Long-time volunteers reflect on collective 66 years serving hospital

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North Valley Hospital volunteers Anita Mills, Ronnie Budge and Genevieve DeBrecht.

Recently, Pam Ellis, North Valley Hospital Foundation executive assistant and manager of the NVH Gift Shop, sat down with three long time North Valley Hospital volunteers who have worked in both the old hospital and the current facility.

Pam recognized that all three volunteers had been with NVH for over 10 years, and themselves were 90 years old (or older!). As a nod to the history of NVH in the community and our committed volunteer team, she asked the group to reflect on what they’ve seen in their years with North Valley Hospital.

Meet the Volunteers

Anita Mills is 91, and she was born on Feb. 3, 1928 on her family farm in Wisconsin. In 1998, Anita and her husband, Jim, moved to the Flathead Valley after 28 years in Phoenix, Arizona. They had five children and celebrated 72 anniversaries before Jim passed. Anita started volunteering with NVH at the old hospital location in 1998, right when she moved here.

Ronnie Budge is 90, born on Oct. 7, 1928 at home in Utah. When Ronnie’s husband, Chuck, retired from the National Park Service in 1985, they moved to the Flathead Valley from Alaska. Ronnie and Chuck had one daughter and they celebrated their 53rd anniversary before he passed. Like Anita, Ronnie began her hospital volunteer work at the old hospital location when she moved to Whitefish in 1985.

Genevieve DeBrecht recently turned 90 on March 4. She was born in 1929 in Fort Benton, Montana and arrived in Whitefish in 1994, joining one of her three daughters after residing in California for 40 years. Genevieve has been a volunteer at NVH since 2008.

Reflecting on Changes

One of the common threads the group discussed was changes — in the valley, the hospital (location and facility, among others), and in healthcare. Their positive attitude about these changes was infectious. Anita explained that, “The ‘new’ hospital has a very upbeat atmosphere. Here, we have progressive care with advanced technology like the 3D Mammography equipment that was purchased last year.”

Ronnie and Genevieve noted the continual updates to services, structure, and healthcare offerings at NVH. Ronnie said, “There are new patient services all the time, and new staff to meet.” They both recognized the benefit of community philanthropy to help the hospital with projects, like the 2015 expansion in The Birth Center at North Valley Hospital, and the current conversion to private patient rooms.

The three women also spoke highly of the Planetree philosophy of patient-centered care at North Valley Hospital, stating together that Planetree is an integral part of the hospital that they all appreciate.

“When I think of the Planetree philosophy, I think of cheerful, friendly, patient-oriented care,” said Anita.

Ronnie explained, “Planetree represents the personal care that the NVH staff gives patients to make sure the patient has everything to help them be comfortable and get better while in the hospital.”

Genevieve pointed out that “Planetree means that NVH is a very trust-worthy place for healing that is accommodating to all patients.” And all three volunteers agreed that fresh flowers and a nice atmosphere do a lot for healing.

Some Wisdom

The three women had some wisdom to share, when asked the question: What would you say to someone contemplating volunteering in the community?

“Volunteering is a very worthwhile contribution to my community and I encourage people to volunteer because it gives you great satisfaction,” said Anita.

Ronnie said, “All the years of moving around the country, I found that volunteering is a great way to meet people and get involved. When I first came to Whitefish I called the local paper and suggested that they print a list of volunteer opportunities for newcomers and old timers alike.”

Genevieve added in that “North Valley Hospital has many volunteer opportunities and they do a great job of matching the right volunteer opportunity to the right volunteer!”

Finally, Anita, Ronnie, and Genevieve gave another great answer to the age-old question, what is the secret to a long life?

Anita said, “A loving husband, family and friends. Make it a priority to enjoy people and life.”

Ronnie said, “Being a part of a loving family and friends and by making the most of your life by being active,” and Genevieve added a little more to the common thread. She said, “My faith is important to me and it is important to stay busy and active. Definitely having a loving family is key to a long life; plus two glasses of red wine at the end of the day!”

Thanks to these three for their collective 66 years of volunteering with the hospital, and to all North Valley Hospital volunteers of all ages and tenures, for the dedication to community and healthcare. The hospital and staff is grateful for the wonderful people that give their time and effort to support healthcare in our communities.

Allison Linville is the marketing and community relations manager for North Valley Hospital.

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