OGDEN -- Sally Jones is the only person Lisa Nichols knows of who gives gifts to others when she should be the one being celebrated.
Nichols, the executive director at Midtown Community Health Center, said when Jones retired as community projects coordinator at McKay-Dee Hospital earlier this year, she gave Nichols a gift. She also gives her husband a gift every year on her birthday.
"She is selfless. Always promoting, thanking and supporting others," Nichols said. "She deserves an enormous amount of credit for improving access to health care for our community residents, but she always shifts credit to others. She has been a vital part of this community. I believe she serves on 20-plus committees and boards."
Ashly Fusselman agrees. While attending Weber State University, Fusselman taught elementary school children about health issues. Jones was her adviser.
"She was really kind and intelligent and helped me a great deal," she said. "She even took an interest in me as an individual and wanted to see me succeed. Even when I finished the program she wrote me letters of recommendation and kept in touch with me. I consider her a friend. I even invited her to my wedding, and she came."
Jones has a long history with McKay-Dee Hospital that started with her birth at Dee Memorial Hospital. When she was a little girl, her grandparents lived across the street from the hospital and would take her over to get a malt.
"I would wait to see if a nurse would come in, and I would make sure that I positioned myself by the nurse," Jones said. "While I didn't know a lot about them, I knew that they helped people. I wanted to be a nurse or at least work at that hospital."
That's exactly what she did. In 1974, she began working at McKay-Dee Hospital as a unit secretary on the surgical floor and then moved to the newborn intensive care unit. After a few years, she began managing day-to-day operations for the NICU follow-up clinic.
Her supervisor told her to go to college so she could continue to do more things at the hospital. She did. That degree led to the child life specialist position she held for years at the hospital.
"I absolutely love child life. It's the best job in the hospital. The entire goal of child life is to ensure that the child's development and psycho-social needs are met, in addition to providing needed education for the family," Jones said. "One of my favorite memories was a 4-year-old boy who had broken his leg and was in traction. I went in one morning and said, 'Well Bud, what do you want to do this morning?' and he answered, 'Let's get a deck of cards, a couple of root beers and me and you are going to do the Boot Scootin' Boogie.' I still laugh about this kid."
As she worked with children, Jones would see many who had not entered kindergarten because their parents could not afford to get them the medical services they needed to enter school. She also saw children who could have avoided a hospital visit if their parents had known how to appropriately access health care.
Jones and her boss sat down and discussed the concept of a health fair for children. Together with the Junior League of Ogden and Midtown Community Health Center, the Children's Health Connection was born. At this yearly two-day event, low-income children are given health and dental exams. Hundreds of volunteers, including doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, translators and dental hygienists are involved. In addition, children receive a free haircut, a book, socks and underwear.
"The first year CHC served 600 children. We thought we had hit the mother lode," Jones said. "Now we see over 2,000 each year and ensure they have the opportunity for follow-up care. The CHC does not belong to any one agency though. It belongs to the community and the agencies that have all come together to collaborate on the process that improves the health of the children."
Jones said the first year, a little boy named Sergio had a tumor behind his ear. He would have gone deaf if it hadn't been found at the event. A few years ago a little girl was discovered to be in kidney failure. Jones said the family was not aware of her problem and CHC probably saved her life.
From the Children's Health Connection came the Women's Health Connection. During this annual event, 500 uninsured women are given exams.
Jones also helped to create Northern Utah Hold-On, Persuade and Empower, a task force that addresses suicide in the community, and right before she decided to retire, she was asked to sit on a committee that will be addressing access to mental health for school children.
"There is nothing more rewarding than presenting an issue to a group of can-do people and watching the ideas flow and the resources come together," she said. "We live in a wonderful community. The community gets the credit for the projects and processes I have been involved in.
"The people of Ogden and surrounding areas care about their neighbors. They want life to be better for their neighbors and especially the children. If I want to pay God back for the blessings I have received, I need to leave the day better than I found it. I love the concept of paying it forward."