There’s been a lot of change at KVH over the years. That’s just one reason why it’s nice to have a familiar face in the newly created position of Hospital Gift Shop Lead.
"I love working for KVH" are words that come unprompted from employee Jonna Hiner, who for 14 years was a fixture in the hospital kitchen, where she created swoon-worthy soups and baked goods. And while Hiner professes a life-long love of cooking, she admits, "I never made a homemade soup until I started in the hospital kitchen."
The oldest of three children, Hiner’s lived most of her life in Kittitas County. She was 24 when she first met her biological father, a former Army chef. "We had a lot in common that I hadn’t even realized," says Hiner. Closer to home, her stepfather - a pre-med student who switched to history while in college - was a high school teacher in Cle Elum. "His mantra was ‘you’re never too old to learn,’" recalls Hiner. "It’s a personal philosophy he ingrained in me."
There’s much to learn in her new role, and Hiner will have plenty to keep her busy, including product buying, financial recordkeeping, and supervision of gift shop volunteers. "This is a brand new position," clarifies Hiner, who has been working closely with Human Resources Director Carrie Youngblood and Volunteer Services Director Karen Schock as things at the gift shop continue to take shape. "We’re kind of on the ground floor. We’re all learning together, which is really exciting to me."
While the arrangement is new, the gift shop has been an integral part of KVH Hospital for decades. Until this summer, it was overseen by the KVH Auxiliary, a volunteer group which Schock recently described as "small, but mighty." The product of some six local hospital guilds that preceded it, the auxiliary served as a faithful and often under-the-radar supporter of local healthcare efforts until last month when it formally announced its intentions to disband.
"KVH has been wonderful. We didn’t want to see this end," says Pam Daly, an Auxiliary member since 1985 who, like fellow member Bev Kearns, joined the group out of a desire to help people. But with only a handful of names left on its roster, the auxiliary began winding down its activities last spring and asked KVH to take over the gift shop and the adjoining espresso stand. KVH agreed.
Even after disbanding, Auxiliary members wear their service with pride. As well they should. Among their accomplishments: over $228,000 raised and donated to help pay for equipment, training, furnishings, and other healthcare "wish list" items. Scholarships in the amount of $45,000 have been awarded to 27 students in medical-related fields - and will continue to be awarded until reserves are exhausted. The Honorary Walkway, which winds through the Rose Garden on the south end of the hospital grounds, features bronze plaques in memory of loved ones.
As the auxiliary era comes to an end, it’s only fitting that the service-oriented group handed the gift shop’s reins to a life-long local who loves both her work and her family. Hiner’s husband Randy is an imaging technician at KVH Hospital. Plus, "I was in the delivery room for each of my grandkids’ births," she beams, her three children and four grandchildren all located in the Ellensburg community.
And while Hiner may not be donning an apron or hairnet in her newest role, she still enjoys nurturing workplace relationships old and new. "I’ve found a home away from home at KVH," she says warmly. "You become very close to people here. It’s a family."
And for the new gift shop manager, that’s a gift that keeps on giving.