be. They did it and came through it and for a long time did not even talk about it."

Hukel said that Mackey frequently picks up expenses for World War II veterans. She said she is touched by his generosity and compassion. One wonders how he can afford to be so generous.

"I don't know that I can, but I do," Mackey said. "I have been very blessed. I have been in those kinds of economic straits; I have been there. I'm no longer there. I'm just passing it on."

Mackey, 62, has been a nurse practitioner in the convenient care area of the hospital for 10 years. He is divorced and has two children.

Teresa Medlock

Paul Mackey is a nurse practitioner at Saint Francis Medical Center. (Fred Lynch)

Saint Francis Medical Center

Often, hospital patients will tell their nurses and doctors they understand all their instructions prior to being released, and that they will have everything they need once they're home. Dana Hukel, manager of marketing and public relations at the hospital, says Saint Francis has some staff members who are adept at following up on those statements by visiting patients after they're released from the hospital.

Teresa Medlock, Hukel said, is one of those nurses. Although she is a pediatric registered nurse, she followed up with a geriatric patient on the neurology floor where she works with the pediatric neurology patients.

According to a letter Hukel shared from the patient, that person needed home health care to change his dressings twice a day until the drainage from the surgery stopped. His insurance would pay for only three home health visits and he could not afford to pick up the cost himself.

"When Teresa Medlock found out about this," he wrote, she offered to come by twice a day and do the changes. No matter if she worked a 12-hour shift, an eight-hour shift, or if she was off. She came by every day until she was able to teach my daughter how to do the dressings. My daughter did them in the evening but could not in the morning. Teresa still came by every morning, did the changes and made sure there was nothing that I needed before she left."

Builder Rick Sample of Distinctive Home Solutions knows the importance of treating customers well. (Kit Doyle)

Medlock, 28, said she was happy to help the patient, even if it meant taking time after a tiring 12-hour shift.

"It makes me feel good to know he was getting the care he needed," she said.

Medlock has been a nurse for four years. She and her husband just found out they're expecting their first child in March.

Rick Sample

Distinctive Home Solutions

Major Beth Stillwell is a director of the Salvation Army, along with her husband, Ben. (Fred Lynch)

Moving to a new city is stressful enough, but moving to a brand new house in a new city has its own terrors. Laurie Bittle says that Rick Sample, owner of Distinctive Home Solutions, made the experience easier for her and her husband.

"Surely it's his job to build houses and get the job done satisfactorily," she wrote, "but Rick goes above and behind that. His attention to quality and detail is excellent. He will go the extra mile to please his client, even if it means some sacrifice or inconvenience to him."

Bittle says when she and her husband moved in, all the work they had asked to be done prior to closing had been done. The house was clean and move-in ready. That much could be expected.

"Since it was a long-distance move, Rick kept the grass mowed, watered our landscape, arranged our mailbox installation, installed shelves, hung towel bars, and any other 'little' jobs that were requested," Bittle wrote. "We were greeted on closing day with a nice gift brought to our door personally. Because of work commitments, we could not move at the same time, and Rick was there on moving day offering to help with whatever was needed. Since the Bittles moved in, Sample has been professional and consistent in responding to any needs or requests we have had regarding the house. ... To us it has meant having someone to call on with a question or a problem, someone to rely on, a friend."

"That's so awesome," Sample said when he learned of the nomination. "It's nice to have a customer do that for you."

Theresa Medlock was photographed at Saint Francis Medical Center. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Sample has been building houses for more than four years, since he was "downsized" after 25 years with IBM. He built a house for his own family, and people started asking either to buy that house or have him build them one. He found out he liked building houses, so it became his second career.

His years at IBM taught him that good business depends on treating clients well, Sample said. Those little extra touches pay off in the long run.

"It doesn't take long to go over there and mow somebody's yard," he said. "It starts a nice relationship and you wind up getting a friend. That's what's important."

Sample, 49, said his company specializes in building high-end, luxury custom homes. He has been married for 28 years to Dawn, and they have two sons, Luke, 26 and Ben, 24.

Julia Jorgensen

Central High School librarian Julia Jorgenson was photographed Thursday in the school library. (Kit Doyle)

Central High School

In this Internet era, it's getting more and more rare to find readers, but Julia Jorgensen, the librarian at Cape Girardeau Central High School, is known for promoting reading among students and throughout the community.

"Julia is without a doubt the most compleat librarian I have ever experienced in public education," said Central High School principal Dr. Mike Cowan. "She certainly is committed to reading, committed to encouraging others to read, yet she is fully cognizant of the fact that in today's society libraries extend far beyond books."

Cowan said Jorgensen had written proposals and received grants that added technology and implemented programs at the school's library.

"We think she has had a tremendous academic influence on many of the kids," Cowan said. "And she is aware of the aesthetics of the library. She has added an extensive amount of art, working closely with [local mural artist] Craig Thomas. She has added two murals at the library. She is indeed queen of special effects."

Cowan said all he has to do is give Jorgensen an idea and she runs with it, embellishes it and enhances it. In the community she has helped implement the "United We Read" program, now in its seventh year. Librarians from other school districts turn to her for advice, and when people from other districts visit the library they always comment on how professional and sophisticated it is, he said.

Cowan added that Jorgensen is meticulous about what she puts on the shelves for the students to read.

"She has an ear for young adult fiction, she takes great pride in being aware of what young people are reading," he said. "Even reluctant readers among our student population -- she has enticed reluctant readers into overcoming their reluctance and becoming readers."

Jorgensen says she's flattered and humbled by the notice, and she's quick to add that "we have a whole school full of people who go above and beyond, not only including the teaching staff, but we have groups of people at Central High School who are driven and committed to working very hard to educate and provide a very good learning environment for our students. I am just one of many."

