When people feel sick, food service employee Willie Harris understands food might be the last thing on their minds. But to help them in their healing, and to bring a moment of happiness to their day, Harris works hard to make sure the food she’s serving to patients looks pretty and appetizing.
Harris, a Summit resident, is the longest serving honoree this year. She has worked with Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital for 50 years, was among those honored at the Adventist Midwest Health Service Awards Banquet.
Since joining the staff shortly before she turned 18, Harris has watched the hospital grow in size and in the number of people it treats. Through her work, Harris sees herself as a servant for God, helping people in their time of need. She believes everyone at the hospital plays that same role.
Harris is the ideal employee, putting her entire heart and soul into her work, hospital Clinical Nutrition Manager Debbie Regnier said.
Working in cold food prep and room service, Harris pays tremendous attention to detail, and that’s evident in the way her food is prepared. Her work is so apparent that Regnier can even tell when Harris has prepared a fruit cup for a patient’s meal.
Long-serving employees such as Harris are an integral part of the hospital and help make it a vital community institution, said Lary Davis, the hospital’s chief executive officer.
She was among 365 employees recognized during the banquet. While Harris was the organization’s longest serving employee honored, several others were recognized for having 40 years of service. Among them were:
• Esther Jarrette of Hinsdale serves as executive assistant to John Rapp, the regional vice president for ministries and mission with Adventist Midwest Health. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Jarrette attended college in both Trinidad and the United States. She served for many years as the executive assistant to the organization’s senior vice president for finance, and before leaving Trinidad served as the executive assistant to the president of the South Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
• Susan Eminger of Westmont works as a registered nurse in labor and delivery. Eminger loves just about every aspect of her job as a registered nurse in the nursery at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. While in high school, she worked as a nurse’s aide during the summer. She decided she wanted to be a nurse when she graduated, and she started out as a licensed practical nurse. Later, she completed her studies as a registered nurse.
“There’s always something new that I find out about every day,” she said.
• Israel Lopez of Westmont works as a housekeeper in environmental services at Hinsdale Hospital. Lopez began his tenure in 1973 as a food service worker. He remained in that department for almost 20 years before moving over to environmental services. He joined the hospital staff after moving from Mexico three years earlier. His mother was already working at the hospital.
• Gary Williams of Westmont is a senior market data analyst with Adventist Midwest Health. In what has felt like a short 40-year career, Williams has had a career full of opportunities that have taken him all over the country.
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and befriending many people in many regions of the country and in many walks of life,” Williams said. “I’ve been truly blessed.”
• Belkys Rode of Calumet City is a specialty care technician in the emergency department at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. Rode began her career with the Adventist Health System in Argentina, at the River Plate Hospital in Entre Rios. She came to the Chicago area in 2000 and began her tenure with Adventist Midwest Health, joining the staff at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital. When Adventist Bolingbrook opened six years ago, Rode transferred there to be closer to home.