Making a difference in the region: WRHCF grants paying off in a big way across area

WORTHINGTON -- As the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) continues to give grants across the area, many organizations and individuals are reaping the benefits. "We're looking at getting the maximum amount of our investment," expl...

Worthington YMCA fitness instructor Tina Nickel helps second-grader Kelly Sandoval Chilel in the pool after she jumped off the platform in this April 2014 photo. Chilel learned basic water and swimming lessons through the Jami Cummings Learn To Swim program. (File photo)


WORTHINGTON - As the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) continues to give grants across the area, many organizations and individuals are reaping the benefits.
“We’re looking at getting the maximum amount of our investment,” explained Jeff Rotert, the foundation’s executive director. “We want to make sure we touch as many lives as possible.”
Among the numerous organizations receiving grant money from the WRHCF in recent months are Project Morning Star, Manna Food Pantry, Minnesota West Community and Technical Foundation and Worthington Area YMCA.

Project Morning Star

According to its website, Project Morning Star is “a non-profit, residential recovery facility dedicated to reclaiming lives and providing support services to those whom we serve. The goal of this program is to give hope and a new start to men and women whose lives have been driven off-course by the consequences of their choices, or even through no fault of their own.
“The primary purpose of the program is to provide safety, shelter, structure, and support to our clients as they travel the path to recovery and endeavor to reclaim their lives.”
The WRHCF awarded a grant of $30,000 to Project Morning Star last November, Rotert said.
“Partnering with the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation on a matching grant has allowed Project Morning Star to provide its residents with a safe living environment focused on helping residents ‘start fresh’ by providing a sober living environment that focuses on supporting long-term recovery by providing education and training related to the seven dimensions of wellness,” said Roxanne Hayenga, a member of Project Morning Star’s board of directors.
“WRHCF funding has provided technology to aid in job seeking, programming to enhance and promote healthy lifestyles, and programming opportunities for the residents that could not have been accomplished without WRHCF funds,” Hayenga added.
“Studies show that participants in a residential recovery program have a 50 percent greater chance of successful long-term recovery, because they are in an environment that promotes safe, sober living.
“Residential recovery programs such as Project Morning Star save taxpayer dollars by eliminating burdens on courtrooms, prisons, treatment centers, probation officers, etc. The positive impact of these funds has served residents from a 180-mile radius.”

Manna Food Pantry


Rotert said the WRHCF awarded a 50 percent matching grant of up to $25,000 back in February. A $27,000 grant given the previous year went toward the purchase of $175,000 worth of product for the pantry, he noted.
“Basically, if somebody gives a donation of 10 cents, we can get $1 worth of product for that 10 cents,” said Linda Sanchez, the food pantry’s director. “When I went out to talk to different churches and others during our March food-campaign month … if people made their check out to the foundation, it would do a match. If somebody wrote a check to the foundation for $1,000, that turned into $1,500 for Manna Food Pantry.”
Sanchez noted that the food pantry serves an average of 300 to 400 families per month. Each family of four that visits Manna walks out with between $200 and $275 of groceries each month they visit, she added. Families can go through the entire pantry once per month; they can also come in weekly to get donated bakery products from Hy-Vee, Fareway and Wal-Mart, as well as fruits and vegetables donated by those stores along with area growers.
For groceries, Manna Food Pantry works with Second Harvest out of the Twin Cities, and Sanchez said the WRHCF foundation money goes toward making those purchases. That doesn’t mean, however, that local purchases for the pantry aren’t made.
“I am a bargain shopper, big-time,” she said. “If I can get something at Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart or Fareway cheaper than I get it off the truck from Second Harvest, I’ll shop local. I always want to shop local when I can.
“Our mission is to help eliminate hunger in Nobles County, and with these dollars you see all these smiley faces, and those are worth a lot. You see some folks that are really down and out because they don’t want to be in here.”

Minnesota West

Rotert said the WRHCF was able to fund what’s known as the Minnesota West “SimMan” mannequin through a partnership of sorts.
“They (Minnesota West) had a unique opportunity to get grant dollars through MnSCU ... that required community participation,” Rotert said. “A total of $28,616 was awarded to the Minnesota West Foundation, which in turn got leverage dollars from the state, which allowed them to buy the SimMan.”
“The State of Minnesota sets aside dollars within public education to have a matched business or community partner to acquire such technology and equipment,” added Dawn Gordon, Minnesota West’s dean of nursing. “Without the state funds - and the foundation - this project wouldn’t be able to happen.”
The grant dollars were awarded by the WRHCF in February.
“All students need that time to practice before they head out and work with real patients,” Gordon said. “Ten years later, we have continued to evolve and have one of the strongest and largest programs in the state. Because of that, we continue to work on creative and innovative processes to train students. One of them is with simulation.”
The new SimMan mannequin is worth approximately $60,000. Gordon said it allows the instructor to control its symptoms and reactions to the care the nursing students give it.
The mannequin allows for many different types of health care training. The instructor can have the students check for pulse, bowel sounds and breathing. Students will learn to detect symptoms of strokes, pneumonia, heart attacks and other health issues depending on what symptoms the mannequin is displaying.
Gordon noted that the symptoms and health issues will increase in severity as the semester goes on so students can gain as much experience as possible.
“We surveyed students about how valuable they think simulation training is for their learning,” she said. “Ninety-six percent say that it is so valuable and it adds so much to their learning experience. They are feeling that they are safe practitioners when they are in the workforce.”
More than 200 nursing students use the SimMan for advanced training to continue strength and quality of nurses in rural areas of southwest Minnesota, Gordon added.

Worthington Area YMCA

The Worthington Area YMCA conducts the Jami Cummings Learn to Swim Program and in 2015 completed its fourth year. It was able to serve more than 325 second-graders from Nobles County.
“This program is designed to do more than just teach most of the participants to swim, but to give them some basic life skills in and around the water,” Worthington Area YMCA Executive Director/CEO Andy Johnson said. “We already know that approximately 90 percent of the second-graders that come to us are already considered non-swimmers and do not have the basic skill sets to enjoy and be safe around water.
“In the world that we live today and the area of the country we live in, the Y feels very strongly about its obligation to our youths and to make sure they have these necessary skills,” he continued. “So, each spring, we work with Prairie Elementary, St Mary’s and Worthington Christian School, along with Brewster and Adrian schools, to conduct this program.”
The Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation in 2014 partnered with the Y to ensure there is enough funding to sustain the program for an additional five years.
“It has been extremely successful each year, and each class has had numerous participants who were not only afraid but would have never been able to help themselves in a difficult situation,” Johnson said. “By the end of each session, all students have reached certain milestones and have reached the ultimate goal - some more advanced than others, of course.
“The impact that this will have on our young people’s lives of Worthington is incredible. The Y is honored to be able to partner with the WRHCF to continue to make this all possible for many years to come, working together and enhancing the lives of our community.”
“The most important thing is to give these grants to organizations so that as many people as possible can benefit,” Rotert said. “We’re not just giving dollars going to these organizations. It’s actually live people who are being positively impacted.
Additional impact stories on WRHCF grants can be found of the websites of the benefiting organizations, as well as at

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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