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Akron Children’s recognizes longtime employee Karen Ingram with Distinguished Service Award

Karen Ingram and Grace Wakulchik

02-04-2019 (Akron, Ohio)

Longtime employee Karen Ingram is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) for 2018 at Akron Children’s Hospital.

The award was presented to Ingram by Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO Grace Wakulchik in a ceremony on Jan. 23.

The hospital’s Employee Foundation Council (EFC) presents one hospital employee with the award annually. The EFC Distinguished Service Award was established in 1979 to recognize the contributions of the hospital’s then-chief executive officer Roger Sherman, and has since been awarded every year to an employee, physician or volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership, loyalty, dedication and service. Honorees are nominated by employees and voted upon by EFC.

Ingram, a West Akron resident, has worked at the hospital for 40 years and plans to retire in late February. For the past 32 years, she has worked at the Locust Pediatric Care Group, a pediatric primary care practice now located in the Considine Professional Building that cares for a large number of children with complex health needs as well as refugee families recently settled in Akron.

“This is more than a job – this is my mission in life to deal with needy, but wonderful, people and help them as much as I can,” said Ingram, a patient service representative who coordinates appointments for patient families. “They all touch my heart.”

During the award ceremony, Ingram thanked her hospital family, her family and friends in attendance and recognized those there in spirit – including her husband, who died in December.

“This (moment) 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.”

She added, “I’ve had a lot of memorable moments over the past four decades, but receiving the DSA is the icing on the cake.”

In her nomination of Ingram, operations manager Barb Salai noted Ingram’s special touch with patient families and new employees.

“Miss Karen has a heartfelt ear to listen, a voice to calm and insight to help anyone, without judging by race, creed, special needs or likeness,” Salai wrote. “She has been a natural mentor to our young moms.”

Ingram was also lauded for her efforts to help the families she meets on the job. When she noticed that many, including recently settled refugee families, were in need of basic necessities such as socks, underwear and other clothing for their children, she began to collect items on her own and keep them under her desk to hand out. The collection of second-hand items grew to encompass a small office space and became known as Karen’s Closet.

“Many may not speak English, but you can see how thankful they are for what they receive,” wrote Salai.

During the ceremony at which Ingram was honored, Wakulchik encouraged hospital employees to support Ingram’s project with donations – and she handed her an envelope to get the momentum started.

Following Ingram’s retirement, Karen’s Closet will continue to operate and will be overseen by other staff members.