It’s only appropriate during her 40th year of working at the hospital that Karen Ingram, patient service representative, Locust Pediatrics Care Group, was named the 40th person to receive the hospital’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award (DSA).
Every year since 1979, the DSA has been presented to an employee or volunteer who has made outstanding contributions in leadership, loyalty, dedication and/or service above and beyond their job responsibilities.
Grace Wakulchik, president and CEO, who presented Karen with her award, described the DSA as the organization’s “super hero” award.
“This organization isn’t about our buildings and facilities, it’s about the people who work here,” she said. “The DSA recipients are the super heroes who set the bar really high for the rest of us.
Barbara Salai, officer manager of Locust Pediatrics and Karen’s nominator, couldn’t agree more.
“Miss Karen has a heartfelt ear to listen, a voice to calm, and insight to help anyone without judgement,” she said. “She has been a natural mentor to our young moms and was an Employee Foundation Council grant recipient to implement a program to help provide them with life skills.”
In 2015, Karen began noticing the material needs of the under-resourced and high-risk populations that Locust Pediatrics serves.
“When they first come in, you notice that their clothing might be too small, too big, or not appropriate for the season,” she said. “You see little kids with shoes on that are maybe 2 sizes too big. Sometimes they come in here and they don’t even have coats.
“My heart went out to them,” she said. “It was basically just seeing the need and thinking, ‘What can I do to help?’”
She started by accepting donations of socks, shoes, underwear and clothing to pass out to families in need. When the items began to overflow “Miss Karen’s Closet” was born. All items are sorted and checked, and Karen has been known to take things home and launder them herself.
“Although some of her recipients may not speak English, you can see how thankful they are for what they receive,” said Barb. “And, all donors receive a heartfelt thank-you note from Karen.”
According to Barb, Karen has trained over 100 patient service representatives (PSRs), including herself.
“She is patient, encouraging and forthright, and she will challenge you to work on your personal skills,” said Barb. “If you are lucky enough to work with her on your birthday, she will sing to you at the top of her lungs to make you feel special.”
Having never lost sight of our first promise – to treat every child as we would our own – Karen says working here is a privilege.
“This is more than a job – this is my mission in life to care for needy, but wonderful, people and help them as much as I can,” she said.
During the award ceremony, Karen thanked her coworkers, her family and friends in attendance and recognized those there in spirit – including her husband, who died last month, and her parents.
“This is bittersweet because not everyone I love is here,” she said. “I am wearing my dad’s watch, my mom’s ring and a perfume my husband gave me. I thank God every day for the favor I’ve been shown – allowing me to have strength to endure and serve others – that is what my mission is.”
In February, Karen will retire, but her closet will live on under new management. If you have any gently used items to spare, including clothing, socks, shoes, pajamas, blankets, coats, hats or anything else a child could benefit from, call the office at 330-543-8530 or label donations made through the volunteer office, “Attention: Locust Pediatrics.”