Opinion, Publisher's Corner

Front-row seats to a celebration of care and community support

Marsha Crosswhite was recognized for decades of service to others. She spoke of her career growth as a woman in leadership and the relationships she developed with the team over the years. Noel Nash/The Chronicle

Officially, it was the Annual Holiday Gala for the PeaceHealth Cottage Grove Community Medical Center, the facility’s largest fundraiser. And well over 100 people – local leaders, donors, various board members and a bevy of caregivers – were in attendance.
Matt Templeman, news director at KEZI, was the congenial emcee and, of course, Sid Voorhees handled all of the auction action in his inimitable style.
Sherri Buri McDonald, communications specialist for the hospital, reports that the event raised an estimated $55,000 – all of which will stay in the Cottage Grove community. It was a great evening with great results.
My wife Dee Dee and I had front-row seats to it all.
We were invited guests of Carol and Jim Reeves. From what I could gather, Carol runs the Flower Basket in Cottage Grove with her smarts, style and passion; Jim golfs and fishes. A lot.
Also at our table were Julie and Tom Jones, who own Territorial Seed, and Trixie and Tom Deines, who radiated as if they had just returned from a vacation on the beaches of Florida. Which, in fact, they had.
Carol and Julie were on the gala committee, along with Sherry Duerst-Higgins, Tim Herrmann and Wendy Popp. Herrmann, the medical facility’s chief administrative officer, took to the dais and guided us through a significant part of the program.
He’s a confident, polished public speaker that makes it look much easier than we know it is. He acknowledged the staff in a way that reflected his authentic and genuine servant-leadership style. Herrmann presented more than a mere reading of names; he offered a personal, heartfelt acknowledgement of his coworkers’ contributions.
There were plenty of familiar faces there, several of whom I recognized from our Rotary club or other leadership roles in the community. Don Williams, Danny and Candace Solesbee, Chief John Wooten, Joe Raade, Darla Avery and Tiffanie Williams, Jim and Mary Gilroy and Creswell School District superintendent Mike Johnson.
An emotional highlight of the evening was when Herrmann spoke of Marsha Crosswhite, the retiring head of nursing. She described the challenges, joys and fulfillments of a career in caring for others – and driving strategic initiatives.
Dr. Marta Hantke, the center’s chief of staff, explained the importance of a cardiac telemetry system and how it works. This year’s fundraising goal is for the purchase of such a system. The technology will enable physicians to closely monitor a patient’s cardiac rhythms locally, as well as provide continuous monitoring by trained EKG monitor technicians 20 miles away at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield.
This cutting-edge technology would provide Cottage Grove patients the best of both worlds – the comfort and convenience of being treated in a hospital close to their family and friends and access to specialists at Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute at Sacred Heart at RiverBend.
It was a night of celebration, successes and committed, fulfilled volunteers and supporters.
Toward the end of the night, as we were eagerly awaiting the dessert dash, Jim Reeves dropped a heaping helping of historical knowledge on my plate: ”You know,” he said quietly, which is his way, ”our local hospital had gone bankrupt and it was a big loss in our community.”
Leaving the Emerald Valley Golf & Resort event center later with our hands full – a silent auction prize (the ”Bird Lover’s Basket”), and our table centerpiece (designed by Carol), we chatted with Don Williams near the exit doors.
We’re so impressed with everything we saw during the evening, we told him.
Quietly, which also is his way, Don leaned in and said, ”You know, I was on a committee that helped hire Tim Herrmann. To this day, it is one of the most important things we did.”
Old and new hospital boards. A fundraising committee. A foundation board. Individuals, anonymous donors, local community volunteers. Everyone rallied, because everyone cared.
It had all looked so easy, so perfect, at the fundraiser the other night. The TV news guy was easy-going and funny. The food, decorations and table centerpieces were all exceptionally done. The smart, smooth administrator doled out recognition like a kindly, soft pat on the back.
It’s easy to see the finished product: a well-oiled machine with caring people and a supportive community.
And yet context, and history, are important. And they make the success story of the hospital this past Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Giving Tuesday – all the more remarkable.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.