Saturday evening, Allegan General Hospital and the AGH Foundation recognized three amazing women with its Spirit of Women Awards.
“The Spirit of Women Awards was designed to celebrate the accomplishments, achievements, and “spirit” of girls and women in our region,” says Jennifer Dentler, AGH Spirit of Women Coordinator. “It’s an awards program for the unsung heroine of everyday life, someone who has made a significant difference in the life of an individual or a community. We received many wonderful nominations for each of the three categories and let me tell you we have a lot of exceptional ladies in the area. It was not an easy decision for the selection committee to make.”
Young Person Role Model Award
The winner of the Young Person Role Model Award (ages 18 and under) was Kathryn Lugten of Hamilton. Kathryn is a junior in high school at Hamilton High School. And unlike many kids her age, Kathryn chooses to volunteer because she wants to and considers volunteering something that is fun. One of her biggest motivators in volunteering is making sure everyone has their basic needs met.
“There are many kids my age who go to bed hungry at night and don’t have personal need items or clothes to keep them warm,” says Kathryn. “These are things that many of us take for granted.”
Twice a week during the summer, Kathryn helped serve lunches to area kids at Pullman Elementary. Many of these kids receive free/reduced lunches at school. The program is designed to make sure kids get proper nourishment and don’t go hungry during the summer when school is out. She also helps out at the food pantry at Love Inc. in Hamilton. Kathryn is also involved with Students Assisting Students Anounymously (SASA) through school and a member of the Allegan County Community Foundation’s TAG Team.
Kathryn was nominated by her mother Laura Jousma. Someone Kathryn considers her role model. “Kathryn is a young lady with a big heart, who goes out of her way to help those in need,” said Laura.
Innovative Spirit Award
Andrea Mack of Allegan is the recipient of the Innovative Spirit Award (ages 19 – 54). Andrea is the band director for Allegan Public Schools where she has directed the pep band, concert band, solo/ensemble and marching band for the past 11 years. Andrea was nominated by two band parents, Shannon McVoy and Julie McKeever.
Andrea says it is her students that inspire her. Each morning she wakes up with the goal of making sure the hour her students spend in the band room the best hour of their day. She does so by trying to provide a fun, supportive and positive environment.
“Andrea goes above and beyond to get students involved in band and keep them involved in band,” said Julie McKeever. “She provides a platform for excellence, but also a supportive environment for all students whether they are the best or worst student in band.”
Andrea has made it her goal to make sure that any child that wants to participate in band is able to. Due to the current economic conditions, not all families are able to afford the cost of purchasing or renting an instrument for their child. She does not want to see money as a barrier in participating in band. She has been reaching out to the community seeking donations to help her purchase instruments or refurbish instruments for these students. She also accepts donations of older instruments, which she can have refurbished.
“She has changed the lives of so many families through her compassion and tireless efforts,” said Anne on her nomination form. “Judy does not judge. She knows that every life matters and she will spend the rest of her life helping people.”
Judy has been involved in many projects over the years. And she attributes her strong faith that inspires her to make her community and world a better place.
She and her husband Jerry have opened their heart and home for numerous foster children over the years. They have also participated in a program called Healing the Children. This program provides medical care for children in need from around the world, who come to the United States for care that is not available in their home country. Judy provided a nurturing and supportive environment for children during their surgeries and recover time. And when a need was seen to help women and their children fleeing domestic violence, they built an addition onto their home to accommodate extra individuals. Again opening her heart and home, she created a supportive environment for women until they could get back on their feet.
After a mission trip to El Salvador in the mid-90’s, Judy and her husband were astounded by the poor quality of the drinking water. Once they returned home, they worked together to figure out a way to provide safe drinking water to the country. After researching various options, they discovered a purification system built by a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. This professor shared his plans with them and they in turn refined them. And in 2002, they placed their first water purification system in El Savador giving access to clean drinking water to roughly 300 children. Since then Judy & Jerry’s water project has become a non-profit organization called Clean Water for the World.
Allegan General Hospital is a community hospital that focuses on providing exceptional, compassionate and personalized healthcare to the community it serves. The hospital has been named three years in a row by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the nation’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Allegan General provides a wide range of healthcare services, including bariatrics, surgery, sleep center, emergency, physical rehabilitation and mental health. For more information about the hospital, visit www.allegangeneral.org.