Submitted by Wanda Elder and Ria J. Johnson Covington.
Community Health Care (CHC) recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a festive Gala at the Bicentennial Pavilion attended by some 550 people from all over Pierce County. After reviewing its founding and first 50 years, introducing the kickoff of the Kimi and Dr. George Tanbara Endowment for Patient Care, CHC announced an initial $100,000 gift to the fund from the family of the late Dr. Michael Olejar.
The Gala also celebrated thirteen Health Heroes who have worked to improve the general health of all who live, work and play in Tacoma and Pierce County. These heroes address the social determinants of health such as economic stability, education, social support networks, physical environment, access to health networks and personal responsibility.
Three of the thirteen Heroes are from Lakewood! Last week the Subtimes.com highlighted the City of Lakewood. Today we highlight two individual Lakewood Health Heroes: Andie Gernon and Ellie Wilson.
Andie Gernon has lived and volunteered in Lakewood since moving here with her late husband, an ENT Surgeon at Madigan, then at Group Health, in 1975. After several years tutoring at local schools, coaching 5th-6th grade girls basketball and serving as volunteer coordinator at St. Frances Cabrini, Andie was the first woman chair of both the Lakewood Racquet Club Board and Bellarmine Prep, served on the Lakewood Community Council, and was co-founder of Communities in Schools of Lakewood. She co-chaired the successful campaign for Lakewood Cityhood with LTG (retired) Bill Harrison. Some jokingly call her the “Mother of Lakewood,” a title she accepts with good humor, but is quick to point out that she was but one of a legion of other Lakewood activists working to incorporate Lakewood. Community activism and board experience led to Andie’s fundraising involvement for many worthy efforts including Bellarmine, the YMCA, the Pierce College Foundation, and to co-chair the Development Advisory Council of Community Health Care since 2003, helping raise many millions to build or renovate three major health centers.
Ellie Wilson has for over 35 years been a tireless champion of community, kids and families in Lakewood, chairing and serving on numerous committees, volunteering and leading community causes. A former teacher, widow of a US Army officer, Ellie makes the whole community a healthy place for all. Early on she co-chaired many successful bond and levy campaigns for Clover Park School District, succeeding where there had been a long record of failure. She led a successful effort to change Idaho state law to raise the legal driving age from 14 to 16. She was integral to the successful Lakewood Incorporation campaign, a co-founder of Communities in Schools and now chairs Lakewood’s Promise Advisory Board for the City. Recently she hosted a Chinese student at Pierce College in her home for two years, giving life-changing support to the young woman who has graduated with honors, been active in the community, and now attends the University of Michigan to continue her studies.