Unsung Heroes, presented by the Banner Graphic

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Banner Graphic asked for the community's help in identifying those people who have been unsung heroes the following are the responses.

Additionally, Putnam County EMS Deputy Chief Anthony Taylor was profiled in a feature article as one of the county's unsung heroes.

Lisa Zeiner

Nominated by Anthony Taylor

Currently the Putnam County planner, Lisa Zeiner spent several years with the Putnam County Health Department, serving as environmental specialist and preparedness coordinator.

In this capacity, she was on the front lines of the county’s fight to combat COVID-19 in the early stages back in spring.

“She bent over backward to make sure our prooviders had everyting the could possibly need,” Putnam County EMS Deputy Chief Anthony Taylor said.

Taylor, himself one of our Unsung Heroes, said this included arranging donations from the community or simply coordinating a way to make sure that Putnam County EMS staffers had whatever was necessary to stay safe during the pandemic.

“Lisa was the No. 1 reason we had any hand sanitizer or PPE at all,” Taylor said. “She was very good at what she did.”

The Waters of Greencastle staff

Nominated by Administrator Holly Wachtel

I have been humbled by my entire team of great leaders at The Waters of Greencastle as we work through the unexpected and untreaded waters of COVID-19.

The outpouring of support from our staff, families, community and residents have been unlike any experience we have had in the past and it has been much appreciated.

Putnam County is blessed to have outstanding “Health Care Heroes” leading this community.

I am proud to stand alongside my “Health Care Heroes” at The Waters of Greencastle.


Submitted by Tami Van Rensselaer

I feel one of the heroes is time. Although we all felt the world come to a screeching halt, this gave the opportunity for everyone to slow down and have time.

Time is something we all do not have much of, or rather chose not to take. Everyone scurries from one event to another, whether it is meetings, kids’ practice or games or appointments.

We start to lose the grace of taking time to look at the birds flying, planting a garden, walking through the state parks, enjoying a craft/hobby or just sitting in a rocking chair for a few minutes.

This has been replaced by, as soon as our feet hit the floor, we hurry to get to school and work, we hurry to meet the deadlines, we hurry to get the groceries, we hurry to get to practices and games or to an evening meeting, then hurry to get home to do it all over again the next day.

I hope that being “forced” to take time allowed many to enjoy a few of the slower things in life, and those things learned and enjoyed will be carried on to give the “hurried” person a moment to enjoy a little time as we move forward.

Greencastle Fire Department

Nominated by Asst. Chief Rob Frank

Our entire department has gone above and beyond the last nine months in dealing with COVID. It wouldn’t be fair, as far as I am concerned to single one of them out.

They have all worked very hard to keep themselves and the community safe.

I appreciate everything that is being done to recognize the heroes in our community.

Mary Miller

Nominated by Principal Dawn Tucker

Mary Miller, Cloverdale Middle School guidance secretary, has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Actually, she does on a regular basis, not just during the pandemic.

During our closure last spring, she regularly came into the office to work — she contacted parents, delivered meals, managed the phones and stepped in wherever she was needed.

Mary does a lot of “behind the scenes” work that helps make our school run smoothly.

Leah Reed

Nominated by Administrator Holly Wachtel

Leah Reed has always been an exceptional nurse and led by example here at The Waters of Greencastle.

However, during this pandemic, Leah has gone above and beyond to care for COVID-positive residents as if they were her own family. Leah Reed’s positive attitude shines through to both her peers and residents.

Thank you, Leah, for being an unsung hero and leading us through this fight.

Team Summerfield

Nominated by Business Manager Carla Kennington

I would like the nominate “Team Summerfield.” It did not take one person to make it through this challenging time of 2020, it took the whole TEAM here at Summerfield Health Care Center, keeping the residents, safe and secure.

The loving staff are amazing — stepping in daily when the residents cannot visit face-to-face with their loved ones.

We became their loved ones, making sure the atmosphere is loving and a family-like setting.

Finding joy in the little things to see a smile, hear the laughter and just have a blast at what our team does on a daily basis.

GCSC Foodservice

Nominated by Director Debbie Carrico

Greencastle School Corporation has the hands down best foodservice staff under the sun. These ladies, at the drop of a hat, prepare meals for the students in school and out.

Operating on a day-by-day basis due to COVID, the staff is ready to convert from feeding in the cafeteria to handing them out in a drive through setting.

Not just during the pandemic, but every day during the school year these ladies definitely earn the title of “Lunch Lady Heroes.”

Nikki Hutcheson and Kaylee Richardson

Nominated by Administrator Jill Stott

All of our employees are going above and beyond every day to not only care for our residents but working hard to keep them safe by following mask, safe distance and isolation policies.

