Hospital, School, and Church Unite in Service to Community

March 01, 2003 | Jane Allen

While a hospital’s primary function is to provide health care services, its influence naturally extends into many other areas of community life. Not only is a hospital usually among a community’s largest employers, it is involved in business and civic organizations as well as a variety of other community functions and activities. When the hospital is an Adventist owned or managed facility, it also benefits local Adventist churches and schools.

Tillamook County General Hospital (TCGH) in Oregon is a good example. Few people in Tillamook knew much about Seventh-day Adventists in 1973 when the county commissioners invited what is now known as Adventist Health to manage the local hospital. Today, 30 years later, Tillamook has a 300-member Adventist church and a 130-student church school.

Hospital and School Band Together

With about 70 percent of students from the community in grades K though 11, Tillamook Adventist School has won a place in the hearts of local residents and the hospital—while students learn the value of community involvement. For instance, Community Service Days offered by the school provides meaningful opportunities for students to help others, whether it means pulling weeds, delivering cookies or playing victims in the area’s community-wide disaster drill.

Students in the upper grades are a big help with TCGH’s annual Teddy Bear Fair, which gives area children—along with their favorite teddy bear or other stuffed friend—a non-threatening experience at a hospital. While learning about good health practices, the kids gain knowledge about X-rays, ambulances, emergency departments, physical therapy and other hospital services.

Not surprisingly, when the school burned to the ground about three years ago, the community strongly encouraged Adventists to build a bigger and better facility. Members of the medical staff, the hospital president and other TCGH personnel served on the rebuilding committee and/or fundraising committee. When completed, the new school was twice the size of the one that burned, and enrollment soon doubled.

Benefits of Adventist Hospitals

“Adventist schools and churches have a distinct advantage in communities that have Adventist hospitals,” says Wendell Hesseltine, TCGH president and CEO, who is also board chairman and an elder for the Tillamook Seventh-day Adventist Church. “As these different groups band together in service and outreach, the community at large is blessed.”

Above and beyond the numerous wellness benefits the hospital provides to the community, Tillamook is blessed by the involvement and leadership of hospital personnel in such organizations as the YMCA, Tillamook Family Counseling, the Tillamook Bay Community College Foundation, United Way, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce.

Supporting the United Way

The hospital also has the distinction of being the largest contributor to the community’s United Way campaign. In fact, their leadership has spurred giving by other businesses and organizations.

Despite the current economic downturn, TCGH employees and medical staff gave more than $28,000 to the recent United Way campaign, while the Tillamook County Creamery Association came close behind with approximately $23,000. These gifts represented more than half of the entire community goal of $100,000.

According to Melody Ayers, development director for TCGH, three-quarters of hospital personnel participated in the 2002 campaign. In addition, employees gave $4,620 to be shared by three in-house programs: financial aid for employees, Lifeline emergency alert system, and Faith in Action volunteer services.

“We had some concern that giving to the in-house program might negatively affect our United Way campaign, especially during a tough economic year, but it didn’t,” says Ayers. “True to form, TCGH employees responded to the needs in our community with their largest participation ever—both in dollar amounts and percent of participation.” •