Step into the lobby of the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center along Bellemeade Avenue at any given time and you’re sure to be greeted by a welcoming face. But find your way there after 3 p.m., and the front lobby is bustling with parents talking like old friends and children laughing as they play.
Though the center treats both adults and children throughout the day, it is after school hours when the halls of Easterseals seem to come alive.
“The kids are running around, the parents are talking, the therapists are giving updates on sessions,” says Lisa Fisher, a speech pathologist and vice president of clinical services at Easterseals. “It’s very interactive, very up beat and positive.”
For both clients and professionals, Easterseals is a place of hope.
“They really look at the person as a whole; it’s not just about therapy,” says Jara Dillingham, whose daughter Miah is the 2017 Easterseals child ambassador. “They look at the person as a whole and say, ‘What can we do to maximize their potential?’”
Capital campaigns and fundraising may see more limelight, but Easterseals’ core values revolve around those seeking services. Staff members who come to Easterseals settle and make life-careers in the organization. Those in need of the organization’s services continue to thrive through the guidance of therapists. Walking through the hallways, clients and staff act more like friends and family.
“This is a great place to work,” says Fisher. “The environment, in general, is very positive and open. It helps you love what you do.”
No matter how people come to Easterseals, it sticks with them. After 70 years, it continues to be an organization that is a light to those in need and those who want to help.
The Easterseals Rehabilitation Center saw its start in Evansville in 1946 under the name Vanderburgh County Society for Crippled Children and Adults. This group began funding braces, crutches, wheelchairs, and surgeries for those in need. Services would expand to speech and physical therapy in 1951 when the society moved into the former Christ the King church building.
Easterseals would build its own rehabilitation center in 1957 — the cornerstone laid was inscribed with a phrase reflecting a cornerstone of the organization: “For Building Better Lives.”
Services expanded to include counseling, audiological needs, preschool services, and an early infant intervention program in the ‘60s. The addition of the early infant program called for an expansion of the building as well, completed in 1972.
Through the last seven decades, Easterseals has continued on an upward trek of growth — the first telethon and a name change to Southwestern Indiana Easterseal Society were introduced in the ‘70s; occupational therapy, semi-independent living programs, and group homes for children and adults in the ‘80s; and in the ‘90s a therapeutic pool, Indiana’s First Steps early intervention program, therapeutic preschool in partnership with Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, assistive technology services, and inclusive early care and education at Easterseals Milestones.
In the new millennium, the pace has yet to slow.
“They have a system that works here,” says Andy Imlay, Easterseals’ 2017 adult ambassador. “They know it works. Easterseals gives people with disabilities the building blocks they need to be on a level playing field with able body people.”
When Andy Imlay arrives at the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center for his sessions, he says he hardly has to give his name at check-in. The 37-year-old Evansville resident is recognized by nearly everyone.
As the 2017 adult ambassador for the organization, this isn’t Imlay’s first foray into the job — in 1988, he was the child ambassador. Originally from Spencer County and born with cerebral palsy, Imlay says he doesn’t remember a time when Easterseals was not a part of his life.
“I feel they gave me the tools I needed to be successful, and it was up to me to use those,” he says.
During grade and high school, Imlay was a full-time therapy client at Easterseals. Upon graduation, he went off to college at Vincennes University. Due to the changes his muscles and joints experience with cerebral palsy, Imlay — who has a career in the computer field and also performs as an amateur comedian — has come back to the rehabilitation center for guidance on exercising and new ways to achieve his daily goals.
“I’m here to work hard and make sure I’m still able to do the things I want to do,” he says. “Just because my body is starting to disagree with me right now doesn’t mean I can’t fight back. I’ve never been one of those people who just sits back and takes something.”
This year, Imlay hopes his time as an ambassador not only raises awareness for Easterseals, but for cerebral palsy as well.
“There’s not a lot known about cerebral palsy,” he says. “It’s the most common childhood disability out there. But there’s not a lot in mainstream media about it.”
As for his duties as an ambassador, the E’ville Iron Street Rod Clubs Frog Follies car-judging contest was his favorite as a kid and one he’s excited about this time around as well.
Six-year-old Miah Dillingham doesn’t meet a stranger. With a smile that lights up a room, she bounds about with energy and has a drive to try new things.
“She has a nothing-slows-me-down attitude, and I absolutely love that,” says Miah’s mother Jara. “If there is something she wants to do, she’s going to figure out a way to do it.”
Miah came into the Dillingham family at the age of 2 — she was born in China with a neuro-muscular condition, hip dysplasia, and clubfeet. Jara says when she and her husband JT first brought Miah home to Newburgh, Indiana, the little girl couldn’t walk. However, the Dillinghams worked with doctors and the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center to get Miah on a path of improvement. Over the years, the John H. Castle Elementary student has benefited from Easterseals’ First Steps and outpatient therapy programs.
