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Stepping outside Beacon to connect and collaborate with future leaders of our communities

Six Beacon Health System leaders spent the past year immersed in community leadership programs. Leadership South Bend | Mishawaka and the Elkhart Leadership Academy offer emerging leaders across businesses and industries the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their personal leadership skills and styles, to explore our communities and to meet, network and collaborate with other future community leaders.

Each leader shares his or her unique experience and takeaways below, including details about their community projects.

Connor Creevey, MBA
Human Resources Business Partner
Elkhart General Hospital

I am extremely grateful for the nomination to join Leadership South Bend-Mishawaka Signature Class 48. I found it to be incredibly valuable as we joined fellow leaders from the area to collaborate on ways to improve the overall health of our community. Leadership South Bend allows leaders to learn about the needs in our community and put plans in place to address those needs. Seeing a group of like-minded individuals come together for the collective good of our area was energizing and insightful.

For the community project, my group partnered with therapeutic horseback riding nonprofit Reins of Life. Reins of Life’s goal is to increase organization recognition, increase exposure and promote the gamut of their life-changing programs. We plan to create a unique ‘moving billboard’ utilizing their horse trailers to spark interest, awareness and gain brand recognition. Reins of Life’s mission made such an impact on me that I have recently joined its Board of Directors.

The lessons I learned from the ‘Leadership Days’ will help me continue to be a servant leader within Beacon. This program made it clear that the best way to work together is to form genuine relationships with your teammates and always be open and willing to help by being accountable, dependable and working passionately toward a common goal.

Kim Greising, RN, BSN, MBA-HC
Nursing Director of Oncology,
Palliative Care, VAT, Chaplains, ICC and PCU
Elkhart General Hospital

I gained so much knowledge about my community in the Elkhart Leadership Academy, including how integral it is to have a vibrant Chamber of Commerce to support small businesses, provide networking and enhance public relations by being the vector to creating healthy relationships within the community. We took outings to places I’ve never been, such as the Ruthmere Museum and the Midwest Museum of Art. We learned about the programs our Elkhart Area Career Center offers students. I had no idea the Lerner Theater has a basement where Premiere Arts inspires creative spirits. We practiced our own creative talents by creating a commercial to sell a random product and present it to our peers. We talked about conflict resolution, making ethical decisions, how to communicate and deliver messages and how to perform a live interview with a reporter.

It also served a greater purpose to engage our team to help support a nonprofit organization either get kick-started or provide a specific need that it was unable to accomplish on its own. Our team chose the DW Victims Advocacy Center, founded by Shannon Warfield, who lost her stepson to a violent crime. Its purpose is to provide victims and families with the emotional, physical and financial support needed in the aftermath of trauma. We wanted to help raise awareness of this newer non-profit, connect members with other local non-profits and provide funds to assist in training volunteers. We accomplished these goals and raised well over $24,000 in our short eight months of working with them. It opened my eyes to how generous our community is to support a great non-profit.

The relationships I have developed with other leaders who went through this journey with me are probably the most valuable aspect I came away with. I learned what it takes to create a vibrant, thriving community — many people with great visions and a willingness to work hard to achieve it. I hope to enhance the knowledge I gained through this experience by serving on a board soon, applying the personality styles within my work teams and encouraging other leaders at Beacon to consider this amazing opportunity.

Molly Kelly, MBA, BSN, RN
Executive Director of Retail Operations
Beacon Granger Hospital, MedPoint Urgent Care
and Beacon Outpatient Imaging

Being a part of Leadership South Bend-Mishawaka Class 48 has been a great experience. There have been many opportunities to learn about our community and the different challenges, highlights, and successes. We learned about the history of both South Bend and Mishawaka. We were able to tour the old Studebaker building that has now become an amazing office and educational space. We learned about local Native American and African American history, which was extremely enlightening. We also heard from our local politicians, educators, and community crime fighters.

Exposure to all of these areas of local concern was very fulfilling, however the most valuable part of the program was meeting other amazing and inspiring leaders from our area. The relationships made and the connections made in the community will be the greatest takeaway from this program. During the program, we were broken into groups based on our personality assessments. The group project was a valuable experience because of the service we were able to provide to our community and the relationships we’ve made with our group members.

My group partnered with the nonprofit Mental Health Awareness of Michiana and put on a local film festival to help “Smash the Stigma” of mental illness. This was a first-annual film festival for MHAM and we’ve helped create an event that they can carry on for years to come. “Smashing the Stigma” also helped carry out their mission of mental health awareness to the community. The biggest takeaways from the program include community connections and further understanding of the different backgrounds and experiences people come with and ultimately being able to work better among diverse teams.

