May 05, 2010 Edition

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Grateful patients among
those supporting project

John C. and Willene Childers of Walnut Ridge tour the Golden Jubilee Campaign's model room with Lindsay Penn, community relations director for Lawrence Health Services and Lawrence Memorial Health Foundation Board member. The couple credit the hospital with saving each of their lives and recently made a donation toward renovating patient rooms at LMH.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

The Lawrence Memorial Health Foundation is continuing its capital campaign in celebration of the hospital's 50th anniversary. Lila Floyd, co-coordinator of the campaign said the response has been overwhelming.

"As this campaign has unfolded, another group of individuals has come forward wanting to contribute," Floyd said. "They are the grateful patients and families who have been served by this institution. They have not asked for this recognition and probably would have preferred not to receive any special accolades however, they are a very important part of this campaign and cannot be overlooked or their importance taken for granted."

Floyd said that during the campaign many have shared their appreciation for Lawrence Health Services and being able to stay closer to home while receiving competent care.

"Stories upon stories have been told of incidents of support and compassion that have been received by many of these grateful patients," she said.

Two of those families are the Neece family and the Childers family.

The Neece family

"We wanted to share the stories of these two Lawrence County families that once needed medical care and how they were treated and why they have chosen to give back to the institution that was there for them in a time of crisis," Floyd said.

For many years Leon and Norma Neece were active, vital members of the community. He was a principal at Walnut Ridge High School, and she was an administrative assistant with Vulcan Corporation. They had two sons and raised them primarily in Lawrence County, where they enjoyed the support of family, friends and a church family.

However, later in life Norma began to show signs of forgetfulness and a change in personality of sorts. Little did they know, they were facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and shortly after that a diagnosis of cancer.

"After the untimely death of their son, Kenny, Leon found himself in a situation where caring for Norma was more than he and his other son, Norman, were able to handle on their own," Floyd said. "Norman, who worked out of state most of the time, was a wonderful support to his parents when he could be here, however, the specialized care that Norma grew to require was more than either of them was able to give.

"Where would they turn? Where could they go where they could continue to receive the same support of family, friends, church family and community? They found that place - Lawrence Hall Nursing Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital."

Much younger than most of their neighbors in the center, Norma, Leon and Norman became familiar faces in their new surroundings. The three of them could often be found strolling the hallways visiting with friends, old and new.

"Leon and Norman were wonderful in helping with activities in the center and visiting with other residents and families," Floyd said.

"They even came up with the suggestion that a place was needed for family members to go and visit with residents outside of their own rooms."

That suggestion was shared with administration and later supported by the Lawrence Hall Nursing Center Board of Directors.

"Today residents and families are able to enjoy a beautiful family room in the current facility," Floyd added.

The Neeces continued to give back upon Norma's death by asking that memorials be given to the activity fund of the nursing center for materials for residents to enjoy. Leon now serves on the Hospital Auxiliary and is a regular participant of the Monday/Friday bingo sessions greeting and assisting residents.

The Childers family

On the morning after the news broke in The Times Dispatch and on KAIT about the Golden Jubilee Capital Campaign, Col. (Ret.) John C. Childers made a call to the administration office of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He wanted to talk with someone about giving to the hospital project.

He was directed to Floyd, and a meeting at the Foundation Office was arranged.

"When arriving, he shared that he and his wife, Willene, had decided they wanted to give and wanted to write us a check that day while he had it on his mind and was able to do so," Floyd said. "They had been very ill over the last several months, but thankfully both are recovering."

When asked why they chose to support the project, John said, "This hospital has saved my life at least once and my wife's life once. This is a great asset to our community. We have been blessed in our lives and feel the need to give back, and we feel this is a very worthy project."

He went on to share some of his military background and the expectations that were demanded in that environment. He then related that he found the hospital to be clean and neat and the care given to him and his wife professional, compassionate and competent.

Willene shared that she had been connected with the hospital since the very beginning. A longtime employee of the Employment Security Division, she was working when Mary (then Smith) Maxwell came in to inquire about receiving unemployment benefits.

"I reviewed her work history and saw that she had experience as a medical laboratory technician," Willene said. "I told her I had a job for her."

She referred her to the hospital, which was in the process of opening, and Maxwell worked at LMH for 40 years.

Floyd shared that while the Foundation has an ambitious dream, she believes it is well on its way to reality. Gifts from groups, individuals and businesses are already adding up to bring the committee closer to its goal.

"There is no gift too small, no gift unappreciated or unable to be used," she said.

Anyone who would like more information on ways to give can contact Shirley Murphy, Foundation director, at 870-886-1275 or

They can also contact any member of the LMHF Board. Members of the board are Lindsay Penn, Wilma Jones, Clay Sloan, Gary Little, Lucia Allen, Jack Allison, Danny Gibson and Floyd.

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