“I know that throughout Miah’s life, there are going to be times she’s going to need Easterseals more than others,” says Jara. “One thing I love about Easterseals is that it is not just Miah getting physical therapy. I get an opportunity to talk with experts to help us prepare for the future as well.”
As Miah’s time with Easterseals continues, the Dillinghams see their daughter continue to develop skills to help her be as independent as any other 6-year-old girl.
“Resilience is a word that always comes to mind when I think of Miah,” says Jara. “She is just so resilient through all the obstacles.”
Changing of the Guard
Kelly Schneider is what many at Easterseals call a “lifer.” A graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro, Kentucky, and University of Southern Indiana with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health administration (respectively), the Henderson, Kentucky, native has made her career at the rehabilitation center.
“I started here as a group home manager working in a home for young children who had significant disabilities,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities here.”
Those opportunities culminated into being named president and chief executive officer of Easterseals in 2015, following in the footsteps of Ray Raisor after his 34 years of leading the organization.
“When I took over after Ray retired, four other vice presidents retired in the following eight months. So my role in the beginning was to build a leadership team,” says Schneider, who has been with Easterseals for 29 years. “We promoted from within and also brought in some phenomenal people; the team that’s in place now is just fantastic.”
With a settled leadership team, Schneider’s eyes now are turned toward the future of Easterseals.
“Last year we celebrated our 70th anniversary, and our goal is to do things to make sure we’re here for another 70 years,” she says. “We want to be around for a long time to serve the needs of the community.”
“I think we’re in a good place with Kelly in leadership,” says Fisher. “There’s nobody who knows everything about everything like Kelly does.”
Looking forward, Schneider hopes to focus on three areas: involvement at the state government level with legislative issues; increased community engagement by the leadership team and the center as a whole; and continued expansion on Easterseals core values.
“Excellence, stewardship, respect, commitment, and teamwork — those are the values that are very evident across our organization,” she says. “We want to continue to strengthen them and build on those things.”
Under her leadership, Easterseals already is well on its way.
One of the few complaints that has been said about the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center over the years is about its facility on Bellemeade Avenue. Completed in 1957, the building has seen a handful of renovation and expansion projects over the decades. But still, the building seemed not to reflect the services provided within its walls.
“We try very hard to not spend money on things we don’t see as absolutely necessary,” says Schneider. “But our Ensure the Future capital campaign was an opportunity for us to look at the space and say, ‘Okay, we provide extraordinary high-quality services; this physical space should reflect that.’”
The strategy worked. Renovated spaces included therapy areas, aquatics, the Dan and Nancy Mitchell Therapeutic Preschool, and other program spaces. The front lobby and waiting area was expanded and completely remodeled — now known as the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Lobby, it offers a bright welcome to those visiting Easterseals.
“We love to show this place off,” says Schneider. “We are so thankful for all of our capital campaign supporters, especially the lead gift to our campaign from the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Foundation.”
For most of her career, Fisher has visited area children to assess them for the First Steps program (which provides therapy services to children ages birth to 3 years old in their homes).
“It was one of the things I didn’t want to give up when I was moving into administration,” she says. “When you’ve done something so many times, you get to the point where you feel comfortable with it.”
Another aspect that makes the assessments worth it for Fisher is her First Steps partner.
“The physical therapist I’ve been doing these with is Tammy Lockyear. We have been testing kids together for 26 years,” she says with a laugh. “She’s one of my best friends, and we started at Easterseals three months apart.”
Stories like this are common among the therapists and staff at the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. Schneider says the running joke is if you haven’t worked at the organization for more than 10 years, you’re still new.
“There are a lot of staff members who have been here for 25 years or more. What really makes us unique, I think, is the commitment of that staff on all levels of the organization,” she says. “It really, truly is just a great place to be.”
“The people here all believe in the mission,” adds Fisher. “They are in the helping profession for a reason. Easterseals is a great place because people are doing what they love to do for the reasons they love to do it.”
The feeling of family extends from the professionals to the clients as well. Schneider and Fisher both agree getting to know the clients and their families is a rewarding part of what Easterseals does.
Fisher recalls recently hearing an older couple walking down the hall and running into one of the longtime center therapists. Though it had been 30 years since the couple had been to Easterseals for services, the therapist still remembered them, says Fisher.
“They were reminiscing and the therapist was showing them the renovations,” she adds. “When I see those kinds of things, it makes me glad to be a part of all of it.”
As spring arrives in the Tri-State, the staff of the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center transforms the brightly colored children’s therapy gym into a TV studio as volunteers, clients, therapists, and more gather for the annual Easterseals Telethon.
