by Joseph Zyble, Communications Manager, Upper Peninsula Association of Rural Health Services
The Northern Menominee Health Center in Spalding opened in 1985, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month.
For years prior to the opening of the facility, officials in area communities recognized a need for health care services closer to home. Located in rural northern Menominee County, Spalding is between Iron Mountain, which is about 30 miles to the west, and Escanaba, about 22 miles to the east.
Carol Beaudoin, one of the original members of the Northern Menominee Health Center Advisory Committee, was the area’s Community Action Agency worker in the early 1980s. Her job was to match people in need in the area with basic assistance and services that were available.
“I definitely knew there was a great need for something like this here. I worked mainly with low income people. Many people didn’t have cars, or the money for gas to travel to a doctor. There was a definite need, also for dental too,” she recalled during a recent interview.
In 1984, the committee approached the U.P. Association of Rural Health Services, Inc. (UPARHS), a Community Health Center, for help. UPARHS agreed to champion the effort and worked with the advisory committee performing research and attending hearings. It prepared grant requests and a health care plan specifically designed for the community and submitted them to the federal government. The first grant was awarded in the fall of 1984. The Northern Menominee Health Center was on its way to becoming a part of the U.P. Association of Rural Health Services, Inc.
At the start of the process, the committee looked at a number of sites and chose a location on U.S. 2 and 41, the main highway in the area.
“It was a big lot with a house and garage that was for sale. The owners were moving out of the area,” Beaudoin said.
A temporary, trailer-style building was placed on the property and used as a medical office, while plans were completed and construction begun on a new facility.
Dr. Michael Feltes, MD, was the first practitioner to serve at the Northern Menominee Health Center, providing primary medical care in the temporary facility.
A groundbreaking ceremony, titled a “Working Celebration,” was held December 7, 1985, to mark the beginning of the construction of the new facility. Congressman Bob Davis, State Representative Jim Connors and Sam Cohodas, chairman of the Board of the Michigan Financial Corporation, were among several officials to give remarks at the ceremony.
Barry Polzin Architects of Marquette was selected to design the facility. Polzin and his staff created an innovative design, incorporating both the house and garage that were already at the site. Sunrise Builders of Marquette was the contractor.
On August 10, 1986, a grand opening celebration was held at the newly constructed Northern Menominee Health Center to introduce it to the community. Eugenie Lewis, executive director of UPARHS at that time, led the ceremony. She recognized area residents, community officials, and board members for their “hundreds of hours of effort and energy expended,” noting that the health care center “would have only remained a dream it if was not for the enthusiasm shown by the communities in the northern Menominee area.”
“They supported the idea of a Community Health Center and held meetings, and wrote letters, for two years to convince doctors, legislators, and local government officials that their neighborhoods were in need of health services,” she said.
When the new facility opened its doors, dental and psychiatric services were added. Dr. Catherine Williams, MD, joined Dr. Feltes as a primary care provider. Dr. Douglas Henke, MD, provided obstetric and gynecological health care. Dr. Robert Haag, DDS, was the new health center’s dentist, and Dr. Michael Chan, MD, was the psychiatrist.
The original support staff included Barbara Sharkey, office manager; Joan Scheffler, licensed practical nurse; Leighann Getzloff, receptionist; Patti Phillips and Patty Gagne, dental assistants, and Dale Roszack, custodian.
The members of the Northern Menominee Health Center Advisory Board were Carol Beaudoin, Gerald Betters, Joyce Gennara, Erich Kedsch, John Kutha, Everett Leeseberg, Shirley Luchay, Wayne Miller, Betty Pepin, Norman Polfus, Barbara Schultz, Yvonne Sivula and Dorothy Spehar.
Cathy Mercier has been employed at the Northern Menominee Health Center since she began as a part-time transcriptionist in 1986. She has served as manager of the Health Center for the past 16 years. She said the facility remains a valuable resource in the area, and continues to adapt to meet the needs of the community.
“In recent years we’ve been able to add nutrition services, which has been a great addition. We recently purchased the former Northern Menominee Pharmacy that had been housed in our building for 21 years,” Mercier said. “Now we are looking forward to bringing mental health services back to our health center in the near future. There’s a huge demand for mental health services.”
Anniversary celebrations were held last week during National Health Center Week (August 8-14). The weeklong celebration included free bone density screenings and sleep disorder screenings offered in partnership with the Dickinson County Health Care System. On August 12, the Health Center held a 2.5-mile Family Fun Walk that drew over 100 participants, and the public was invited to an open house on August 13 to meet the Health Center’s new health care providers and pharmacy staff.
UPARHS also owns and operates health care facilities in Crystal Falls, Engadine, Ewen, Gwinn, Marquette, and Menominee.