‘I’ve been here a few years:’ Reid Health employee marks milestone
She has what is likely the most recognized smile in the entire Reid Health system. She has welcomed thousands of employees and potential employees in person and talked to thousands more on the phone.
marks 50 years at Reid Aug. 24 as one of the most well-known faces of Reid --
and its longest-term employee. She's also worked in the same role as Human
Resources secretary since she was hired a few months after graduation from
Centerville High School in 1970.
"My junior and
senior year, I asked all my teachers to train me to be a good secretary.
Everyone knew I wanted to be a good secretary," she says. Five decades later,
it clearly worked.
She's seen her
department grow from five people to 17, and the Reid Health team grow from about
700 to 3,500. She's witnessed the demolition of the building she was born in
and the construction and move to a new campus.
She started in
"Personnel" using a manual typewriter before transitioning to electric versions
and finally computers. She laughs about the switch to "Human Resources"
somewhere along the way. Because people weren't used to the new name, they
liked to joke and call it "Human Racehorses."
started, the department was on the second floor of the original 1905 Reid
Memorial Hospital - also known as the "A" building. Applicants sat in what were
like school desks lining the hall to fill out paper applications. When her high
school counselor drove her to her first interview, she was only 17. She
couldn't start the job until August after she turned 18.
used "a lot of carbon paper" and at one point, the hospital had only one
photocopier. She had to fill out an order to have copies made, drop it off and
wait to pick it up - a far cry from today's army of printers used throughout
the health system, she says.
"There's a new person in front of me constantly. You never know when that phone rings what kind of request you are going to have. It's definitely never boring." -- Donna Allen
"I've never held
another job," she says. "It's always been secretary. Other positions are always
available, but I didn't see an advantage to moving to another position and
enjoying it any more than I do this job. There's a new person in front of me
constantly. You never know when that phone rings what kind of request you are
going to have. It's definitely never boring."
Allen has many
special memories over the years. "One of the things I enjoyed tremendously was
getting to walk around on payday and distribute the payroll," she recalls.
Everyone was always glad to see her coming, she said smiling. When she first
began doing that, she'd receive the checks in envelopes that were not sealed.
"I started licking them. Someone saw me and said, Donna, we have a machine that
will do that!"
moment was in the new café in Leeds Tower. On Fridays, they offered a seafood
special, and she'd never eaten fried shrimp. The special included fish, shrimp,
fried clams, French fries and coleslaw. "The first time I ordered that, I
thought it was wonderful. When I got done, someone said 'where are your shrimp
tails?' I ate the shrimp tails because I didn't know any better."
She was also
asked to take a DOS computer class years ago during the move to computerization.
She found that somewhat challenging, and really appreciates today's Reid Health
Help Desk. "I'm so grateful we have a Help Desk," she says. "Help is only a
phone call away. We have a great staff, and I tell them that all the time."
As she shares
her stories, she flashes her trademark smile often. Her easy smile and warm
voice has been recognized by many over the years. She calms nervous applicants
and new employees. She sometimes offers to share from her supply of tea. "I
love hot tea. Over the years, I have enjoyed sharing my tea with coworkers and
visitors who come in."
Ambassador of the month in 1974 and the Richmond Wayne County Chamber honored
her in 2009 with a customer service award. Those were great honors, but another
memory may be even more special for her. "I got to meet John Boy Walton
(Richard Thomas) in 2013 when he visited Reid."
Her duties have
changed over the years. In addition to handling phones, walk-ins and
secretarial support for a much larger department, she keeps up with name badges
-- ordering and receiving anywhere from 40 to 90 of them weekly.
employee told her she was "non-threatening" and that they felt comfortable
"coming to her with a question about anything." She took that as a great
compliment, though she quickly wanted to be sure no one thought anyone else
around her is threatening.
the years she also heard a secretary described as a "secret-keeper." She took
that to mean someone who can be trusted with valuable information knowing it
would not be shared.
"I feel like I
have three families. I have my personal family, I have my work family, and I
have my church family. I have been blessed with three families in my lifetime."
shares with new or potential employees about Reid Health being a great place to
work. "I tell applicants that several times a day." Another smile. "And I tell
them I have been here a few years."