In its 40th year, this event is the biggest fundraiser the nonprofit organization holds each year. For six hours, the telethon is shown on WEHT Local and features area children and adults with disabilities who have been a part of the Easterseals family. Outside the facility, a cruise-in complete with street rods, classic cars, and street machines is set up, thanks to the E’ville Iron Street Rod Club.
While the event is important for the fund raising it does — according to President Kelly Schneider, the money raised helps the center underwrite thousands of therapy sessions for clients — it also provides those involved with Easterseals a chance to celebrate.
“It’s a very energizing day,” says Schneider. “It’s a great way for us to say thank you to the many, many, many people who do support us. It’s a really fun day.”
Though this year’s telethon was held Sunday, April 9, the opportunity to help and donate or even tour the facility still is available. Schneider and others encourage the community always to reach out about fundraising and volunteering opportunities or schedule a tour.
“It’s never too late to make a donation,” says Schneider.
For more information on the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center, call 812-479-1411 or visit eastersealsrehabcenter.com.
No Passport to Adventure
As I write this letter, I am on vacation with my wife and youngest son, beachside in Puerto Rico. We have traveled extensively through the Caribbean, but had never before visited this beautiful island. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old San Juan is an absolutely beautiful area within San Juan. We are staying at a resort-style hotel, Hotel Intercontinental. The weather is 85 degrees and sunny, while at home it is cold and rainy.
It is spring break for Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and Evansville Catholic schools. My oldest son Maxwell had his spring break in the beginning of March, and Kris and I went to a beautiful city I had visited before, Quebec City, Canada. Unfortunately, that trip was sans Max, as the best time to check your passport status is not the day before you leave (his expired the day we left). Let’s face it, life’s lessons sometimes are learned the hard way.
I definitely will come clean and freely admit that along with long hours and crazy schedules of magazine publishing, occasionally it comes with very nice perks. Certainly one of my favorites is travel writing. What I really enjoy is that 98 percent of the time I am not the travel writer but the travel sidekick with no agenda, schedule, or responsibilities — all things I am fond of and do well. But as I am going to be hitting the “double nickel” (CB slang to you uninformed millennials) later this month, I realize I have become a bit of a hotel junkie. I really like the relaxation and vibe of a fine hotel. Hey, some of you like the mall. So when traveling in major cities, no longer wishing to feel the need to never take my socks off, and having a strategy of “hope” when it comes to the room being clean and that folks in the parking lot are truly guests of the hotel, I choose carefully from the available options.
I feel in my advancing years, I have earned the right to enjoy finer hotels. Besides, why do you think Expedia and Hotels.com exist? We still are going to many swim meet and college weekends, and I don’t see too many of my peers staying in the “no-tell motel” out in the rough industrial area by the airport, either.
I really enjoy the fine hotel stays at cities and destinations I travel to frequently, establishing local favorites. What is not to like about occasional room service, ocean and city views, and everything being tidied up for you while you are away having lunch?
During my recent trip to Quebec City, I realized how much I enjoyed just being at our hotel, the iconic Chateau Frontenac, often referred to as the mostphotographed hotel in the world. The dilemma with this beautiful hotel is it is just as nice to hole up in the room, as it is to be out exploring the gorgeous city. That is something I think most of us can get used to.
The staff works incredibly hard to ensure each guest is treated, well, special. Something an old balding fat man from Southern Indiana can get used to.
As for my son Max who was unable to travel with us? Would you have enjoyed being the master of the house at 18 years old with parents out of the country? No complaints from Max, which, frankly, gives me cause to worry a bit.
One of the greats of our business community passed away since my last letter. Louis B. Nussmeier passed away in February at the age of 83. Nussmeier Printing and Engraving turned 100 years old in 2016, and Louis was there for 62 of them.
The company has won the prestigious Cronite Cup for Best Engraved Stationery in North America an astounding 22 times, including winning again in 2016.
While often discussing his father with my good friend and frequent running buddy Steve Nussmeier (admit it, Steve) prior to Louis’s recent passing, Steve would often reply how blessed he was to work with his father for 31 of those 62 years. As someone who also worked alongside my father for many years, I would indeed call that a blessing. I am confident we both learned many important life lessons along the way.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker
For Pets’ Sake
It’s a bit of a coincidence how Liz and Quincy Zikmund came to own Give A Dog A Bone, a natural pet food market located at 5626 E. Virginia St.
The Evansville couple had been shopping at the store for a number of years for their pug Murphie before Liz took a job there in 2012. As time went by, it became a bit of a joke between the Zikmunds that if the store ever went up for sale, they would take over ownership.
