by Frances Edstrom
When we first started covering the Birthday Ball, I would grab the 35mm camera with the big flash attachment and wend my way through the streets of Winona to find the home of the Ball's chairwoman. I would have been expected to take a photo of the women assembled there for coffee and to hear the chair describe her vision for the annual Winona Health (then CMH) Auxiliary volunteers' dinner dance fund-raiser. I would have to leave the party, grabbing a cookie as I went, run back to the office to have the film developed and write up a little blurb.
The volunteers in those days were usually women who did not work outside of the home, and whose volunteer work took them away from their full-time jobs as mothers and homemakers.
Times have changed.
Last Friday, I grabbed my digital camera and drove to the Winona Health complex to attend the kick-off meeting of the 2006 Birthday Ball volunteer committee. In the meeting were a dozen women and one man. Most of them were taking the time from their lunch hours to be there, and would have to hurry back to work when the meeting was done.
The chair of the Ball is Stacey Mounce Arnold, who has a busy dental practice downtown. Her co-chair is Laura Feller. Pre-ball parties are the bailiwick of Debi Wildenborg, a local realtor. Sandra Burke, who is the director of Winona Volunteer Services, is the menu chair. Her co-chair is Andrea Essar, formerly with the Winona Police Department. Erica Vail and Laurie Broghammer are ticket co-chairs. Erica is at WSU and Laurie is a physician at Winona Clinic. Greg Ratajczyk, retailer, and Sue DeGallier, music teacher, are in charge of decorations. Kathleen Hultman, business owner, and Joan Bernard, WSU, will be producing the invitations. Jane Bartz and Melanie Messman, who works at DTI, are doing publicity for the Ball.
It isn't a new phenomenon that women and men in business volunteer at Winona Health; their presence has increased over the years, and reflects the changes in the role women play in society.
But as much as things change, they remain the same. Even though there will be a big change in the Ball this year "” one dinner seating at the new event center at Signatures restaurant (the former Winona Country Club) "” the reason for having a Birthday Ball hasn't changed since the first Ball in 1963 to commemorate the first "birthday" of the new Community Memorial Hospital. The Birthday Ball funds, originally to benefit the hospital, are now earmarked for healthcare scholarships and the benefit of the entire Winona Health organization, which has grown to include not only the hospital, soon to be greatly expanded, but facilities for the care of the elderly and the memory impaired "” Lake Winona Manor, Roger Metz Manor and Adith Miller Manor "” assisted living at Watkins Manor, Hospice care, and other healthcare related operations.
This year's Birthday Ball, "A Night to Remember," will be held September 9. You will be reading and hearing about the preparations in the local media, and we hope you'll be enticed to buy a ticket for the Ball. We are blessed in Winona with many institutions and employers that set us apart from cities of a similar size in the region. One of those is the Winona Health organization, not only a major employer, but a major asset to our quality of life and our economy. My family and I have been patients at Winona Health more than I would have liked, but each time I say a little prayer of thanks that quality professional help is a couple of minutes away rather than a long, painful drive.
Birthday Ball is only one of the enjoyable events that raise funds for Winona Health, and only one of the hundreds of ways Winona Health volunteers support the organization. Its continued success, through the many social changes over the last forty-three years, is something for which the Winona Health volunteers and the community in general should be congratulated.