AGH Recognizes Extraordinary Women in the Community


During its An Enchanting Affair event on Thursday, October 10, Allegan General Hospital and the AGH Foundation recognized four amazing women with its Spirit of Women Awards.

“The Spirit of Women Awards was designed to celebrate the accomplishments, achievements, and “spirit” of girls and women in our region,” said Jennifer Dentler, AGH Spirit of Women Coordinator. “It’s an awards program for the unsung heroine of everyday life, someone who has made a significant difference in the life of an individual or the community. We received many wonderful nominations for each of the three categories and let me tell you we have a lot of exceptional ladies in the area. It was not an easy decision for the selection committee to make.”

Young Person Role Model Award

The winner of the Young Person Role Model Award (ages 18 and under) was 16 year old Haley Gilder of Hopkins. Haley is a junior at Hopkins High School.

Last Christmas, she and her family served meals at Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids. She noticed that fresh vegetables were not accessible to the individuals they were serving. She not only took notice, but she took it a step further to see what she could do to change it.

This past summer Haley created a program for her Girl Scout Gold Award project where area farmers and gardeners donated some of their produce to people in need. The programs goal was to bring fresh vegetables to two populations who do not get many -- food pantry recipients and food ministry recipients.

Haley contacted local gardeners and farmers to see if they would be willing to donate some of their produce through a weekly pick-up route. Every Tuesday evening, Haley made the rounds in Hopkins, Dorr, and Burnips to collect vegetables. On Wednesday she delivered the bounty she collected the night before to the Hopkins Food Pantry, along with a poster for each vegetable that explained its health benefits and preparation ideas.

Each Thursday, Haley packaged raw vegetables from her own garden, grown specifically for this use. After individually packaging them, she would head down to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission to hand out the bags of vegetables to recipients during lunch service there.

Haley estimates during a 12 week span over the summer she collected approximately 50 pounds of vegetables a week, providing produce to over 60 families at the food pantry. At the mission, she handed out 900 bags of vegetables.

“My ultimate goal is for farmers and gardeners to consider those without access to healthy food in the future,” said Gilder. “I also hope to demonstrate young people can make a difference wherever they see a need.”

The Hopkins Garden Club and Hopkins Community Reformed Church have already agreed to step in and keep this project going.

Haley was nominated by her mother Lisa Gilder. Someone Haley considers to be her role model.

Innovative Spirit Award

Diane Barton, resident of Plainwell, is the recipient of the Innovative Spirit Award (ages 19 – 54). Diane was nominated by Theresa Lynn, Executive Director for Wings of Hope Hospice and Wings Home.

Diane volunteers on the board of both Wings of Hope Hospice and the Wings Home. She also helped head up the capital campaign, which made the Wings Home a reality. And once the Home opened, began volunteering there.

“She is incredibly generous with her time, her money and her talents,” said Lynn. “As a Wings Home volunteer, she connects with dying people and makes them smile. She doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff – the pain, vomiting or incontinence. She takes it all in stride. She is humorous and very down to earth. We love her!”

Diane shares that caring for patients at the Home is amazing. “I have so many stories about how I have been blessed by the people I have cared for; isn’t it always that way? You think you are doing something nice for someone else, but the real blessing is from them to us.”

Inspired Generation

Sue Thiel from Allegan was chosen for the Inspired Spirit Award. (ages 55+) She
was nominated by Karen Rambadt.

Sue attributes her strong faith as what inspires her to make her community and world a better place. She feels she has been very blessed throughout her life and wants to pass on anything that she can.

Two passions of Sue are her love of music and her love of cooking. She has found a way to share both of these with the community.

Sue plays the piano during meditation time prior to worship services at the Allegan United Methodist Church. She also has played the piano for the past 50 years for the church’s Sunday school. She lends her musical talents to Briarwood Assisted Living where she plays at monthly worship services and organizes a monthly sing-along for the residents there.

Once a week, Sue cooks dinner for residents and their families at the Wings Home in Allegan. She provides food for volunteers that help out with various Wings Home fundraisers like their annual garage sale. She is in charge of arranging funeral luncheons at Allegan United Methodist Church, and organizes meals for outside groups that utilize the church. And if Sue learns about someone that recently had a baby, just got out of the hospital or is sick, she will whip up a meal for them too!

For the past 14 years, she has been involved with Kids Hope USA that provides mentors and positive role models to “at risk” elementary school children. For an hour once a week, she mentors a 5th grade student at North Ward. She also sits on the Kids Hope leadership team and helps with a newsletter, teacher treats, Thanksgiving bags and much more.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a smile, kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, which have the potential to turn a life around,” said Rambadt on her nomination form. “Everyone knows they are someone special in the eyes of Sue. She creates peace harmony and love to all.”

Leader Legancy

A special Leader Legacy Award was handed out to Shirley Sutton-Rop, Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer at Allegan General Hospital, who is retiring soon. She is the one that brought the vision of Spirit of Women to Allegan and one of the masterminds behind making it a reality.

Shirley has worked as a healthcare professional, in a variety of settings and roles, for over 40 years. However healthcare leadership has been the most rewarding experience in her career. She loves to see colleagues grow and develop in their professional roles.

“We all have grown so much just from watching Shirley,” said Dentler. “How she carries herself, how she knows when to speak and when not too and she quietly encourages and promotes excellence. You want to work hard for her.”

Additional nominees for the 2013 Spirit of Women Awards were: Amy Aernouts, Sally Beyer, Allison Bush, Pam Crandle, Kirsten Fisk, Colleen McGee Fortney, Rosemarie Holben, Angelique Joynes, Heather Kruithoff, Julie Noble, Erin Radke, Tammy Sampson, Sarah Schwartz, Joan Simmons, and Madeline Smith. This is the third year of AGH’s Spirit of Women Awards.

Allegan General Hospital is a community hospital that focuses on providing exceptional, compassionate and personalized healthcare to the community it serves. The hospital has been named four years in a row by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the nation’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Allegan General provides a wide range of healthcare services, including bariatrics, surgery, sleep center, emergency, physical rehabilitation and mental health. For more information about the hospital, visit

Back to News Listing