Sometimes, a business transcends its intended purpose. Mercy Health Love County Hospital and Clinic is just such a place.
In recent years, the Mercy-managed hospital has become as much a place of community as an epicenter of health care for the nearly 9,000 residents living in Love County.
“The hospital is the very lifeblood of this community,” said Ken Delashaw, a Marietta attorney who has represented the hospital for 26 years. “The importance of this hospital to this community simply can’t be overstated. It’s as important as fire and police protection, and our public school system.”
The outreach is by design – the design of a higher calling.
“We’ve always tried to be more than just a hospital,” said Richard Barker, the hospital’s administrator and CEO the past 20 years. “If we see a need in the community, we try to do what we can. For us, that’s just a natural extension of who we are here. Our partnership with Mercy – a nonprofit ministry – was only fitting because it emboldened us to dream bigger.”
Mercy and the hospital board first entered into a management agreement in 1997. Mercy poured more than $2 million into the hospital during those first 18 months of operation, paying off debt, making upgrades and building a new clinic – all at no cost to county taxpayers.
Then in 2006, under the sponsorship of Sister Carolyn Stoutz of Mercy Memorial Health Center in Ardmore, the hospital received a $100,000 Catherine’s Legacy grant to open a battered women’s shelter. The shelter marked the first of its kind in Love County, and remains in service today.
In December, the hospital opened a 3,500-square-foot therapy building that houses a gym, a lift-equipped whirlpool, and treatment rooms for physical, occupational, speech and respiratory rehabilitation. One half of the building is designated as a conference room, which often doubles as a meeting place for local civic groups. In addition, the building can serve as a community shelter during severe weather.
Hospital administrators have long been sensitive to the needs of the community. In 2001, co-workers established a food bank to feed the hungry. Today, the food bank feeds an average of 240 families a week. Hospital staff, hospital auxiliary and community volunteers distribute food baskets between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Tuesday at the pantry building north of the clinic on Wanda Street.
Residents, in turn, have rallied around the hospital’s food pantry. Each December the Marietta Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Christmas lighting fund-raiser to help supplement the food pantry.
“We simply saw a need, and God blessed us with the resources to open and maintain a food pantry,” Barker said. “We probably see six to seven tons of food go out our doors each month, and that food helps the people we care for on a regular basis. Now if that isn’t real health care, what is?”
Did You Know? FiveSisters of Mercy first ventured into Indian Territory in 1884 to answer a plea for help from Father Isidore Robot at the Sacred Heart Mission located in present-day Pottawatomie County. The Sisters were following in the bold footsteps of Sisters of Mercy Founder Catherine McAuley, who opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827.