Two of the driving forces behind the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Foundation are retiring from their posts at the end of the month. But both said they’re leaving a foundation which has been built into a strong support system for the hospital.
Dr. Jim Harrell Sr., who has served as chairman of the foundation board since its inception 16 years ago, and Jeannette Hendrick, who has been executive director of the foundation since its beginning and an employee of the hospital for 30 years, both announced they will be leaving their positions.
Harrell was unable to make his last board meeting as chair this month due to regaining strength from an illness, so Hendrick surprised him Friday with the presentation of a plaque honoring his service and leadership with the foundation.
During this meeting at Harrell’s home, Hendrick announced she also would be leaving, with Dec. 31 her last day of work.
“We kind of came together, and so we are leaving together,” said Hendrick, who made the decision to retire after Harrell decided to step down from the board of directors.
“I’m just happy to report it’s been a good 16 years,” Harrell said. “I felt like we’ve given a good support to our hospital which is so valuable. The largest employer in Elkin is the hospital.”
“When I came 30 years ago, a man came to me and said I need to give you this check,” said Hendrick, who added she wasn’t the finance office and didn’t know what to do with it. “I got to know the donors, so in 1997 when they started the foundation, they asked me to be director. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It was a calling for both of us,” she said of herself and Harrell. “Isabell [Harrell’s late wife] hung in with us.”
Through the foundation’s 16 years, the board and volunteers have taken on a number of fundraising projects, some of which were successful and others that were a good opportunity early on to get the name of the foundation out in the public’s eye even if they didn’t raise a whole lot of money.
From a womanless beauty pageant put on by the preschoolers at First Baptist Church in Jonesville to horse shows to a restaurant dine out night to the annual golf tournament and the wine auction, the foundation continues to raise much-needed funding for the hospital.
“One of the biggest advocates have been the employees,” said Hendrick, as she spoke of a variety comedy show they put on to benefit the foundation. “I was amazed at the talent we have.”
Another fundraiser was a country music show featuring David Lee Murphy held at the Dixon Auditorium at Elkin High School.
The duo said from those shows the foundation really started making some money. “We started doing bigger things like the wine auction,” said Hendrick.
On a trip to the Napa Valley wine region in California, Hendrick said she met a man who did a similar wine auction fundraiser in Napa who had been to visit the Yadkin Valley wineries and suggested she try it here. The wine auction, held annually the night before the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival in May, includes area wines and so much more, with furniture, art, crafts from the hospital employees and more.
“It’s been great for the community and the chamber [who hosts the wine festival] to make a weekend of events,” said Hendrick.
The foundation has built up a database of 9,000 givers with gifts coming from people in 32 states, Hendrick said.
Shortly after the foundation was started July 17, 1997, its first project was the addition of an Alzheimer’s unit at the nursing home formerly owned by the hospital.
That project was followed by the aquatic and wellness center and upgrades to the imaging services department.
“When we did the campaign on the new wing, we didn’t realize when we started we didn’t have any industries left,” said Harrell, who explained that the large industries like Chatham had closed at that point. “The depression hit and some thought we ought to stop, but we kept on going. They built the original hospital during the depression, so we could do it too.”
The five-year building campaign, coined the Sharing the Vision capital campaign, funded the new patient tower on the north side of the hospital.
Work also took place on the south side of the hospital around 2008 when the south wing was added featuring a new entrance and chapel, something the original hospital had as well.
When the new chapel was added, Hendrick said as they were looking for furnishings for the room, she contacted the purchasers of the former hospital on Hawthorne Drive to see what happened to the old furniture. The altar rail was still in storage, and the owners donated it to the hospital and it is now used in the new chapel.
Also, in the chapel hangs a painting done by Harrell’s mother for the original hospital’s chapel in honor of her father, Dr. James Lee Doughton. It is a picture of Jesus with children around him.