“Then in February 2014, the owner asked if we wanted to buy it,” says Liz. “And I immediately said yes. I went home and told Quincy, ‘Hey, she offered and I said yes, is that okay?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah!’ It was really a fun start to everything.”
The couple finalized the purchase and became the official owners in July 2015, not once looking back. On March 19, the Zikmunds along with their staff and customers celebrated Give A Dog A Bone’s 12th anniversary and recent expansion into a store space three doors down from the former location.
“We really like this complex and we love our neighbors,” says Quincy, who also is a freelance web designer. “One big reason we wanted to move over was we were just cramped in our former store. We wanted more space and to create an even better experience for customers, especially for dogs that come in.”
For Liz and Quincy, owning Give A Dog A Bone isn’t about making a sale, it is about finding the perfect food or treat for dogs and cats and their owners. Their focus is nutrition and natural wellness, and being locally owned allows them to control the product on their shelves.
“We’re not really interested in just selling products. We want to educate and inform people, teach them how to read ingredient labels and what’s good for their pets,” says Quincy. “We look after our customers.”
The Zikmunds like to keep things small; carrying products from small businesses that are like-minded is important to them. Creating a bond with customers also is important. They encourage their staff to ask questions and get to know the pets and pet owners to find foods that will fit health and taste, as well as budget.
“We’re able to work with people, get to know their pets, and get to know them,” says Liz. “Building long-lasting connections is the best part of this business.”
Eight years ago Curt Jones of Evansville was watching his son run at an athletic field day when all of a sudden it hit him. He finally had the idea for his first business: Ultimate Fit.
“I always looked for somewhere to open a business of some sort,” says Curt. “I would come home and ask my wife Cindy, ‘What if we did a peanut butter company? No. What if we did a fake tree company? No.’ One day I came home and said there was an opportunity to buy the former Gilles Feet First store, and she said, ‘Hmm, maybe.’ And one thing led to another.”
The store on South Green River Road is in its eighth year and about to celebrate the opening of their new remodeled showroom. Curt and Cindy bought Gilles Feet First in January 2010 and have since paired customers with the best shoes possible to improve their gait and posture.
They always were involved in athletics from weight lifting to running. Curt was an employee at Gilles before he bought the company and knew they were not reaching their full potential.
“It was not feet first, it was more like feet fourth,” he laughs.
The Joneses just remodeled their showroom to accommodate more people, more room for product, and to update the overall feel of the store. Ultimate Fit will have a grand opening April 14 and 15. Curt also is excited about the introduction of their first podoscope.
Right now, the Ultimate Fit staff gauges problems and suggests solutions by watching how a customer stands and walks.
“The podoscope is going to be in conjunction with a custom insole that molds to your foot we create in-house,” says Jones. “It is going to let the customers see what we do. That way it’s not just me saying, ‘Oh, you over pronate.’ They’ll actually be able to see what that means.”
For more information about Ultimate Fit, call 812-431-0201 or visit ultimatefit.biz.
Albion Fellows Bacon Center has taken a new step to engage and reach out to both victims of domestic abuse and supporters of the center. The nonprofit organization, which has worked for more than 35 years to prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse, recently brought its website up to date by making it more mobile friendly and giving it a more positive and empowering feel.
“We wanted to portray a feeling of empowerment,” says Rachel Gumble, community engagement director. “If you look at the girl in the home page photo, she’s in the rain but she’s smiling. It gives a powerful, bright message.”
Gumble says the old website used to have more content focusing on abuse and photos of sad-looking victims as opposed to the now more information-focused pages.
Lieberman Technologies built the website for AFBC, fixing page loading errors and adding new features such as an event calendar for classes, support groups, and other gatherings.
“With the new site, we tried to appeal to various audiences, including clients, volunteers, and those who donate,” says Gumble.
Don’t Miss: AFBC wanted to make the website more useful to volunteers and supporters as well by adding training features. The new site already has brought more attention from Indiana University’s social work master’s program, which wants to make AFBC a consistent partner for internships.
Site designed by: Lieberman Technologies.
Site maintained by: Albion Fellows Bacon Center.
A Family Guy
Take a minute and think of a few community leaders, people you do business with, or perhaps engage with in the nonprofit world. You’re familiar with them, you see them often, but how much do you really know? Every issue, I will take someone in the community who we all “know” and get the story behind their story. Lunch will be on me (how else could I get anyone to go to lunch?) and we will talk about all things non-business.
For this issue, Ron Ryan, Boys & Girls Club executive director, and I met at the Deerhead Tavern on April 3 for a lengthy discussion.
TT: Ron, I know you are a native of Chicago, right?
RR: Born in Chicago. I was born on the west side. That’s where my parents, when they were first married, lived. But they bought a house when I was 1, and we moved to the south side of Chicago. So that’s where I grew up. That’s where I went to grammar school, elementary school, high school.
