Even before Jim Gardner, president of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, finished announcing Linda Niles as the 2008 employee of the year, the entire room had risen to its feet in thunderous applause.
Niles appeared overcome with emotion as she joined her family at the front of the room to receive her award.
Some 261 tenured employees and 33 retirees were honored for their service by the Northeast Georgia Health System on Wednesday during its 37th annual Employee Recognition and Awards Program.
The employees, whose service ranged from 10 to 40 years, were honored in the grand ballroom of the Gainesville Civic Center.
An anonymous committee of employees from different departments made the selections. The employee of the year was chosen from a pool of about 70 employees of the month.
The employee of the year is "someone who goes above and beyond every day," said Judy Turk, manager of employee benefits and services. "They have the work ethic, they have to be a team player and (they provide) exceptional service to co-workers, patients and visitors."
Niles’ commitment and passion for her work made her a prime candidate for the award.
"Linda Niles can best be described in one word: dedication," Gardner said before presenting the award.
Niles has worked at Northeast Georgia Hospital since she graduated from nursing school in 1977. Since then, she has worked in the surgical intensive care unit, pediatrics care, and as the manager of the post-anesthesia care unit for nearly 20 years before moving to the Lanier Park campus to work in the geriatrics unit. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Brenau University in 1991.
Now in the surgical unit, Niles is known among her co-workers as a mentor to new staff who "finds joy in bringing out the strength in others."
Niles is married to the Rev. Adrian Niles, the pastor of Mount Enon Baptist Church in Monroe. She has two children and one grandchild.
Her supervisor has called her "an absolute blessing."
Niles responded to the praise by thanking her family and friends for their constant support. "I just really feel overwhelmed," Niles said. "God has really blessed me."