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Volunteers 'Light the World'

In honor of National Volunteer Week April 19-25, Hiawatha Community Hospital officials want to recognize many groups and individuals for their dedicated service.

Jan Hermesch, director of volunteer services at HCH, said the hospital wouldn’t be where it’s at today with out the many volunteers. Also, with the current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in place, Hermesch said they have seen so many people stepping up to help the hospital and its employees.

With this year’s theme “Volunteers Light the World,” Hermesch wanted to start by thanking and recognizing local people who organized the Volunteer Healthcare Recognition when they got people to fill Dr. Geisendorf’s parking lot across from the hospital. She said the lot was filled with blinking and flashing of their lights as people came to pray for the hospital and its employees.

“That community act of volunteerism really touched our hospital staff,” she said.

In addition, Hermesch said the hospital has had many committee members step up and go that extra mile – volunteering to host dinner parties, give tours of the town, help shop, donate and remodel areas of the hospital.

“Our hospital volunteers are so passionate about serving and helping the hospital, what a perfect week to say thank you!

Among those Hermesch wanted to recognize were the HCH Board of Directors, Foundation and Auxiliary, the Gray Lady Volunteers, Gift Shop volnteers, PFAC-Patient Family Advocate Committee and the Physician Recruitment Committee.

“Our community has stepped up for years supporting the activities the various hospital volunteers have organized, such as golfing in the hospital tournament each year, joining us at the hospital foundation fund raisers, donating to the auction items, buying the auction items, playing Bunko, baking candy and cookies, buying your holiday items at the annual Fall Extravaganza, shopping at the hospital Gift Shop!” she said.

With this year’s unprecedented times, Hermesch said she has seen so much giving.

“We want to thank you for all your calls, concerns and donations,” she said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic concerns started, people in the community have donated more than 400 homemade masks, hundreds of extension clips that help make the masks more comfortable, businesses donated N95 masks, they have had snacks, treats and drinks donated.

“The list goes on!” she said, noting they just received a donation of more than 200 gowns.

“I feel like just shouting that Volunteerism in this special community has truly NEVER been greater than in year 2020,” Hermesch said.

HFED announces COVID-19 grant

Hiawatha Foundation for Economic Development (HFED) has announced the creation of the Brown County COVID-19 Grant for Small Businesses.

HFED has designated $40,000 to be used as relief for Brown County small businesses negatively affected by COVID-19.

Grants are awarded to businesses in amounts of up to $1,000 per business.

The grant was first made available to small businesses belonging to HFED’s membership to apply for on April 17th. At the time of this release, about a quarter of the funds have been disbursed. The application will open to all small businesses within Brown County on Monday, April 27.

To obtain an application, small business owners should request a grant application via an email to beginning on April 27. Applications take approximately five minutes to complete. Completed applications will be reviewed 1-2 times per week depending upon volume. Approved applicants will receive funds via mail within a few days of their applications being approved.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our small businesses, and HFED remains committed to doing what we can to retain those businesses in our communities so they can continue to succeed,” said HFED Director Mikaela Moore. “We hope these funds will help to ease some of the financial burden our businesses are facing during these challenging times.”

At this time, businesses can apply only once but HFED will consider subsequent applications for businesses still showing a need for additional funding provided there is still funding available. HFED will make an announcement at a later date indicating if and when businesses may be able to apply a second time.

HFED is offering the opportunity for other individuals or businesses to contribute additional funds to the Brown County COVID-19 Grant for Small Businesses fund. If you are interested in contributing to grow this fund so that more businesses can be helped or helped in greater amounts, please contact the HFED office to inquire about donating to this cause.

Questions should be directed to Director Mikaela Moore at

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Kay Rankin and Cleta Schwalm recognized for 35 years with HCH Gift Shop

In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Hiawatha Community Hospital Auxiliary is recognizing two remarkable women who made the Auxiliary Gift Shop possible.

Kay Rankin and Cleta Schwalm managed the HCH Gift Shop for 20 years, turning management over to longtime business owner Bonnie Howard in April 2005. The two remained on with the gift shop as volunteers for the next 15 years – recently retiring.

Jan Hermesch, director of volunteer services at the hospital, said the two were recently honored at a reception for their many dedicated years of work with the hospital gift shop. As April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, Hermesch wanted to highlight their many years they donated to the hospital, as well as note the other volunteers in the gift shop that help keep it open. She said typically April brings a “Volunteer Night” reception, but with the current COVID-19 guidelines and the “stay at home” order in place, Hermesch said unfortunately the event couldn’t take place. But she wanted to recognize not only Rankin’s and Schwalm’s many years of volunteer hours, but also the countless others who have helped in the Gift Shop.

The first HCH Gift Shop opened in 1976 as a shopping cart, according to Schwalm and Rankin in an article featured in the Hiawatha World in 2005. Schwalm said someone built a wooden cart and items such as crafts, were wheeled around by two volunteers from the Auxiliary. Items were sold to patients and visitors and the money was used for specific specialized projects for the hospital.

The gift shop expanded as the hospital and its needs grew and the HCH Gift Shop opened in 1980 with Lucille Hawks in charge. At the time it was a “closet,” the pair said – on the first floor. Shelves were placed on three walls and there was enough room for one customer to come in and look around. Over time, the door was cut in half and the gift shop volunteer could sit on a stool and man the closet.