I stayed home and went to Moraine Valley Junior College because of a bad accident I was in. Two weeks after I graduated from high school, I was in a motorcycle accident. Broke my femur, pelvis, hip, two toes came off, tore my Achilles tendon, tore my hamstrings; I couldn’t walk.
I ended up playing baseball there, at the community college. Then, I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago, so then I lived in downtown Chicago. I got a master’s degree at Chicago State, and then another master’s at Governors State (University Park, Illinois).
TT: How did you meet your wife Chris? (Ron’s wife is Chris Ryan, CEO of Deaconess Women’s Hospital.)
RR: I was a student at UIC. We had our end-of-the-year baseball banquet. They invite all the alumni back, and we meet on campus to celebrate the year. After that, a bunch of us went out in downtown Chicago, and I met Chris there, on Division Street at a bar called the Hangge-Uppe. I think it’s still there. It’s around the corner from Mother’s; that was the famous place, on Rush Street.
TT: How long did you date?
RR: Our first date was at Wrigley Field, May 1984. Afterwards, I told her I had just enlisted in the military and was going on July 3. She thought I was joking at first; then, she quickly came to realize I was not joking. School was out, so we spent the next two months pretty much with each other every day.
On July 3, I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She ended up picking me up from there when I was done with basic training. We wrote every day. Back then we didn’t have cell phones, for one. There was a lot of communication the old fashioned way, with pen and pencil.
TT: What year did you and Chris move here?
RR: She moved here in October 1999 and I still was teaching and coaching, so I moved here in June 2000.
Now, Chris’s parents live with us. The first year we were here, we put “relative living” on the house. Her dad was a builder back home; a carpenter, construction guy. So he designed it and built it; I said I just wanted it to look like it was part of the house. Relative living. It’s only connected on the second floor. They’re still with us; 88 and 89 years old.
They have their own entrance and garage; we did it for privacy for them, and we wanted our privacy, too. It’s awesome. It’s been great. Jessica, our oldest daughter, took her grandpa last year on one of the Honor Flights. Chris’s mom is still with us, too.
TT: What’s going on with the kids, Ron?
RR: Jessica, who is 27, is engaged to Casey Delgado, who is currently with the Binghampton, New York Mets. Jennifer, 26, is engaged to Tyler Rodgers, who is with the Triple A Sacramento Giants. His twin brother Taylor is in the big leagues, pitching for the Minnesota Twins.
Matt is into acting and currently doing stand-ins and doubles on the television series “Chicago Fire.”
TT: Is Evansville home now?
RR: Absolutely. When we moved here, we heard a thousand times Evansville was a great place to raise a family. Well, they were right.
Twenty years ago, the All Pet Emergency Clinic only was a dream of local veterinarians. They questioned why Evansville and the surrounding area didn’t have its own emergency pet clinic.
The need for such a center brought together a group of 23 local veterinarians, who gathered shareholders, held meetings, and realized their dream by opening APEC, located at 104 S. Heidelbach Ave., in 1997.
This year, APEC is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since their opening, the clinic has doubled in size and undergone recent expansions and renovations. They have three full-time veterinarians, Dr. Sarah Henry, Dr. Michelle Hughes, and Dr. Luke Wagner. Wagner has been with the group since 1999 and collaborated with the other doctors and staff to spearhead their changes.
APEC also has doubled the number of exam rooms from three to six. There is a new quiet room with a private exit for hospitalized patients who want to visit or families who may feel emotional and don’t want to carry their pet through the clinic. The facility boasts two new surgery suites and fully digital, in-house x-rays that provide quick and efficient results.
“We really tried to design the hospital to make the client have the best possible and most comfortable experience in what sometimes is an emotionally charged situation,” says Wagner. “Achieving comfort for the client without sacrificing functionality and efficiency was our goal.”
As the only nighttime clinic in the nearby area, they take their duty to the community seriously, treating animals far and wide.
“We’ve seen some things we’re not supposed to,” says Amanda Hart, APEC’s staffing director.
After 20 years of service to the community, they have witnessed and treated everything from famous yellow labs to 30-year-old tortoises tiny enough to fit in the palm of a hand.
“You never know what’s going to come through the door,” says Hart.
While they mostly treat cats and dogs, the staff does get a fair share of “pocket pets,” like ferrets, rats, and guinea pigs. They even recently treated a localcelebrity pup, Keep Evansville Beautiful’s yellow lab mascot EVIE. The surgery, which took place in February, was to remove a mass from EVIE’s spleen.
“It was a very stressful event,” says Hart. “Not only because she’s so well-loved in the community, but also because Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was in the lobby. You feel the pressure and think, ‘This is a big deal.’”
