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‘Field of Dreams’ helps make project a reality at Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s

‘Field of Dreams’ helps make project a reality at Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s
Tuesday, October 18, 2022


A field of crops just steps away from Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is moving the healthcare organization one step closer to its goal of building a new health and wellness center.

On Oct. 11, a combine driven by local farmer Brian Goihl whirred up and down the field, harvesting this year’s crop of soybeans that soon would be sold at market, with the proceeds of the bounty – estimated to be around $30,000 – going back to the hospital. That money will be added to the almost $3.4 million that’s already been raised as part of the $7 million wellness center project.

It’s an agricultural effort that’s been happening for the past 25 years on a 40-acre plot of land now affectionately known as Jake’s Field of Dreams. It’s named in honor of Jake Abbott, a long-time hospital and foundation board member who worked closely with the farming community to create the Field of Dreams concept.

As part of the effort, local companies donate the seed and fertilizer used on the field, then farmers like Goihl donate their time to prepare, plant and harvest the tract. Over time, money raised from the crops has gone toward building a new emergency room, expanding the operating room and lab, and building a new chapel at the Care Center on Shields Ave. Now, Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s has its sights set on the wellness center.

“It’s been a long-standing vision and dream of ours for years to be able to expand upon our rehab and wellness center services,” said Carla Theusch, rehabilitation services manager at Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s. “To be able to bring that up front to be accessible and visible to the community is just going to be a treat for everybody, especially the patients.”

Plans are to connect the 19,000-square-foot addition to the front of the existing facility. Doing so will allow Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s to bring its rehabilitation and therapy services out of the basement and into a more prominent location that’s easier for patients to access. The addition will also include a drive-thru pharmacy – the only one of its kind in Wabasha.

“Hopefully down the road, this can be our mini YMCA, which communities like this would never be able to build,” said Tom Crowley, director of the St. Elizabeth’s Community Development Foundation. “We’re hoping we can open this up to the public for a period of time when it’s not being used by our patients. That’s our hope and dream.”

Theusch said if all goes as planned and the funding is in place, they’ll break ground on the project in spring 2023. It’ll mark yet another investment in rural healthcare by Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s, just as the community has continued to invest in its hospital.

“The biggest thing is the community coming together to promote rural healthcare and sustain it, and to have care close to home is really what Wabasha has been about for our 125 years,” said Jim Root, administrator of Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s. “We’ve truly been blessed with that.”

Crowley added that over the past 15 years, the community has contributed more than $15 million toward various improvements at the hospital. Donors to this year's Field of Dreams project are Ag Partners Cooperative, Cardinal Health, Feils Oil Company, Gene Marx, John Marx, Tony Wallerich, Ron Wallerich, Abby Myren, Brian Goihl, John Klees, Brunner Seed Co., Bob Shanks with Minnesota Ag Group, Bob Kohner, Riverview Cemetery, Gary Kennebeck, Interstate Disposal and Starwave Productions.

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