Health trust recognized

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 03:23 pm

Judy Eng-Hum, left, with Alberta’s Promise presents the Alberta’s Promise Flood Hero Award to Sheep River Health Trust employees Andrea Mitchell, second from left, and Tanya Thorn, right. Also pictured is Melissa Pryor, who nominated the health trust for the award.
Judy Eng-Hum, left, with Alberta’s Promise presents the Alberta’s Promise Flood Hero Award to Sheep River Health Trust employees Andrea Mitchell, second from left, and Tanya Thorn, right. Also pictured is Melissa Pryor, who nominated the health trust for the award.
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Simple, yet significant gestures during the toughest days for thousands of foothills residents have earned a local charity recognition from the Province.

The Sheep River Health Trust received the Alberta’s Promise Flood Hero Award for providing more than 200 people working at the Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre, many who lost their homes in the 2013 flood, meals at work for 10 days.

Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre employee Melissa Pryor nominated the health trust for the award.

“It was such a small little thing to do but it had a huge impact on all of the staff there who were working out of this building that 10 days,” said Pryor. “We need to recognize the little successes and the health trust stepping up and providing all the staff here with sandwiches and jugs of water was a huge contribution to the success we had when it came to the response we were able to give to those people.”

When Pryor returned to work at the wellness centre after she was evacuated from her High River home during the flooding of the Sheep River last June, she was dressed in ripped jeans, a tank top and sandals. That was all she was able to salvage from her home when the flood hit.

As she looked around the health centre, she couldn’t help but notice the chaos of the centre’s existing staff intermingled with doctors, nurses and medical staff transferred to the centre due to the closure of High River Hospital as the community continued to be in a state of emergency.

“It was so busy that whole week,” Pryor recalls. “Everybody was almost on a high because of the disaster and having to pick up and help one another. Half of us didn’t even know what state our homes were in.”

Andrea Mitchell, the fund development coordinator for Sheep River Health Trust, said about 15 per cent of staff at the centre are from High River and when High River Hospital closed and medical staff came to Okotoks the increase was significant.

“It basically doubled overnight,” she said.

Mitchell said few people had time to think about eating so the Sheep River Health Trust made sure they were fed around the clock with muffins, fruit, juice and coffee for breakfasts, sandwiches for lunch and pizza for supper for 10 days.

“A lot of employees were displaced from their homes and offices and trying to take care of patients,” she said. “Lots of staff here only had the clothes on their back and were staying with friends or family or at a hotel.”

When the Alberta’s Promise Award application popped into Pryor’s inbox last fall requesting nominations for non-profit groups that went above and beyond during the flood, Pryor immediately knew the Sheep River Health Trust was a worthy candidate.

“Health trust went above and beyond and made sure for 10 days they provided us with lunches and snacks and water,” she said. “I bet the staff would have worked right through without taking a break, without having anything to eat. They made sure there was always something in the building.”

The charity was presented the award in Okotoks last week and received $500 to purchase promotional products.

Although little damage was done to Pryor’s home during the flood, she will never forget the generosity of the Sheep River Health Trust during those 10 days.

Neither will Mitchell, who also lives in High River.

Mitchell said although it was a simple action, it made a big difference during such a significant time for so many.

“I think when you think of flood stories you think the grander vision of what happens like people rescuing people,” she said, adding it’s also great to recognize those smaller gestures. “That’s what’s come out of the flood, those little heroes that stepped in when they could.”

The staff appreciated the small gesture made by Sheep River Health Trust, said Mitchell.

“Even the site manager came up to me and said, ‘Thank you, I didn’t know what I was going to do for lunch today,’” she said. “It was a bit of comfort to them to know it was something they didn’t have to look after. We are really happy that we could help and support them in their greatest need.”

Pryor said this simple gesture didn’t just help people who were going through the toughest time of their life, it created some pretty strong partnerships.

“We are separate communities but at the end of the day there was no border during the flood,” she said.


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