“I came here because I knew you would not turn me away.”
The care givers, health professionals, and community volunteers had heard those desperate words many times. It was almost the rallying cry of the two hundred people who filled the hall. My wife and I were there in Renton to see our friend Jan Runbeck receive Molina Healthcare’s Community Champion Award. Eight tireless individuals from around Washington State were being honored – one lifetime achievement award and seven selected Healthcare Champions.
Last year, Jan’s husband, Mike Mowat was recognized for his service with the Tacoma and Pierce County food bank Nourish Pierce County. Doing good in the world runs in the family and in their circle of friends.
The event just felt so “down home” with family and friends. A local unit of the Girl Scouts presented the colors and one of them played our national anthem on the violin. Near the end it sounded like she played an “F” instead of an “F” sharp. No one laughed. The note pierced our hearts. A local representative of the Muckleshoot Tribe asked the Great Creator God to bless the meeting and everyone’s efforts in helping others. Next a Russian folk group entertained in traditional costumes and instruments. Many of our Washington communities not only have small pockets of immigrants from Somalia, Iraq, and Vietnam, but also Ukraine, and Russia. I had no idea what they were singing about, which is strange since I took Russian at Clover Park High School years ago. The group was well received.
The lifetime achievement award was given first. Sallie Neillie founded Project Access Northwest in 2006 to improve access to needed specialty services for the low-income uninsured and under insured. Several King County Rotary Clubs helped fund her project. Project Access Northwest collaborates with the health care community to open doors to medical and dental care for low-income individuals with limited access. Project Access was a key component in the Free Rotocare Clinic at Pacific Lutheran University in 2009.
I’d heard the name of Molina Healthcare, but didn’t really know what they did or who they were. I certainly got the idea of their commitment, however when the spokesperson mentioned their professionals were working in Puerto Rico and wouldn’t leave until everyone was safe, which seemed to be a far cry from the assistance provided by the White House.
Each of the Champion Awards were outstanding. For an example of what they do, please watch the Molina Healthcare’s Community Champions Awards video – www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DbVxfY5fLk
Each individual winner represented countless hours and dedication. Each person reached out to friends and neighborhoods in their efforts to improve the lives of people in their communities. Sometimes the people they are helping are simply across town and sometimes just next door.
Our friend Jan won I think because of her involvement with the free clinic, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Tacoma, but goes well beyond the clinic that ran from 2009 to 2014 when the Affordable Care Act came into being. Project Access as a major part of that project: “In the fall of 2006, a group of local physicians had a dream to improve access to health care for the low-income, uninsured in Pierce County. Pierce County Project Access grew from that vision. Today, it is a network of Physicians and ancillary providers who volunteer to provide care to the under served in our community. Pierce County Project Access (PCPA) was founded in October, 2009 and is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.”
Jan has been a driving force helping the homeless of Pierce County. She and her husband Mike were involved in project after project as members of the Exchange Club of Tacoma. Currently she is president of the Tacoma Chapter of Soroptimist, which encourages education for women and is fighting the battle against human trafficking. Her recognition was heart warming and well deserved. Tacoma and Pierce County should be proud . . . very proud.