Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The votes are in, and Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth has donated $11,000 to five local organizations as their Community Valentines. Receiving the donation was the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, Sierra’s Haven, Scioto County 4-H, the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Stepping Stone House.
The hospital released the names of the five organizations last month and invited the community to vote online for their favorite and $10,000 would be divided between them based on the percentage of votes they receive.
Voting was open on the SOMC Facebook page from Jan. 21 until Feb. 14 with more than 27,000 views and nearly 1,400 ‘Likes.’ The poll was shared by more than 300 Facebook users and received a total of 3,281 votes.
“We have donated over the years on the average of $300,000-plus a year to our community and things we do to help out people, but this is the first time we’ve ever had this much awareness that we do that,” said SOMC President and CEO Randy Arnett. “This was a very positive experiment that we’ve seen does work, and we’ll see a lot more of this in the future.”
The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund received the most votes with 1,280, followed by Sierra’s Haven with 1,215 votes, Scioto County 4-H with 299 votes, the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross with 247 votes, and the Stepping Stone House with 240 votes.
Mark and Virgie Hunter, from the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, said the hospital’s donation would help their program buy more food for hungry school kids. Their backpack food program is already running in five Scioto County schools and will add four more schools in the next two weeks increasing to serve 475 students.
“With $3,900 (they expected to receive) we calculated that would be 1,300 backpacks times five pounds, which is 6,500 pounds of food. Isn’t that amazing?” said Virgie Hunter.
Mark Hunter said the amount SOMC has donated to their program will serve one district for an entire school year.
Mary Irwin, program director at the Stepping Stone House, said they would use their donation to invest in new playground equipment.
“Anytime we have an opportunity for fundraising it’s going to help the women and children of Stepping Stone House, which is always a good cause. We had 39 babies delivered last year alone, and with those 39 we were able to possibly avoid the children going into foster care or have extended stay here in the hospital because they were not born addicted,” Irwin said.
Eli Allen, disaster services coordinator for the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, said all funds donated to the local chapter stay in the community.
“Last year we helped 383 individuals after events like single family fires, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s $51,000 worth of direct program assistance we helped provide just here locally. That also goes toward helping train people as volunteers that help with the single family fires as well as respond to events such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac,” Allen said.
Dr. Gail Counts of Sierra’s Haven thanked the community for their support and for their votes.
“They know that we’re a worthwhile cause out there, taking care of all the homeless pets in the community,” she said. “With the economy the way it is, we just run on donations and it gets pretty tough sometimes.”
Jo Williams, extension educator with the Scioto 4-H, thanked SOMC for investing in community projects and said they will use their share of the donation to teach kids to pay it forward with another community program. Williams said last year there were 1,500 kids and 350 adult volunteers in 67 clubs.
“I like going to the 4-H camps and meeting new people. It’s a lot of fun,” said 10-year-old Faith Harting, who is a member of the 4-H with her 12-year-old brother Simon. Together the siblings enjoy 4-H activities such as sewing, scrap-booking, camp, rocket building, and they participate in the sheep and goat showings.
Williams said SOMC has always been very supporting of Scioto County 4-H programs.
When the organizations arrived at SOMC Wednesday afternoon to receive their donation, they found one extra sweet in their Community Valentine. Arnett said the hospital was going to increase their donation by rounding them each up to the nearest $1,000. The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund and Sierra’s Haven each received $4,000, and Scioto County 4-H, the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Stepping Stone House each received $1,000.
The hospital’s total donation was $11,000.
“Some people were just $20 over the number or $30 over the number, so we rounded off to even numbers. It just makes more sense, and it was kind of like, ‘Hey, another thank you for you guys stepping out there with us and saying we’ll do this with you.’ It’s really nice to hear these people talk about it. They got really involved and worked hard,” Arnett said.
More information about the SOMC Community Valentine donation is available on their website at www.somc.org, or on the SOMC Facebook page.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.