It was an afternoon to share heartfelt appreciation and more than a few laughs.
Friends, family members, volunteers, and co-workers gathered Saturday at the New Beginnings Fellowship Church here to give thanks to Teresa Hazel, director of the Riverside Foundation for Health Care and communications officer for Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. for the past 11 years who has since moved on to become CEO of the Good Life for Young People Foundation.
Joan Allison, a charter member of the Riverside Foundation and long-time chair of its special events committee, drew an analogy between Hazel and TV talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.
Allison recalled she was watching the Joy Behar Show on which Winfrey protégé Dr. Oz was a guest. Behar and Oz were talking about how much good Winfrey has done for so many people when Behar asked Oz why would she stop at the pinnacle of her success?
“Dr. Oz answered, ‘Because Oprah needs new challenges, and no matter what she does, it will benefit people and be a success.’
“And I said, ‘Holy crow! Teresa’s the Oprah of Fort Frances!’” Allison remarked.
After sharing a few humorous poems, Allison said she’s learned much from Hazel over the years, such as: “No matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with”; “Just one person saying to you, ‘You’ve made my day,’ makes your day”; and “Under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.”
“Teresa always took the time to make everyone feel important,” Allison stressed. “It didn’t matter if it was a donor or an auxiliary member . . . the service clubs, the staff, the committee members, everyone—she touched everyone’s heart.”
Other bits of wisdom Allison gleaned from working with Hazel included: “Being kind is far more important than being right. But to ignore the facts doesn’t change the facts” and “Think big thoughts, but still relish the small pleasures.”
“If love was a raindrop, I’d send you a shower,” she added. “If hope was a minute, I’d send you an hour. If happiness was a leaf, I’d send you a tree.
“If you need a friend, you will always have me,” Allison concluded before presenting Hazel a desk clock so they “will always spend time with each other.”
Pat Acree of the Rainy River Hospital Auxiliary, Heather Oltsher of the Emo Hospital Auxiliary, Noreen Robertson of La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary, and Margaret Ann Hudson of the Rainycrest Auxiliary all thanked Hazel for her support and offered her best wishes in her new job.
“Teresa’s been there for us from the beginning of her tenure with the Foundation,” noted Robertson.
“Her door has always been open and no matter how much work’s piled on her desk . . . she always had a cheery greeting and a few minutes to spend with us and our problems.”
Hudson read a message on behalf of Rainycrest Auxiliary member Gloria Gadd, who worked beside Hazel for years but couldn’t attend Saturday’s tea.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with someone whose creative ideas, warm sense of humour, and exceptional organizational skills enabled the Foundation to hold such successful fundraisers,” noted the message, which went on to wish Hazel the best in her future endeavours.
Hazel also was honoured with an original song performed by special events committee members Wendy Agar, Janice Cousineau, Nathalie DeGagne, Rochelle Duchnicki, Livia Lundon, Sandra McKinnon, and Karen Woods.
“We’d like to thank you for all of your time, the tears and the laughter,” Lundon said afterwards, at which time the committee presented Hazel with a bracelet.
Foundation chair Deane Cunningham said he’s appreciated the efforts of Hazel over the years, adding she’s always worked hard and shown dedication to her job.
“It was a sad day for the board when Teresa decided to leave as Foundation director, but for her it’s an opportunity and a chance to carry on and start a new chapter in her working career.
“We’re sad to see her leave, but we wish her all the best in her new position,” Cunningham noted.
“We’ll never forget your efforts or what you’ve done for the Foundation,” he added. “You’ve taken us from our infancy, so to speak, to where it is today.
“Thank you very much for everything you’ve done.”
On behalf of the Foundation, Cunningham presented Hazel with a ring with interchangeable stones.
Riverside CEO Wayne Woods said Hazel “brought everything together—the auxiliaries, the Foundation, Riverside Health Care—for the betterment of the community.”
Woods added that while he is certain Hazel will carry out her new position with “gusto,” he has mixed emotions about her leaving.
“Certainly, I want to wish her the best and I will miss her. We will all miss her. Best of luck,” he remarked.
Hazel thanked everyone she has had the privilege to work with over the past 11-and-a-half years.
She recalled that she’s been asked how the Foundation has pulled off such successful fundraisers over the years, and she tells them the key is the Foundation has committed volunteers.
Hazel gave special credit to her mentor, Allison, for her ambition, wisdom, talents, and resources.
Hazel noted the Foundation board also has to be credited for its work behind the scenes, adding she’s honoured to have worked with board chairs such as Clare Brunetta, Jim Krag, Tammy Kellar, John McTaggart, Larry Cousineau, and Cunningham, from whom she’s learned valuable lessons.
Having read a recent Winnipeg Free Press article about non-profit organizations and the charity work of individuals and communities, Hazel said she thought about how fortunate she was to work in the philanthropic sector.
“There’s so much satisfaction in helping others and making a difference,” she remarked.
“And even though the article said that Manitoba is the most philanthropic province, with organizations like the Winnipeg Foundation, I would venture to guess that Rainy River District would give them a run for their money.”
Hazel added the best part of her job has been meeting people who would share their reasons for giving, and want to make a positive difference through their volunteering.
She thanked all of the hospital staff and administration she’s worked with over the years, adding the work staff has done at the three hospitals and Rainycrest has made the district communities want to invest in them.
She also thanked the four auxiliaries for leading by example, and being the ones who “paved the way for the Foundation.”
“Your dedication and the positive things you’ve done for health care in your communities is outstanding,” she stressed.
Hazel credited local media for their support of the Foundation during her tenure, stressing its role in making events successful.
As a special mention, Hazel said the late Tom Bruyere, who for several years spearheaded a fundraiser walk which raised more than $100,000 for the local dialysis unit, “showed what you can do to inspire others to give.”
The new Foundation director is Nicke Baird, whom Hazel said “will do a great job.”
“She’s got new ideas . . . I am excited about what’s going to come out of that new energy,” she remarked.
Hazel concluded by thanking her friends and family, especially husband, John, and youngest daughter, Taylor, for giving her “the support that allowed me to do what I did.”
As previously reported, Hazel is now CEO of the Good Life for Young People Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to bring to life the dreams and potential of young Anishinaabeg, with the support of their families and communities.
Although her role with the Good Life for Young People Foundation officially started Sept. 7, she had remained with Riverside in a part-time capacity until last month when Baird was hired.
Hazel said she’s looking forward to now focusing on the Good Life for Young People Foundation.
“I’m ready to engage in the new position,” she enthused.