In 1985, the Gift Shop expanded and “came out of the closet” to part of the large hospital waiting room — reopening with Rankin and Schwalm at the helm. They brought the shelves from the closet and created space to display items and for storage. Initially there were six volunteers working, but Schwalm and Rankin found themselves working many shifts as they said finding volunteers was sometimes a challenge.

The ladies, who also worked together at the Brown County Animal Clinic — where their husbands were veterinarians together — spent many, many years of dedicated service to the hospital.

In its 44 years, the hospital gift shop has grown in location, product and volunteers and received many accolades. What began as a small room, expanded over the years to the shop on the east side of the main hospital lobby, where it is currently located.

Howard, who was also one of the very first volunteers from the early days at the Gift Shop, had her own downtown business – Bonnie’s Jewelry and Gifts – for many years. Items sold in the Gift Shop often came from downtown businesses like Howard’s, sold on a consignment basis. Over the years, the ladies began expanding and offering their own inventory, which continues today under Howard’s management.

Howard remembers that in 2000, the hospital underwent a big renovation and the gift shop was relocated to a patient room temporarily. On May 6, 2001, the hospital celebrated 50 years and the Auxiliary “showed off” the “All New Gift Shop,” located in the refurbished lobby. Howard said 2010 brought another expansion of the Medical Arts wing and the Gift Shop was again moved to a temporary location in the Solarium. The newest and current Gift Shop opened April 2011.

Schwalm, Rankin and Howard have all been featured guest speakers at the Kansas Hospital Association-Hospital Auxiliary of Kansas meetings about the great success of a small hospital gift shop. In addition, Hermesch also noted that Rankin and Schwalm were presented with Beanie Baby corsages in honor of their very profitable Beanie Baby sales.

“Kim Kleopfer, owner of Mainstreet Flower Shoppe ‘volunteered’ to go the extra mile to make these one of a kind corsages,” Hermesch said.

Hermesch said that under the leadership of these three women, the gift shop has raised a great amount of funds for the Auxiliary to use toward such needed items for the hospital but all three women would say, they could not have had the success without the very loyal gift shop volunteers, community and the hospital staff that supports the shop. She said Schwalm and Rankin spent countless hours and 35 years making the Gift Shop what it is today and Howard has continued on with that legacy for the past 15 years.

Rankin and Schwalm have said “A successful, profitable hospital gift shop needs many things, from customers with money, to the dedicated volunteers willing to serve.”

Hermesch added it also takes great gift shop managers as well!

“Thank you to Kay and Cleta for getting the gift shop off to such a fantastic start and to Bonnie for filling their shoes and keeping the shop thriving and truly one of the best hospital gift shops,” Hermesch said.

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Social distancing got you down? Missing your friends?

Well fire up the old Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Honda, the old jalopy or whatever you have sitting in the garage and get ready for a cruise night in Hiawatha Saturday! In addition, bring a non-perishable food item to drop off at a collection point to help out local families in need.

the event is being organized by Steve Winter and Ryan Meininger. Winter, who organizes Cars & Coffee classic vehicle events, said he participated in a recent cruise night in Horton and it was great to get out and see everyone!

“Everyone was all smiles,” he said.

For the past month, people have been keeping their distance – well, 6 feet to be exact, as government and health officials have advised the public to not gather in groups of initially more than 50 and now more than 10 and stay 6 feet from people who are not within your immediate family or household.

While people are adhering to this, stores have closed, we aren’t going out as much. And for a social society – it can be a real downer not to interact with each other.

And a cruise night is one safe way to do it!

Winter said the cruise route is along Oregon and First Street, starting at 6 p.m. and the invitation is come one, come all! Winter said this event is not just for the classic cars. Everyone is welcome!

Tune into KNZA 103.9 on your vehicle radio to catch some oldie tunes great for cruising between 6 and 8 p.m., according to co-owner Justin Fluke. In addition, bring a non-perishable food item to drop off at the Carpet Plus parking lot from 6-7 p.m., where the Entrikin family will be accepting items to donate to the North Brown County Food Pantry.

He reminded that to keep within the guidelines of social distancing, everyone is encouraged to keep cruising and stay in their vehicles.

“Let’s get out and see smiles,” he said. “Stay in our vehicles and have fun!”

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Authorities say 74-year-old Fairview woman lost her life trying to save dogs

A 74-year-old Fairview woman died as a result of injuries sustained in a fire early Thursday morning.

The Brown County Sheriff John Merchant identified said Delores Goens was killed in the fire, that was reported approximately 3:19 a.m. near the junction of US 36 Highway and Sycamore Street in Fairview. The victim’s name was not immediately available until family members were notified.

Goens and her husband initially escaped the burning structure, but family members told authorities that she went back in to retrieve her dogs.

Responding agencies were Fairview, Sabetha and Powhattan Fire departments, Squad 48, Town and Country ambulance, Brown County Sheriffs deputies and Sac and Fox Police.

Merchant said no foul play is suspected, but the fire marshals office will investigate, as is standard procedure.