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Alfred Burson & Bob Stowell - Thinking Back to the Start

Interview with Bob Stowell. 6/19/2020

By Becky Ries

I had the privilege of sitting down with local attorney, Bob Stowell, recently to glean his insight and learn more about when the Valley County Health System Foundation (VCHSF) was founded back in 1990.

As we began, Bob shared that he had been thinking about what he wanted to share and had written out a few notes. He started by recounting that at the time the VCHSF began there really were not any other Foundations in Ord. Barb Weems, the first Foundation Director, had asked him if he might be interested in being part of a hospital foundation board and of course, he said yes.

He said in the beginning they had many meetings with a variety of different groups, including the Good Samaritan Foundation from Kearney and CCC Foundation. Back at that time things were very different at Valley County Hospital. As Bob put it, the administrator door almost seemed to rotate and at times they only had maybe half a day of operating revenue.  It is amazing how those times have changed due to the hard and diligent work of so many.

Bob went on to tell me that the first of the Foundation meetings were held at the Ord Methodist Church. He said the group of board volunteers truly took things one day/meeting at a time. Slowly forming needed committees, such as an Investment Committee.

As the group began their work, they knew that some big asks and gifts were going to be needed to keep our hospital running. Bob recalls finding out that the hospital desperately needed a new computer system. He got on the phone and called Mr. Alfred Burson to explain the situation and see if Alfred may be able to help. Alfred asked Bob, “Well, what do you need?”...what a giving spirit he must have had. Through Alfred and Irma Burson’s generous gift of appreciated stock, the hospital received a gift of $104,000 for the desperately needed upgrade to the computer system. Today the VCHS Clinic is in need of an upgrade to their current computer system and while the need is even more present and vital to the clinic the cost has increased exponentially, to now over $400,000.

Alfred Burson was one of the original Foundation board members when it formed in 1990. In a quote from 1992, this was said about the Burson’s “They’ve dedicated their lives with service to the community of Ord through supporting various community projects. This gift is one further example of their generosity through services and financial support.”

Alfred and Irma provided a fine example through their service and generosity in the community and gave a gift that kept on giving.

Bob and I went on to discuss other giving and caring donors who truly stepped up to meet critical needs at VCHS, which allowed them to keep their doors open and the equipment running. Bob had many stories about community members and physicians sharing their thanks for the equipment needs that the Foundation helped meet during those early years.  He told me stories about people thanking him and Foundation supporters for giving to purchase much-needed items/equipment for the hospital, such as an x-ray machine and defibrillator that helped to save lives.

Bob shared that people need to realize that their donations truly matter, they make a difference, and sometimes save lives…isn’t that worth giving to! We are always thankful for the donors who help us make these things possible.

As our conversation continued, Bob went on to share some of his personal stories with his family and VCHS.  These stories stirred up quite a few emotions for Bob that he said he didn’t realize were still there, but I can tell you that when it comes to our family members and their health/lives…it matters deeply. He shared stories about three of his children needing life-saving care and how grateful he will always be for VCHS having been there during those times.

We spoke about the changes over the years and Bob told me how he enjoys the Foundation Gala and the celebration it has developed into.  He said he really appreciates seeing the younger generation getting involved and learning how they can make a difference no matter their age.

When I asked Bob what he felt needs to be done to ensure another successful 30 years, he said that more focus needs to be placed back on planned giving, and honestly I couldn’t agree more. This is why we have been focusing on growing our Legacy Society as of recent and we hope more people will take a step to join us in planning for the future.

Overall, our conversation stirred up many memories of highs and lows, but it always brought us back to making a difference, celebrating our donors, our amazing community, and giving back.

My hope is as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the VCHS Foundation, each community member might reflect on what this community would look like without VCHS and then make a decision to be a difference-maker for the future.  I truly believe without our hospital, this community would slowly fade, and that to me is just one small reason why everyone’s support matters. Whether it is a $1, $10, $100, $1000, a percentage designation on a life insurance policy, gift of stock, estate designation of a dollar/percentage, etc., it ALL matters and can make an impact, as well as save lives.

One thing is for certain, when you support VCHS you support the health and future of your community.   


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Pictured(L-R): Alfred Burson, Bob Stowell