CHC/SEK honors employees during annual awards ceremony 

Lori Lowrey, Coding Coordinator, is CHC/SEK’s first 20-year employee.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas recently recognized 117 employees who reached service milestones of five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years.  

During its annual employee service awards dinner, CHC/SEK’s Coding Coordinator Lori Lowrey was recognized as the organization’s first 20-year tenured employee.   

Lori joined CHC/SEK in December 2003, seven months after CHC/SEK officially opened its original clinic at 1700 N. Locust St., in Pittsburg.  

“We wouldn’t be here without you,” CHC/SEK CEO Krista Postai said. “You took a major leap of faith more than 20 years ago to join a health center in a trailer, a dental clinic in a closet at Wesley House, and a pediatrician’s office in Frontenac. Administration shared one large classroom on the second floor of the former Lincoln School.”   

Few knew what a Federally Qualified Health Center was during that time, including most insurance companies. On the other side of the bookcase, dividing office spaces, Krista remembered Lori’s difficulties as she tried to work with insurance companies.    

“Lori, you built a large part of the foundation on which we survived and thrived,” Krista said. “I personally want to thank you for your determination to figure out what an FQHC was and where it could go. And then to take us there. You overcame obstacles and embraced opportunities.”  

Lori doesn’t have a favorite memory –– she has thousands –– of feelings, accomplishments, pride, and gratitude.   

She thinks back to 2003 and all the hurdles everyone made it through. 

“I think about when we were ready to move into our beautiful building at 3011 (N. Michigan),” she reminisced. “I was the last person to leave the (old) building. I reflected on all that happened in that small room. When I leave this room, it [CHC/SEK] will be changed forever.”  

CHC/SEK started growing, services expanded, and more providers were available to care for patients.   

“It was like magic because whenever we needed something to happen, it was really good; it felt like it fell from the sky,” Lori said. “We had so much fun doing the hardest work that we’ve ever done in our lives. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to serve in every capacity that I have. Thank you all for all of the laughs, all of the hard work and all of the things we accomplished since we started.”  

A bench will be placed outside the John Parolo Education Center with a plaque that reads, “In recognition of Lori Lowery, CHC/SEK’s first 20-year employee, for your skill, compassion, kindness, and love.”  

This year’s Sheridan Award winner was also presented to Leanna Henson, who joined CHC/SEK in 2004 before retiring after almost 20 years.

The health center also annually presents a special recognition award, the Sheridan Award. The Sheridan Award, the highest honor bestowed by CHC/SEK, is given annually to individuals who embody the spirit of service personified by Mother Bernard Sheridan, who, in 1903, brought compassionate healthcare to the region. Her hospital was once on the same land as the CHC/SEK North clinic.    

This year’s Sheridan Award is presented to Leanna Henson, who joined CHC/SEK in December 2004 and went on to serve for almost 20 years before retiring. Among her many duties, she served as the office manager in CHC/SEK’s early behavioral health office located in Frontenac before the Pittsburg location at 3011 N. Michigan was completed.      

“This year’s honoree represents, as well as anyone ever, our core values of stewardship and excellence, dignity, and above all, kindness,” said Jason Wesco, President & Chief Strategy Officer. “She brought an incredible work ethic that helped shape our culture and had a sense of humor and orneriness that made those early days much easier to bear.”  

In her speech, Leanna reminisced about her beginnings at CHC/SEK, from papering the walls and cleaning duties.   

“When I came to the clinic in Frontenac, it was great …. Everything was wonderful, and I loved everybody I worked with,” she said. “Thank you so much.”  

Betsy Chappell, daughter of Dr. Jerry and Mrs. Norma Hamm.

In addition to celebrating employees, CHC/SEK also announced a new scholarship memorializing Dr. Jerry Hamm, who served on the CHC/SEK Board of Directors representing Montgomery County from 2015 to 2023. Dr. Hamm was instrumental in helping bring CHC/SEK services to Coffeyville and was always dedicated to improving the lives of the citizens in his community. The Dr. Jerry and Norma Hamm scholarship will be awarded to CHC/SEK staff and their dependents who are pursuing a healthcare-related degree or taking secondary healthcare-related courses.   

“They were so honored to be part of your wonderful organization, serving on the board for several years, to be part of connecting services to southeast Kansas residents, and to finally realize his own personal vision of connecting health services to education,” said Betsy Chappell, daughter of Dr. Jerry and Mrs. Norma Hamm. “They are smiling upon us right now, and they would be so proud to be part of facilitating these scholarship funds to support further education within their beloved home, the Coffeyville community, and the larger CHC community.”   

10-, 15-, and 20-Year Employees

  • 20-year employee
  • Lori Lowrey, Coding Coordinator, Pittsburg
  • 15-year employees
  • Elizabeth Wehlage, RDH, Iola Clinic
  • Alicia Norton, PharmD, Pittsburg
  • Jenna Mikrut, RN Pittsburg
  • Holley Forrest, Director of Operations, Pittsburg
  • 10-year employees
  • Kristy Jones, RN, Columbus
  • MaryAnn Howland, RDH, Iola
  • Lisa Wells, VP of Pharmacy, Pittsburg
  • Jeremiah Hagan, Dir. of Information Technology, Pittsburg
  • Cindy L. Smith, MA, Iola
  • Lynn Neal, Housekeeping Technician, Coffeyville
  • Margel Feland, RN, Miami, OK
  • Lenore Biby, LPN, Pittsburg
  • Ashlee Umphlett, RN Prescription Nurse Specialist, Pittsburg
  • Arianna Surendran, Clinical Documentation Analyst, Coffeyville
  • Mirna Peralta, RN, Pittsburg 
  • Heather Benham, EHR/IT Manager, Coffeyville
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