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A family gift that keeps on giving

Harold and Betty Fenske’s family Tom Ries (son-in-law), Sandy Fenske (daughter) and Lynn Ries (daughter) met with Andy Reeves, MD, and NUMC Foundation director Missy Dreckman to make a donation in their parents’ name to the New Ulm Medical Center Neurology Center.

New Ulm Medical Center’s future looks bright thanks to an influential gift from a generous family.

A $50,000 donation to expand the Neurology Center was made by the Fenske family. This donation was given in Harold and Betty Fenskes’ name. Harold Fenske was a long-time health care leader in New Ulm.

“This gift will really help the Neurology Center to flourish,” said Missy Dreckman, executive director, New Ulm Medical Center Foundation. As a close acquaintance to the Fenske family, Dreckman played a big role helping the family plan a meaningful donation.

Earlier this year, New Ulm Medical Center launched a strategic plan to examine areas that needed attention within the center. It was decided that the best way to conquer this plan was through philanthropic support. One of the areas on the list was the Neurology Department.

After considering the future of the neurology program and talking with Andrew Reeves, MD, a neurologist at New Ulm Medical Center, it was determined that $50,000 of financial support was needed to make necessary improvements.

“In New Ulm, we’re grateful for any donation, no matter how small, but we could have never expected something like the Fenske family’s gift,” said Dreckman.

The Fenske family had reached out to Dreckman earlier this year with a generous proposal. Harold Fenske passed away in 2014 and when his wife, Betty, passed away last year, the family decided they would look for a meaningful place to donate their funds.

The Fenske family already had a preference for where the money would go. They wanted to continue to support New Ulm Medical Center, which wouldn’t be where it was today without Harold Fenske’s help.

In 1979, no one could have predicted how instrumental Harold Fenske would be in influencing New Ulm’s future. As a hospital administrator, he played a crucial role in merging two of New Ulm’s small hospitals into one–forming the current New Ulm Medical Center.

Even though this essentially meant working himself out of a job once the merger was complete, Fenske’s dedication and passion for bringing success to New Ulm helped solidify the merger.

The Fenske family reached out to Dreckman in hopes of following in Harold’s footsteps. What began as an $18,000 donation for a possible scholarship in his name, turned into a $50,000 donation, fully funding the neurology expansion plan. The gift’s purpose is close to the Fenske family’s heart.

In 2012, Harold Fenske had been awarded the Legend Award through New Ulm Medical Center for all his hard work to strengthen the facility and community. However, Fenske was diagnosed with dementia and passed shortly after the Legend Award banquet.

His struggle with dementia is one of the reasons the Fenske family felt moved to donate to the neurology program.

With this gift, New Ulm Medical Center can provide an extended amount of neurology services, some of which will go to helping dementia patients.

“We’re planning to do so many great things with the money,” said Dreckman. New Ulm Medical Center will welcome a new autonomics lab, electrocardiography (EKG) monitor, tilt table, portable electromyography (EMG) and much more, all thanks to the Fenske family.

With these new resources, New Ulm Medical Center will be able to offer full support for a variety of needs. This donation will help bring neurology services closer to home for many patients, along with the possibility to extend their care to other locations.

“With a portable EMG, our team will help with outreach in Windom and Faribault,” said Dreckman.

Reeves, along with Ken Benston, PA; neurodiagnostic technician Keith Davidson; and Erin Hansen, LPN, are taking these services on the road, visiting nursing homes and assisted-living residents who will now have access to better care thanks to the Fenske family.

“People having to travel to get these tests done just adds that much more of a burden,” said Dreckman. “With the Fenske family’s gift, this will no longer be a problem.”

Harold and Betty Fenske are survived by two daughters, Lynn and Sandy. Both had the chance to visit New Ulm Medical Center to see what it looks like today. The family was impressed with the care the New Ulm Medical Center neurology team provides to patients.

“We made quick bonds and connections. It’s really a beautiful opportunity for a relationship,” said Dreckman.

“It’s ground-breaking for New Ulm. There are so many great pieces to this story,” said Dreckman.

Thanks to the Fenske family’s dedication to New Ulm and their generous gift, the future of New Ulm Medical Center is on track for great success.

For more information about the Neurology Center at New Ulm Medical Center, visit allinahealth.org/numc-neurology. To learn how you can help the New Ulm Medical Center Foundation expand on what’s possible for our patients and community, please contact Dreckman at 507-217-5188 or visit our giving page at allinahealth\give.