Every penny for Northside

It doesn’t matter how much money people can give or where they
live because every penny counts when it comes to the renovation of
Hazel Hawkins Northside Convalescent Facility.
It doesn’t matter how much money people can give or where they live because every penny counts when it comes to the renovation of Hazel Hawkins Northside Convalescent Facility.

For some, donating to the cause is a way to say “thank you.”

Bette Cantrell, a former Hollister resident now living in Commerce Township, Mich., suffers from psoriasis of the liver. Cantrell, 66, became seriously ill last Thanksgiving and was given a short time to live. Shortly after Hazel Hawkins Hospital purchased Northside Convalescent Facility, she returned to Hollister where her family lives.

“She said this facility saved her life,” said Donna Estes, director of nursing at Northside.

“And it did,” said Cantrell, who donated $200 of her Social Security check to the convalescent hospital’s rehabilitation fund and will be recognized with a donor plaque.

Doctors in Michigan did all they could for Cantrell.

“If it wasn’t for the constant care at Northside and a lot of loving help, I would not have made it,” she said. “They saved my life.”

It’s a struggle for family members to be with loved ones living in convalescent homes out of the area. It taxes their mental and physical health.

“It’s absolutely critical to all families here – whether they recognize it or not,” said Ed Stephenson, president of San Benito Bank.

Stephenson’s wife, Michelle, recalled how fortunate she was to have Southside Convalescent Hospital when her mother-in-law was in need of the care.

“We wouldn’t have been able to visit her as often as we did if we had to leave the county,” she said.

Looking at the list of donors, Ed Stephenson wasn’t surprised by some of the names. What did surprise him was the amount some people and big businesses donated, especially with the economic recession.

The list includes a $50,000 pledge by the Hazel Hawkins Hospital Auxiliary, $25,000 pledged by San Benito Bank and $10,000 by Graniterock.

Stephenson said contributions are tax write-offs for most big businesses, but that’s not why they donate.

“They aren’t doing it for recognition,” he said. “They’re doing it to fill a need. (In) most cases people are very, very receptive. They recognize the need and are glad to help.”

With a goal of $250,000 for Northside’s renovation, the group is only $70,000 away from a $250,000 matching pledge offered by the Hazel Hawkins Hospitals Foundation.

Some donor organizations could use the money themselves, such as the Hollister United Methodist Church, which is challenging other religious organizations to see who can raise $10,000 first. “Those poor dears,” said Maureen Sweet, president of the Hazel Hawkins Hospital Auxiliary. “They need a roof badly. Their roof leaks.”

It will take some time, but once the hospital reaches capacity it will begin to make a profit. For now, it operates in the red and a $1,000 donation will buy a hospital bed, Estes said.

What’s important is removing the “institutional” look of rooms and hallways.

“This is their home,” said Estes. “They need to feel happy here and not living in an institution because what happens is, they feel like they’re sick all the time.”

As for Cantrell, she surprised her doctor when she went back to Michigan.

“He said to me, ‘I thought I would never see you on this earth again,'” said Cantrell. “Those people, including Doctor Al Hassan, deserve a whole lot of credit. Because of them I can enjoy the rest of my life.”

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