Gretchen Neeser, PHR, SHRM-CP
Senior Client Services Consultant
Beacon Corporate Services

I will have many takeaways from my Elkhart Leadership Academy experience. The most valuable will be how I better understand the dynamics of people working together in groups. Once upon a long time ago, in college, I had a double major in business administration and sociology, so it’s not surprising that I’m zeroing in on people working in groups.

The Elkhart Leadership Academy has made me more comfortable operating outside of my comfort zone, especially speaking in front of groups. The connections I’ve formed, both within Beacon and throughout the community, are of great value to me as well. We have already had new occupational health employer partnerships formed through these connections.

My team partnered with Five Star Life, which has a mission “to change the face of culture by changing the mindsets of kids.” In addition to creating and providing programing to schools, Five Star Life has a property in Union, Mich. called “Summit.” Summit is a camp with many experiences that the Five Star team uses to teach kids the values of respect, responsibility, integrity, sacrifice and courage. In April, we held the “Amazing Race at Summit.” Adults throughout the community helped us raise money to build a mini barn farm experience, while we tested their strategizing skills and encouraged them to push themselves out of their comfort zones on challenges. These challenges included rock wall climbing, a high ropes course, boating, target sports, equine and a Five Star improvement project. Our team exceeded our fundraising goal.

Mark Oyer, MBA
Executive Director of Information Technology
Beacon Health System

Making connections, learning and working with others were the best parts of the Elkhart Leadership Academy for me. Being able to meet many people in the community I wouldn’t otherwise have connected with, from diverse industries — community, business, education, government — was an amazing opportunity. Working in a team with a nonprofit also afforded me the opportunity to grow in different areas I’m less accustomed to working in, such as fundraising and marketing.

My team’s community project focused on the Council on Aging of Elkhart County and helping them with their marketing and brand awareness in addition to fundraising. The Council on Aging is a nonprofit organization that helps seniors remain in their homes as long as they are healthy. The most significant service they provide is transportation, when their clients wouldn’t otherwise be able to drive themselves or have someone to take them. Other services include homemaking, respite care, tax preparation, and Medicare counseling.  Part of our team focused on helping with marketing material design and distribution, both physical and on social media.  The rest of us focused on fundraising efforts through donor requests, several restaurant give back nights, and a larger event at Five Star Dive Bar in downtown Elkhart.  In total, we helped drive the Council on Aging’s Facebook engaged user count 17-fold over eight months and raised more than $37,000 for the organization.

In addition to gaining confidence and growing skill sets, another topic that stands out to me is learning more about various personality types.  A personality assessment was a theme that ran the entire 9-month program, and when we were formed into smaller teams without any assigned roles, it was fun to watch different personalities use their strengths to help the group move forward toward our goals. It took everyone using their unique gifts to accomplish all that we did.

Heidi Prescott, MLS
Director of Corporate Communications
Beacon Health System

Participating in Leadership South Bend | Mishawaka exceeded every expectation I had. In every way possible.

We didn’t just learn about leadership from a book, we uncovered our strengths and weaknesses together in conversation and practice, and we identified new ways we can guide and inspire our teams. We didn’t just explore our communities, we heard from leaders across our region who helped us discover ways we can lean in and better our communities in small but significant ways. And we didn’t just meet and network with other community leaders, we became friends and partners in our efforts to make a difference to those in need.

All of this took a great deal of vulnerability, honesty and courage. It wasn’t always easy. But our efforts and collaboration made us all stronger, more self-aware and absolutely more confident about what we can do when we work together. Talk about awesome.

My project team comprised an attorney, accountant, community banker, women’s services director, development director and a director of communications (me). We assisted the South Bend Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to help educate high school students about an alternative to a traditional college education: the trades. Our team identified and interviewed a variety of area tradesmen and tradeswomen on camera and we created impactful videos and social media posts that the Chamber will use on its website and at events. Hearing the gratitude from those in the trades for giving them a voice and sharing their stories made the project that much more meaningful, especially for this storyteller.

About Jeff Parrott

Parrott is media relations specialist for Beacon Health System. Before taking that role, Parrott worked as a reporter for 25 years at several Indiana and Michigan newspapers. When he isn’t telling the world about Beacon’s incredible associates, he enjoys watching sports, attempting DIY home improvement projects and spending time with his wife and children.