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Wiegand’s legacy honored

Community commemorates hospital’s longtime volunteer

POSTED: March 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Nell Wiegand laughs while watching a video presentation Thursday night in tribute to her service to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Health System at the Gainesville Civic Center. Wiegand was a recent graduate from the University of Georgia when she began volunteering at the Hall County Hospital in 1951. Thursday night's events also celebrated the $17 million raised for the completion of The Medical Center Foundation's Healthy Journey II campaign.

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As tribute after tribute was offered Thursday night, Nell Wiegand alternated between bursts of laughter and dabbing tears.

A large crowd representing Gainesville’s civic, business and medical community gathered at the Gainesville Civic Center to honor Wiegand as she retired as chairwoman of the Medical Center Foundation board.

Wiegand was among the first volunteers when Hall County Hospital opened its doors in 1951. She worked in the Bright Spot, the gift shop and snack bar that featured sandwiches, cookies and cakes made in the homes of some of the volunteers.

In 1986, she became the founding chairwoman of The Medical Center Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Health System.

"Her legacy at the Medical Center is one of optimism, faith, vision, passion and never, ever quitting until a project is accomplished," said W. Woodrow "Woody" Stewart, who succeeds Wiegand as chairman of the foundation.

When she came to the stage for the presentation of a gift of two gold filigree cranes engraved on a jade pendant, Wiegand decided not to use her prepared remarks.

"We started off slow with the foundation, but it is now one of the most recognized and revered foundations in the Southeast," she told the audience.

Afterward, the effervescent Wiegand was humbled by the night’s festivities.

"Oh, my stars and body, it was overwhelming," she said in her lilting Southern drawl. "I didn’t know they were going to do all of this. I’ve never been so honored in all of my life and to know I have so many friends. It touched me very deeply."

The program featured a video presentation with comments from her family and friends, as well as current and former hospital officials.

In addition to her service with the foundation, Wiegand has logged more than 10,000 hours of service as a volunteer with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Auxiliary. She served as president of the organization from 1972 to 1974.

One of the auxiliary’s most coveted awards is named for her. The Nell Wiegand Patient Friend Award is presented annually to the volunteer who cares for patients and family members in the pattern set by Wiegand.

"She volunteered many, many hours in the newborn nursery, the emergency room and on nursing units throughout the hospital, or, throughout her hospital," said Philip Wilheit, chairman emeritus of Northeast Georgia Health System. "For years, she has encouraged countless other community volunteers to serve in the auxiliary and throughout the hospital."

She also served on the Hospital Authority board from 1975 to 1992. She served on the Northeast Georgia Medical Center board for eight years and founded the advisory board at NGMC.

Also on Thursday evening, the foundation announced that its Healthy Journey II campaign exceeded its goal by $7 million, raising $17 million after an initial goal of $10 million. The foundation has raised more than $25 million since 1999 in the Healthy Journey I and II campaigns.

Of the $17 million, more than $1 million came from the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Auxiliary and $1.4 million was donated by hospital employees.

Stewart also announced that the auxiliary had chosen to honor Wiegand, a cancer survivor, with a lead gift of $100,000 for the enhancement of cancer services at the hospital.


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