Other projects of the foundation included an imaging services expansion, surgical department expansion, patient rooms and corridor renovations, cancer detection and treatment, new emergency room and intensive care unit, new laboratory, renovations to the exercise pool, urgent care, telemetry upgrade and the newest employee campaign, Dr. Bill Johnson Memorial.
“This man right here is Mr. Fundraiser,” said Hendrick of Harrell.
Through the years Harrell has raised money for a number of causes, including the building campaign at Elkin First United Methodist Church where he is a member, four campaigns for the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill dentistry school, the Virginia School of Dentistry where he attended, a school in Alabama for a friend, and the American College of Dentists near Washington, D.C.
“When raising money here, it is a different ball game than at the state and national level when you’ve got fellows in all 50 states,” said Harrell.
“We’re fortunate to have Dr. Harrell,” said Hendrick.
Some of the fundraising included grant writing campaigns, said Hendrick, who explained the hospital has been supported by the Duke Endowment since its beginning in 1930.
Also, funding comes from the gift shop at the hospital, $5 jewelry sales and other projects.
She said when the chapel was added, she had done a letter writing campaign and one of the people who received the letter was a doctor in California who had grown up in Elkin when her father was a pastor at a local church when she was young. She had gone on to attend Wake Forest and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. She named the chapel in honor of her parents.
The foundation sponsors a new hire event which shares the story of the foundation and its mission with new employees of the hospital, as well as the Leadership Hugh Chatham program, which brings around 40 community members to the hospital once a month for a year for lunch and to learn about the various departments and offerings of the hospital from the doctors and staff.
During the new hire events, Hendrick said she challenges the employees to stay as long as she has. “I tell them, ‘You might think you have the best job, but you’re wrong. I’ve got the best job in the hospital because I only see happy people who want to make donors’ dreams come true.’”
Family involvement runs deep
Harrell’s involvement in supporting the hospital comes naturally as his family was instrumental in bringing the medical facility to Elkin in 1930.
“In 1928, there was no health insurance available, so the Western North Carolina Methodist Conference decided to build a hospital in a needy place to serve other people, but also for their Methodist ministers and families for health treatment,” explained Harrell.
The following year, in 1929, he said Dr. Roy B. Harrell and Mr. H.P. Graham Sr. traveled with their minister, L.B. Abernathy of Elkin First United Methodist Church, to see the conference’s bishop.
“They explained there was no hospital in Elkin, Mount Airy, Galax [Virginia], Sparta, Jefferson or North Wilkesboro,” Harrell said. “Just a complete circle in this mountainous area, and it was needed real bad. So the bishop decided to put the hospital here.”
Hugh Chatham, for whom the hospital is named, offered about 16 acres of land to build the hospital and a sum of money. The town had a fund drive and raised some money, and the Duke Endowment gave half of the needed $84,000 to build the original hospital, which now serves as apartments for seniors.
But 1963, all of those surrounding towns had hospitals of their own as well, so the Methodist Church gave Hugh Chatham hospital to its board of trustees to continue as a nonprofit hospital, said Harrell and Hendrick.
Four years later, the state condemned the old hospital and the new hospital was constructed at a cost of $6 million, which was raised through 100 private bids by donors, Harrell explained.
“My grandfather, Dr. Doughton, was on the first board of trustees, and I would drive with him to meetings,” said Harrell of his early interest in the hospital. “When I first came back here, it was after the war and before there were any dentist specialists.”
He said he would go to the hospital to set broken jaws and help with other procedures.
“Because my grandfather and father had a real interest in that hospital, so I was very willing to help start the foundation,” Harrell said.
Harrell and Hendrick gave credit to one another for the success of the foundation and strong leadership through its 16 years.
Hendrick said HCMH CEO Paul Hammes will chose her successor and the foundation board will select a new chairman for the board.
“We’ve poured our life into it, and it’s been wonderful,” said Hendrick.
“And we know they’ll continue their success,” Harrell said of the foundation.
Hendrick said she told Hammes when she announced her retirement, “Dr. Harrell and I worked hard to build you a foundation, the field is white unto harvest, now run with it.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.