With the pressure, however, came great rewards. Unlike most patients, the staff was able to watch and stay updated on EVIE’s recoveries. The emergency nature of the clinic means the staff usually can’t keep up with their patients once they are out of surgery or finished with treatment. They only see the animals when they are sick or in need, but don’t get to see the effects of their hard work.
Regardless of how much progress they witness with their cases, each pet is a special and memorable experience for everyone at the clinic.
“The human-animal bond is what drives the need for our profession and where we derive our fulfillment as well,” says Wagner. “Helping an owner and their beloved pet through an illness or crisis is what we are all about. To most, their pet is part of the family. Anything we can do to make a difficult situation more bearable or comfortable is our chief concern.”
For all of the staff at APEC, their work is no easy feat from the long night hours to the stressful emergency situations they see on a regular basis.
“It’s a huge sacrifice,” says Hart, who has been with APEC since 2001. “It’s 16 Thanksgivings I’ve not been able to sit down with my family at the dinner table. It’s 16 Christmases and New Years. We want to be here to provide that service to the community.”
The sacrifice causes APEC to lose some staff members to daily pet clinics. Hart says many clients don’t understand APEC truly is an emergency clinic practicing triage. This reflects in their prices, which help pay for the ability of the staff to be there whenever they are needed.
“We do have to gauge the severity and critical nature of every case that comes in and treat the most critical,” says Toni Gillespie, APEC’s practice manager and finance director.
While loving on cute animals is part of the job, it isn’t all kisses and cuddles at an emergency clinic like APEC. Gillespie says they try to laugh and have a good time as much as possible, but they often have to buckle down and get serious in their work.
“I’m a crier. I wear my heart on my sleeve,” says Gillespie. “When I see other people cry, I’m going to cry. For me it’s when owners cry, especially kids saying bye to their pets. That’s the hardest part for me.”
Gillespie has been with the practice since 1999 starting as a veterinary assistant just two weeks after Wagner began.
“When I was pregnant, I saw an ad for the clinic,” says Gillespie. “I thought, ‘Wow, that is awesome because we totally need that in the community.’ Eighteen years later, I’m still here.”
With a young daughter at home, she never thought her part-time clinic gig would turn into a long, dedicated career.
“My intention when I started working was not to stay long because my daughter was only 2 years old,” says Gillespie. “Once I was here, I realized this is where I needed to be. I fell in love with emergency medicine, and once I was here, I didn’t want to leave.”
With so many seasoned and loyal staff members on board, APEC’s priority continues to be on the future and how they can better serve the community’s needs.
“We want to be so much more,” says Hart.
They have a dermatologist who comes from Louisville, Kentucky, to treat patients in the clinic so pet owners don’t have to make a long drive with their pets. Since the building is empty most of the day, the staff also is trying to find other veterinarians and specialists who could make use of their renovated facility and technologies to provide needed services and help to the community’s pet population.
“It is our hope we continue to grow and gradually transition into a 24-hour facility so continued care of patients is more convenient for their owners during the week,” says Wagner. “We also hope to attract specialists to the area, much like the larger municipalities of Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Indianapolis.”
Giving back to the community and helping the animals that come through the door is what makes the work worth it says Hart. She recently helped take care of a pit bull puppy that collapsed in a yard and came to the clinic depressed. By the end of the night, he was jumping into Hart’s arms.
“It’s a passion to be here,” says Hart. “The possibility of saving that one life is worth it.”
For more information about APEC, call 812-422-3300 or visit allpetemergecnyclinic.com.
Hometown: Evansville, Indiana
Job: Senior Managing Partner of Evansville Operations, Kenny Kent
Resume: Sales, O’Daniel-Ranes Oldsmobile, 1980-1981; Pre-owned Sales, Kenny Kent, 1981-1988; New Car Sales Manager, 1988-1991; New and Used Car Sales Manager, 1991-1998; General Sales Manager, 1998-2003; General Manager, 2003-2005; Partner, 2005-2014.
Family: Wife Shelli and three daughters
Butch Hancock never anticipated working in the automotive industry. When he answered the dreaded question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he always pictured himself working at a company like Bristol-Myers or Mead Johnson as a pharmaceutical drug rep.
Today, Hancock is the senior managing partner of Evansville operations at Kenny Kent and has spent his entire career in the car business — only five months of that outside of Kenny Kent. He started at the old O’Daniel-Ranes (now D-Patrick) dealership selling Oldsmobile’s and Nissans.
“We had just gotten back from having lunch, and I was sitting in Dad’s office at Kenny Kent,” says Hancock. “Robbie [Kent] stuck his head in and said, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you could sell cars. I want you to come work for me.’ After a couple of times of running in to him at the dealership after coming over to see Dad, he convinced me Kenny Kent was the place to come to work.”
