- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - About a week into her new position as Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation president - only the second president in the organization’s 33-year history - Noel Lovelace discussed the importance, future and changing role of the hospital’s fundraising arm.

“Having a strong hospital is an essential component of a happy, healthy and growing community. The foundation raises money so the hospital can buy new equipment to offer the best care to the community and so we can continue to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay,” Lovelace said.

The graduate of Decatur High and the University of Alabama replaces Trudy Grisham, who started the foundation and served as its only president. After devoting 33 years to supporting the hospital, Grisham retired July 31, and Lovelace started the following day. During her tenure, Grisham oversaw campaigns that raised more than $8 million for the hospital’s cancer center, women’s center and Kermit Pitt wing and heart unit.

“Trudy is impossible to replace. She has meant so much to the hospital and the community,” said Dr. Scott Harris, chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees. “We are excited to have Noel lead the foundation’s next chapter. She has been involved with the hospital her entire life. We’re excited about her ideas on how to reach the community and how she plans to build on the legacy Trudy established.”

That legacy includes the annual Gala celebration, the golf tournament, the Power of Pink Walk and Fashion Show, and the Dragon Boat Race and Festival.

“We’re a different animal than we were two years ago because we are a merger of Decatur General and Parkway Medical Center and we are now part of the Huntsville Hospital System. I think one of the things we really want to focus on is reaching the whole county. We are already making strides with that through the Dragon Boat Race,” Lovelace said.

The fifth annual Dragon Boat festival held in May attracted 75 teams and more than 6,000 spectators from across north Alabama.

With the rapidly changing health care system, communication between the hospital and residents is more important than ever, Lovelace said. As is increasing the funds raised through the foundation’s special events.

“There’s so much change in health care. That’s one place the foundation can play a huge role in the community is communicating those changes. One big change is in reimbursements. They are down, so charitable donations are more important than ever,” Lovelace said.

Lovelace’s connection with the foundation goes back 32 years to when, at the first Gala, the then-Decatur High junior served as a coat check girl. She grasped the importance of the organization when she joined the hospital seven years ago.

“After I started working here, I realized how important it was to the community that you have a strong hospital and a good health care system. Having a strong hospital is just as important as having a strong school system,” Lovelace said.

Most recently, Lovelace served as the hospital’s director of operations and community relations, handling outreach, volunteer services, special events and physician recruiting. She will continue to oversee community relations and volunteer services while also taking on her new duties in the foundation.

“Noel has been a key member of the Decatur Morgan leadership team, and her responsibilities have continued to expand over the years. Noel will now lead the philanthropic goals of the foundation, which will support various patient care technologies, team member scholarships and many other health-related and community needs,” said Decatur Morgan Hospital President Nat Richardson.

With preparations underway for the Power of Pink Walk and Fashion Show in October and Gala 32 in December, Lovelace will support the organizers while developing a vision for the future.

“I’m just getting my feet wet. I want to talk to hospital leadership to see what their ideas and needs are. I also want to talk to the foundation board and trustees and see what ideas they have. I’ve got my own ideas, but I don’t want to do something just because it is my idea, I want to do something everyone is on board with. I want to see where the community wants us to go,” Lovelace said.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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