Medical center accepts $750,000

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hormel Foundation Chairman Dick Knowlton shakes hands with Mayo Clinic Health SystemÑAustin CEO David Agerter Monday morning. The Hormel Foundation recently donated $750,000 to MCHSÑAustin's expansion project, set to begin in July. -- Trey Mewes/

Mayo Clinic Health System officials couldn’t ask for a better gift.

MCHS—Austin’s expansion fundraising campaign kicked off Monday with a $750,000 donation from the Hormel Foundation. MCHS—Austin (formerly Austin Medical Center) hopes to raise about $2.5 million for the $28.5 million expansion.

“Medicine is so important in our livelihood,” said Dick Knowlton, chairman of the foundation, during a press conference Monday. “Mayo has always been the first word here in Austin.”

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The hospital’s 86,500-square-foot, three-story expansion project is set to begin late July. Hospital officials expect the $28 million project to last 20-24 months, with most of the construction taking place in 2012, followed by remodeling in 2013.

The money will help create expanded services at the medical center, including a full service Eye Center and about 70 new jobs. The new facility will include expanded physical therapy, podiatry and other orthopedic medicine areas, too. MCHS—Austin officials hope the expansion is the first step to increasing community services, including expanded care plans.

“We come to you to take care of that special need,” said Dr. David Agerter, MCHS—Austin CEO.

Agerter said the Hormel Foundation and others who donate will be recognized at a later time.

The first private donor watched Monday’s press conference, proud that her donation could make a difference. Helen Gardner found a way to honor the memory of her husband Terrill, who died on Jan. 25 last year at the age of 69. Fifty-two of those years were spent married to Helen.

“I just thought he deserved something,” Helen said.

After looking for ways to use his memorial money for a good cause, Helen decided on MCHS—Austin to help others. Little did she know, hospital officials planned to start the campaign around the time she donated, a lucky coincidence.

A plaque bearing her and Terrill’s name sits at the entrance to the hospital, although it may get moved during the upcoming construction. Helen doesn’t mind, however. She doesn’t want to reveal how much she gave, as she doesn’t like to brag. She’s content knowing her actions will help others, something she knows Terrill would approve of.

“I’m just glad I could do something good and keep his memory alive,” Helen said.