We have two employees, Nikki Hutcheson and Kaylee Richardson, who answered the call to one of our sister facilities that had an outbreak in the middle of October. These ladies didn’t hesitate to step up to care for those residents with COVID, working 12-hour days through 26 days without a day off until the job was complete.

We are very proud of them and their courage and strength to give those residents the utmost care in their time of need.

I could name so many staff who also work behind the scenes to give of themselves to make sure our residents are cared for every day. Due to staff quarantine and isolation guidelines, many of our staff work tirelessly to cover open shifts for those that must quarantine because unlike other businesses, we don’t close.

I am so proud to lead such a great group of caregivers.

Kelly Robertson

Nominated by Holly Wachtel

Kelly Robertson has become an incredible leader amongst all of the unsung heroes at The Waters of Greencastle.

Kelly is one of the most unselfish individuals that we have come across and is always willing to lend a hand and pick up extra duties to make sure others are taken care of both physically and mentally.

Kelly is a volunteer for a multitude of organizations and she deserves to be recognized for her hard work and her behind the scene acts of kindness.

Thank you for being an unsung hero, Kelly.

Sheridan Wilson

Nominated by Crystal Fortner

Sheridan Wilson is a nurse here at Mill Pond and although we have so many people that would be great unsung heroes, she was the first to come to mind.

She is a rockstar. She daily goes above and beyond to give the most thorough and compassionate care to our residents and their families.

She has stepped up and took on more duties to relieve stress on all team members.

This woman is remarkable and I cannot tell you how blessed Mill Pond health campus is to have her as part of this team.

Becky Hutcheson

Nominated by PCH Marketing Director Brooke Trissel

Becky Hutcheson is a true unsung hero in Putnam County.

Becky has worked in the Putnam County Cancer Center since 1990. She is the first smiling face a patient sees when they walk in.

Becky treats every individual that walks through the doors like they are family.

The thing that impresses me the most about Becky is her willingness to give 110 percent to each patient, every time.

Cancer is an expensive illness to have. Treatments and medications are often times not covered by insurance, or the co-pay for the medications or treatments can be thousands of dollars.

Becky will work with insurance companies, reach out to foundations and look for grants to help patients pay for their medications and treatments. These acts are done out of the kindness and love she has for the patients.

She may not realize it, but she is saving lives each and every day.

I am blessed to have her as a friend and co-worker. The community is blessed to have her as a resource and unsung hero.

Joanna Muncie

Nominated by Principal Mike McHugh

Joanna Muncie, our home-school liaison for Deer Meadow, has been one of many unsung heroes in the schools.

She has gone out of her way to deliver meals to several families over the course of the summer. She works with students and families every day to help students get the services they need.

Joanna also works hard to be proactive for staff from a mental health standpoint. She has created avenues for staff to share with her any issues they need to get off their chests (personal or professional) in order for them to be able to work with our kids and serve them in the best way possible.

She is a true servant-leader in our school.

North Putnam Schools Health Team

Nominated by Nicole Singer and Jason Chew

North Putnam Community Schools corporation nurse Mary Unger and her staff at the school buildings were nominated by both Supt. Nicole Singer and high school Principal Jason Chew.

“Mary Unger is our Corporation nurse and is assisted by a health aide in each building,” Singer said.

Those aides are Paul Batchelor, Julie Harbison, Millie Smith and Pam Sinnet.

“Our health aides have seen an increased number of students in each clinic and continue to work diligently with our administrators to keep our schools safe,” Singer said.

Chew, likewise, had high praise for Unger and her staff.

“Mrs. Unger is ultimately responsible for training health aides and administrators on all the new policies and procedures that we have had to put in place,” Chew said. “Mrs. Unger helps with contact tracing and is our main conduit to the Putnam County Health Department.

The principal even noted the kind of negative pressure that has become a part of Unger’s job.

“She has had to endure all the negative phone calls from parents upset that their student has had to remain at home,’ Chew said.

“Mary has been available by phone after hours and on weekends,” Singer noted. “She has been an excellent liaison between the school, health department and Indiana Department of Education.”

The superintendent also noted the leadership role the local health department has taken during the pandemic.

“The Putnam County Health Department have been excellent partners in maintaining consistent education as well as keeping our students and school communities safe,” Singer said.

Dick Wells

Nominated by C Kelso

My unsung hero is Mr. Wells of Hilltop Orchids in Cloverdale. He has allowed us to work, or as I call it, play, in his greenhouse. (With the hundreds and hundreds of beautiful orchid plants, it hardly seems like work.)

