Nurse honored for AIDS assistance
Thursday, May 27, 2004
By Kym Reinstadler
The Grand Rapids Press
HOLLAND -- Directing Ottawa County's Office of Communicable Diseases for 34 years brought JoAnn Lemmen into contact with people whose illnesses left them ostracized, stigmatized and marginalized.
Helping these people became the registered nurse's calling.
Lemmen's contributions were celebrated Wednesday as she was presented a Community Care Award by the Holland Community Hospital Foundation at its annual luncheon held at the Haworth Center.
Ottawa County's first AIDS case was diagnosed in 1983, when there was little understanding about how the disease was contracted, Lemmen said. People erred on the side of caution and shunned AIDS patients.
Lemmen became active in Terry's Fund, a program named in honor of a local AIDS patient. The fund provided emergency living expenses, transportation medication and health-care services to Ottawa County households impacted by the virus.
Lemmen retired from the Ottawa County Health Department but continues to lend a helping hand and an open heart to 50 AIDS patients, who are between the ages of 5 and 65.
Some are physically unable to continue working and become homeless. That sparked Lemmen's volunteer work at the Holland Rescue Mission.
She has written health-care policies for the shelter and developed health-education programs for the residents.
Lemmen endeavors to stay in touch with them even as they get back on their feet and leave the mission. She makes sure their utility bills are paid and there is food in the cupboard. Beyond that, she stays by their side when they need a friend.
Two other organizations also were recognized for their contributions to improving community heath: The Holland Free Medication Clinic at Faith Church and Holland Pediatric Associates, which helped develop "Committed to Kids," a pilot program to combat childhood obesity.