Winters Healthcare hailed as 2021 winner

Winters Healthcare Foundation staff members prepare COVID-19 vaccines for community drive-through COVID-19 testing. (Courtesy photo)

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The Winters Healthcare Foundation has been dubbed the 2021 Business of the Year. With so many other great businesses in town, Winters Healthcare stood out with its exhaustive, around-the-clock efforts to keep the town safe in a year plagued with COVID calamities.

Beginning as a nonprofit in 2000, Winters Healthcare officially became a federally qualified health center in 2005. Since then, this community-centric business has been on a mission to provide compassionate care, improve lives and inspire health. Since March of 2020, however, Winters Healthcare’s mission has seemed more like Mission: Impossible.

“If you don’t get Business of the Year in a pandemic, something’s going wrong,” Executive Director Chris Kelsch joked about their efforts that secured Winters Healthcare as Business of the Year. “We started doing community vaccinations, contacting local businesses, then the mass vaccinations that happened at St. Anthony’s with full community support. We did testing for COVID as well, making our services available to the community as efficient as possible.”

Of course, one could argue that providing care for the community is the purpose of a healthcare center, and the efforts of its staff are simply part of the job. Be that as-it may, one’s job usually doesn’t require fighting against a pandemic for two years straight in literal, all-hands-on-deck efforts to vaccinate and/or test an entire town.

“Our organization is really just people serving people. We have a young staff, [and] an experienced staff and the pandemic just got handed to us. The staff jumped in and said, ‘we’re owning this, and this is how we’ll make a difference.’” Kelsch said praising his staff, quelling any notion of Winters Healthcare settling for bare minimum efforts. “They were doing this while dealing with the pandemic in their own lives. I’m just appreciative and honored by the staff. It was a group effort and everybody was playing a part.”

By “everybody,” Kelsch is referring to everyone from the dental staff to behavioral experts and administrative staff. Everybody at Winters Healthcare pitched in on vaccination clinic and testing days.

To Kelsch, perhaps the most memorable aspect of such a health-horrid year was the love and support his team received not just from the citizens, but other businesses as well.

“When we decided to do the community vaccination at St. Anthony’s, we didn’t ask for help, but other businesses from Turkovich Wines to Buckhorn said ‘Hey, we’re going to help bring food and wine for your volunteers after the clinic,’” Kelsch lauded the help from fellow businesses. “People would roll down their windows and have signs that said, ‘thank you.’ They would tell us we gave them peace of mind and that’s so rewarding knowing we’ve made a difference.”

Now in 2022, Winters Healthcare will continue their healthcare journey by opening a pharmacy in their location sometime in February or March. The journey won’t stop there, as a new healthcare site will open in the Capay Valley.

After such a difficult year, Winters Healthcare proved they mirror the I-got-your-back mentality that Winters neighbors share with one another.

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