Thirty-six years later, Kenny Kent is Hancock’s place now more than ever before.
This has been a family business. What inspired you to follow along in the footsteps of your father?
I started washing cars in 1973 after school. My dad said, “Hey, you want a summer job? Come down and wash cars.” I didn’t even have my driver’s license in 1973, so I was driving cars around with no license. At that time, Kenny Kent had a three-floor storage facility for their cars. Pigeons used to get inside the building through the windows, and they would go to the bathroom all over the cars. They needed somebody to clean the pigeons’ you-know-what off the cars, and I was the guinea pig. I was bitten by the car bug then by getting in and out of all the cars. There is something to that saying, “That new car smell.” It infected me, and I fell in love with the car business.
What is it like combining family and business?
God puts people in your life who help mentor you along the way. I’m a firm believer in that. I think my dad, even though I was only able to work with him for three years, was put there for a reason. He was the salesman of salesmen. He could sell anybody anything. He was one of those guys. I got to learn a lot from him: Talk to everybody. Be kind to people.
What do you see in your future? Do you have any goals you would still like to accomplish?
One goal is to leave Kenny Kent, and really the automotive business, better off than when I started. It’s not all about numbers to me. We are No. 1 in Indiana. That is great, but I know that is just a means to an end. We have great salespeople, great managers, good employees, who all live that same culture. That really is what it is all about. If you do those things, you will sell cars. And the result is you are No. 1 in Indiana.
I would imagine with your job title you take pride in your wheels. What are you currently driving?
Right now, I’m driving a 2017 Toyota Sequoia Platinum, but I have a new demo coming. It is supposed to be coming any day, and it is a new Tundra. That is normally what I drive — a truck.
What is your dream car?
A 1955 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop that is customized. I’ve always loved that car.
In her 15 years as president and chief executive officer of Deaconess Health System, Linda E. White never accomplished anything — at least on paper. Instead of taking credit for the success of a growing health system, White always issued press releases and internal memorandums from the perspective of the organization.
“That right there tells you how she operates,” says Deaconess Health System communication specialist Ashley Johnson. “Officially on paper, Linda herself has never done anything. She’s always a part of a greater ‘we.’”
That all changed Oct. 25, 2016, when White informed Deaconess employees, associates, and friends she would be retiring.
“At the annual Board of Directors meeting held yesterday, I submitted and the Board approved a plan for my retirement,” wrote White in an internal memo. “Following a 40-year history with the organization, I will step down from the role of President and CEO of Deaconess Health System effective June 30, 2017. I will, however, continue to be part of Deaconess for one year following retirement as CEO emerita.”
Shawn McCoy will assume the role of CEO while Dr. James Porter will become president on July 1, 2017.
Although she continues to lead with effectiveness and compassion, White’s retirement comes as no surprise for those who have witnessed her selflessness through the years.
“Linda has built a great team. She knew McCoy and Porter were ready to move up, and Linda selflessly made the decision to retire,” says Old National Bank Chairman and CEO Bob Jones, who has worked with White through her membership on the bank’s board. “It’s a huge loss, but the most important thing you do as a CEO is find your successor and make them ready, and they’re both ready.”
White’s upbringing greatly influenced who she is today. She is the eldest of three children born to John and Elizabeth White of Terre Haute, Indiana. Her father was a graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology who served in World War II. Upon his return from the war and a month before Linda was born, John’s father suddenly passed away; he took over the family’s engineering and design company as well as took care of his widowed mother.
“There was a lot of responsibility on this young man all at once,” says White. “We remember my dad as always being at work. He loved work. He never complained; he worked seven days a week. He made sure the customers were his primary focus.”
White recalls many summers spent filing papers and performing other tasks at the family business. She spent much time with her father, watching how he put the customers’ needs first, and even considered following in his engineer footsteps, but “in that time, it just didn’t fit,” she says.
Instead, White obtained an applied math degree in 1970 from Indiana State University in Terre Haute and became a computer programmer. After doing computer work for a clinic, she became interested in nursing. She was prepared to attend St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences in Kansas City, Missouri, when her mother suggested visiting the Deaconess School of Nursing.
“We drove down and I think it was two weeks before school was to start here,” she says. “It was a Mr. Pence who said, ‘With your credentials, we will let you in.’ Otherwise I would have been in Kansas City. And the rest is history.”
After White graduated, she was hired at Deaconess Hospital as a nurse analyst — what she describes as an industrial engineer on a nursing track. It was pretty much unheard of at the time, she says.
“Deaconess took a chance, and I’m forever grateful,” says White, who eventually obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Evansville. “I just held a variety of roles after that. I will admit I never applied for any of the jobs.