Before the virus struck, customers were a constant feature at the greenhouse. As it became more and more widespread, the customers became almost nonexistent. When the state began to shut down, the orchids didn’t. They continued growing and flowering. They were covered in amazing colors and shapes.

Mr. Wells knew something had to be done. The flowers could not go to waste. We began to cut the flower stems and were able to donate them to nursing homes, Put. County Hospital and others in the community who were thrilled to have a piece of beauty to enjoy.

He has taught us so much about the varieties of orchids, their care and about the other plants in the greenhouse. He will tell you, his years of working with the plants has been so rewarding. His wife, Sandy, also makes a day among the plants so fun.

There’s a saying, if you are having a bad day, go to the greenhouse. It means, when you are among so many interesting, beautiful, plants and the atmosphere inside, you can’t help but feel better and happier.

Mr. Wells thanks us every time we leave work at the greenhouse and I say, “No, thank you for letting us play in your greenhouse.”

Bethany Combs

Nominated by Assistant Principal Zach Love

South Putnam High School’s school nurse, Ms. Bethany Combs, has done an absolutely amazing job this school year with all of the additional challenges thrown her way.

We are very appreciative of all of her hard work and dedication to our students and staff. She has helped us to keep our community safe and our students in school.

Thank you, Ms. Combs.

Lindsay Stone

Nominated by Administrator Holly Wachtel

Lindsay Stone has not only been The Waters of Greencastle’s social service director and memory care unit director, but at the beginning of the pandemic she completed the PCA class.

Through this pandemic journey, Lindsay has utilized her personal care assistant certification to take care of our residents.

Thank you, Lindsay, for being a leader and providing our staff and residents with emotional and mental support.

Rhonda Kessler

Nominated by Principal Jennifer Rhoades

Rhonda Kessler, the nurse for Tzouanakis, Ridpath and Deer Meadow has been an amazing support to the staff and students of all three schools, as well as parents during this uncertain time.

Rhonda is constantly fielding calls, texts and emails concerning possible exposure to COVID, students with symptoms, and other medical needs that are common to a school.

On top of her regular duties, Rhonda then has to track COVID tests and student absences as well as coordinate calls to parents when students have been identified as close contacts.

Rhonda is basically on call 24-7 for our schools, students, staff and families.

Rhonda is the definition of an unsung hero and we are blessed to have her working with us each day.

Mary Runnells

Nominated by Administrator Holly Wachtel

The Waters of Greencastle has been blessed to have Mary Runnells since 2000, where she has been in nursing leadership. Over the past eight months, Mary has provided infection control leadership to the team.

Most recently, Mary has been a leader working alongside our team of unsung heroes on a COVID Positive Unit.

Thank you, Mary, for your continued leadership, positive energy and care you provide to our residents, families and staff. You make us extremely proud and blessed.

Sarah Burnett

Nominated by PCHD Administrator Joni Young

Sara Burnett, RN, has been public health nurse for Putnam County Health Department for the last five years.

Sara is a giving person — she gives of herself to help the community and patients she provides vaccinations to. She takes the time to answer all questions that patients have when they receive their shots.

Sara is always a calming presence when little ones are scared. She has many duties as the health nurse and has said several times how much she loves her job, that the PCHD is the best place she has worked.

(That would be, pre-COVID-19, why she is our hero.)

Now post COVID 19:

She takes phone calls and emails 24-7 from doctors, nurses, school administrators, local community leaders and COVID patients who have questions or concerns about symptoms and guidelines to help stop the spread.

Sara takes the time to soothe families who have lost loved ones to the COVID virus. In the beginning, they were scared and hurt and mad. Sometimes they were not allowed to be in the hospital while the person they loved for 30 or 40 years was dying alone.

She has also comforted the sons and daughters who call because both parents are lost to the virus. That brought home the reality of the overwhelming effects of COVID on families very quickly for not only her, but this entire office.

Sara has a very busy life that has took a personal turn this past week. Her mother died on Sunday, Nov. 15. Sara’s dad died three years ago, and Sara’s mom moved in with Sara and her family full-time.

She has provided full-time care to her mom while continuing to be available to the community and PCHD. Her home life has been very stressful but she always showed up at work to help fight COVID-19. Some weeks she has put in 20-plus hours of overtime, working weekends, holidays and well past closing time.

Sara helps with the preparedness plan for our county and with the local plans for events to ensure that safety is the first priority in the steps taken in the fight against COVID 19.

When someone ask me why Sara is my hero, I would say it is her kindness, her honesty, her complete and unrelenting fight for the safety of members of this community — even when they do not seem to want it at times. She takes the time to speak with and explain the newest and updated guidelines that we should be following to individuals who call.