Jorgensen represents the second of three generations of Central High School alumni. Both her parents are graduates; she is a graduate; and now her children are in the system. Except for a five-year period when she lived in Kansas City when her husband went to law school, she has always called Cape Girardeau home.

Jorgensen said her job is made easier because she works in a building full of people who love to read and encourage students to read.

"I think Cape Girardeau is a community that likes to read," she said.

She says she usually has three or four books in various stages of completion and enjoys rereading such old favorites as Tom Sawyer, Hucklebery Finn and Catch-22. Currently, she is reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. She's not "big into fantasy," she said, but does keep abreast of the fantasy books young people like to read to have it available for them.

When faced with reluctant readers, Jorgensen said she tries to find out what the students are interested in and guide them toward books on those subjects. One student she remembers in particular came to her needing a book for a book report, admitting that he wasn't a good reader, and no one in his family read or encouraged him to read.

She found a book "and I said 'let me read you the first three pages out loud and see if you want to take it out,'" she recalled. "He read that book and continued to read. I did not get him up to grade level, but he was a person who would come in and read the paper. Every one of us can make an impact. If we don't have these students reading they can easily be taken advantage of when buying a car or applying for a credit card. I take this job seriously. Reading is a life skill. If they don't read well it can cause all sorts of problems."

Maj. Beth Stillwell

Director, with her husband Ben, at the Salvation Army

"Major Beth," as she is known, has been in the community a short time, but has made enough of an impact that people who have seen her in action believe she gives more than 100 percent.

"I'm floored by this," Stillwell said of the nomination. "It's an honor."

She has been in the Salvation Army all her life, she said, and has been an ordained minister in the organization for 22 years. It is her life.

"It is not a 9-to-5 job," she said. "I am on call 24/7, literally."

In an emergency or disaster, she's there representing the Salvation Army, helping people with basic needs. She can offer pastoral care, counseling and crisis intervention.

Stillwell and her husband have served in Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada and Guyana and in various communities in the United States: Jackson, Mich., Granite City, Ill., Jefferson City, Ft. Wayne, Ind., Olathe and Topeka in Kansas, and others.

"I do a lot of things behind the scenes, helping my husband," she said. "If there is a community project that needs to be done, I am there and available."

And she's a mother and a grandmother, "and very proud of it," she said.

Sandy Riehn

Southeast Missourian

When the Southeast Missourian arrives at doorsteps in the morning, some readers glance at the front page. Sports enthusiasts check out scores in the sports section. Children seek out the comics.

Many more readers than people might realize turn to the record section to see who died, who had a baby, and, on Sundays, who got married and engaged.

Sandy Riehn has been the person responsible for the obituaries, birth announcements, and wedding and engagement announcements for 40 years. She also types up the weekly menus from all the school districts, Meals on Wheels, and various senior citizen nutrition centers. Often she stays late getting everything done.

"In the 13 years I have been here I can't recall more than a handful of occasions when I have had phone calls complaining about errors in the work she does," said editor Joe Sullivan. "She takes a lot of care fact-checking, double checking to make sure the information she gets is right in the paper."

Sandy began working for the Bulletin-Journal and came to the Southeast Missourian when Gary Rust bought the paper and merged it with the Bulletin-Journal. Except for a short period when she left to raise a family, she has always been the person who chronicles the area's life events.

"I write about the happy events in people's lives, such as births, engagements, weddings and anniversaries," Sandy said. "Also, there are the sad times, through obituaries. I want those involved in all areas of my work to be happy with the results, as many of the items will be kept as mementos."

All the more reason why those items should be impeccably accurate, Sullivan says.

"Sandy has been doing this long enough she has an eye for it," he said. "If something looks like a mistake she double checks it and prevents us from having to run corrections. She takes a lot of pride in getting it right the first time. When you're dealing with grieving families and proud grandparents you don't want to make people unhappy with a bunch of errors."

Sandy is the mother of Laurie and her husband Craig and the proud grandmother of Hannah, twins Chloe and Michaela, and new grandson Zane. She lives with her furry friend, Elly, a Schnauzer mix.

Dortha Strack

Sunny Hill Garden and Pet Store

"People probably wonder why I don't retire," Dortha Strack said with a laugh. The longtime Cape Girardeau resident first began working at Sunny Hill Garden and Pet Store on Christine Street almost 37 years ago.

She's in charge of ordering and packaging seed at Sunny Hill, among other jobs. Often people call and ask questions or bring in plants they can't identify. Regardless of the effort required, Strack names them.

Dortha jokingly said "she has no Horticulture Degree, but a T and E degree -- Trial and Error.'"

When Strack decided to work at Sunny Hill she first talked with husband Harold. She had small children back then and had to juggle their busy schedules with the job. Dorotha speaks at various organizations and still conducts tours at Sunny Hill. She reminisces about her most rewarding tour when two blind children came.

"I was nervous," she said, "having never dealt with such disabilities before. I decided to let the two children touch and feel the plants. They planted one to take home." She fondly remembers receiving a thank-you note in Braille.

Strack and Paul Schnare, owner of Sunny Hill, host a radio show every Saturday morning discussing gardening and taking phone calls. "That's the highlight of my week!" Strack said.

The SEMO District Fair Kid's Zone claims Strack's heart, too. She makes vegetable bingo cards from pictures of vegetables.

She recently attended the Missouri State Fair at Sedalia in August to become inducted into the "4-H Hall of Fame." Strack received her 45-year pin this year for work in 4-H Clubs. She's held the position of community leader in the Young American 4-H Club for many years and still leads gardening projects countywide. "If children don't learn to garden they've missed out on a lot. It's very rewarding to grow, harvest and eat what you raise," she said.

Columnist Ellen Shuck contributed to this report.

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