“I was asked to do this, I was asked to do that. As I learned from my dad, I accepted with a smile and said I will give it my best,” she adds.
Her best was enough to promote her to director of medical/surgical nursing, vice president of nursing, vice president of patient care, chief operating officer, president of Deaconess Hospital in 2002, and finally president and CEO of Deaconess Health System in 2004.
“I tried to combine those analytical skills from the math with the clinical skills and some management,” she says. “And yes, it’s an unusual track. But as people look back, I hope they can say, ‘She made a difference.’”
Anyone who knows White would tell you she has indeed made a difference — in individual lives, the health system, and the community.
University of Evansville assistant nursing professor Joan Fedor-Bassemier worked with White as the two were moving up the ranks at Deaconess Hospital. Fedor-Bassemier recalls White’s knack for remembering things — chief among them important dates and names of everyone she would meet.
“She would know dietary staff, security staff, the housekeeping staff, people’s kids, their dogs,” says Fedor-Basssemier. “Decades would pass, and she still would remember.”
Although White’s long days are packed with meetings, phone calls, and interviews, she goes out of her way to interact with people at all levels in the hospital system.
“She never takes the elevator,” says Johnson. “She always takes the stairs so she can interact with as many people as she can on the way to her next meeting.”
That includes patients who are friends or family members of White’s acquaintances and colleagues too. Jones says he always can count on White to visit anyone with a connection to an Old National Bank employee.
“There’s no fanfare. She just shows up,” says Jones. “She’ll make sure everything is okay. But she’s kind of like the stealth bomber — you turn around and all of a sudden she’s gone. In our situation, when Linda left, all the nurses said, ‘Oh you know Linda White?’ And I said, ‘Doesn’t everybody?’”
White is famous for her ability to go crazy for a cause. From dressing up in a pink wig for breast cancer awareness to donning a costume to get others excited at a staff meeting, White does whatever it takes to raise awareness for Deaconess and the community.
Jones recalls White as a backup dancer for a rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Rolling on the River” at the annual Really Big Show fundraiser for Arc of Evansville.
“She was as off rhythm as any human being I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t matter,” says Jones. “Her right arm would be going up, everyone else’s left arm would be going up. She laughed at herself and she was doing it for the cause. It was just Linda at her best. She’s all about giving to others and helping others.”
White also dons over-the-top costumes at the annual Deaconess Party of the Year.
“We knew she was going to dress outrageously. We knew she was going to be joking around and having fun that night,” recalls Deaconess board chairman and retired Vectren Corporation executive Jerry Benkert. “It simply loosened the crowd up. You might be dressed in a tux, but you knew this wasn’t going to be a stuffy event.”
White’s ability to promote a cause at the expense of her own image is what makes her a great leader, says Jones.
“She knows in order to lead, she has to break the wall down between being an executive and just being one of the people,” says Jones. “Linda is a consummate ‘one of the people.’ It’s who she is. She has zero ego, and I think this is her way of making herself more relatable, but it’s real. It’s not put on. It’s just who she is.”
As former chairman of the Deaconess Health System board, Koch Enterprises vice chairman Jim Muehlbauer was part of the board that selected White as president and CEO. He says he always has been impressed by White’s management style, which is more focused on people than the bottom line, in the boardroom and beyond.
“Linda would stop us and say, ‘How will this affect the patients?’ She always brings it back to ground zero. She was a nurse and she knows what it takes to provide great patient care. She also knows what it takes to get people to want to work for you and go above and beyond,” says Muehlbauer, who now serves on Deaconess’s quality committee. “Linda is a leader who gets people to want to follow her. She succeeded and does that so well at Deaconess because she knows the business. “
Fedor-Bassemier says White remained approachable and grounded no matter the situation or title in front of her name. Through constant change in health care — dress codes, computer systems, methods of care, and leadership, among others — White remained steady.
“We went through a lot together. You always had to deal with change, and change was not easy,” says Fedor-Bassemier. “Lots of people have come to Deaconess, and lots of people have left, but Linda has been there the entire span. The continuity helped make her the face of Deaconess to the community. There’s a person behind that title. And she’s always been approachable.”
Muehlbauer says it is White’s friendly demeanor that makes her a legend outside the hospital world as well.
“I don’t think you can find anyone in Evansville who can say anything bad about Linda White,” he says. “In my view, she’s one of the most respected people in Evansville. There’s only a few people in Evansville I’d put in that category.”
Although White soon will step down as CEO and president, Jones says her legacy will live on.
“Her spirit is going to be there. The CEO’s role really is to create a culture and then hope whoever takes over, that culture sustains,” says Jones. “The culture Linda has created is going to last a long, long time. It’s got great legacy-staying power.”
For more information about Deaconess Health System, visit deaconess.com.