At times when it seems the bleakest in this office and we don’t think we can do it anymore, she comes back the next day with a new “Just wipe it away.” That is her go-to line when we need to adjust our attitudes.

She then starts all over again with “oh yes we can and oh yes we will win this battle” attitude.

Sara is an amazing strength and leader for the staff in this office. She might not realize how much we need her, but we are all so glad we have her on our team.

The GCSC Family

Nominated by Supt. Jeff Gibboney

I believe the GCSC family — teachers, support staff and students/families — are all superheroes. Everyone has been so flexible, understanding and supportive during this most difficult year. I appreciate the countless number of hours our staff has worked.

Personally, I have communicated back and forth with multiple employee groups (especially our nurses) at night and during the weekend. Traditionally, these groups do not work during those periods of time and are able to relax and enjoy their family/friends.

I would also like to give a shout out to Sara Burnett at the Health Department. She is an amazing resource for me and the school. She always answers my calls — nights, weekends, etc. We could not do this without the help of people like her.

I would like to give a shout out to Mayor Dory and the City for supporting our schools with supplies/materials needed to implement our COVID-19protocols.

I would like to give a shout out to Jared Jernagan and the BG for your unwavering support and calming presence by sharing factual information and anything the school needs to share with the public.

Kathy Sykes, Carrie Strain, Nancy King

By Jared Jernagan, Editor

While education in the age of COVID-19 is a challenge to all stakeholders, from teachers to food service workers to students and their families, the adjustment has perhaps been the most pronounced for those teachers who’ve had to adjust to full-time distance educators.

This has been the case for three North Putnam Community Schools teachers — Kathy Sykes, Carrie Strain and Nancy King — who serve North Putnam students in this role.

North Putnam High School Principal Jason Chew nominated the trio as unsung heroes, wanting to “recognize these teachers who over a short period of time have had to provide a service that was not there previously.”

“These three truly care about the kids on their case load,” Chew noted, “and are working hard to try to provide an education to those students and families who do not feel comfortable having their students in our schools.”

Sykes, who teachers the high school distance learners, took some time to explain her experience to the Banner Graphic.

“I think one of the biggest challenges is to try to balance the online course material with delivering face-to-face instruction too,” Sykes said. “A lot of it is a time management thing, along with encouraging students to use some of their own problem-solving strategies along with seeking help.”

Sykes noted that distance learning does not work on the traditional 8 a.m.-3 p.m. schedule to which students and teachers may be accustomed. It takes numerous phone calls, emails and virtual training outside of normal instruction, “along with being a problem solver for any IT issues.”

“I think one of the things that we’ve been trying to be flexible here with is that if parents or students aren’t able to get with us during the school day because of trying to hold down a job, we’re able to respond to emails after hours or take calls so that we maintain that parent involvement,” Sykes said.

This can involve individual coordination with a parent trying to balance keeping a job with keeping his or her student progressing in school.

Coming from a special education background, Sykes said that while she specializes in math, she has a well-rounded background for helping students across subject areas.

Perhaps just as important as the instruction, though, is the connection teachers make with students. Sykes said that has been more of a process this year.

“I think some of the rewarding things in the virtual meetings is I’m seeing students I’ve not worked with before starting to open up with their learning. Some of them are a starting to open up and I’m enjoying that here lately.

“Carrie and Nancy are starting to see that as well,” Sykes said. “It’s good to see that.”

Maggie Hayne

Nominated by Administrator Tasheena Duncan

Summerfield’s unsung hero is Maggie Hayne. Maggie is a registered nurse who goes above and beyond in everything she does.

Maggie has stepped up and filled in shifts where she is needed without question, even taking on night shift weekends for several months.

She strives to give the best and most compassionate care to our unique population of Huntington’s Disease residents. She is compassionate, caring and extremely knowledgeable. She has a servant’s heart and we are beyond grateful for her.

But I would like to also mention all of our floor staff,housekeepers, maintenance, and kitchen staff have all went above and beyond here at Summerfield.

All of my staff at Summerfield are unsung heroes.

The Staff of Autumn Glen

Nominated by Administrator Michelle McClure

I would hate to single out one single employee when every single employee at Autumn Glen has worked together to protect our residents.

This has been one of the hardest years in my 17 years of working in longterm care. However, I’ve never been so humbled by the reliance of our staff and residents. We’ve come together through the ups and downs and have been blessed to remain COVID-free.

There’s no doubt that we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for every single employee partner at Autumn Glen.

I’ve never been more proud to be serving our seniors beside some of the biggest heroes I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

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