June 16, 2024

Fontanelle woman wins Caretaker of the Year

Denise Huddleson of Fontanelle was recently recognized on a national level for the dedication and caring she shows her patients every day on the job.

Leaders with Good Samaritan Society Fontanelle called Huddleson into a conference room recently. The reason for the meeting was that company leaders were on a video message to inform her that she had been named Caretaker of the Year for the company.

Huddleson and others traveled to Sioux Falls, where Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health are both based, and she received the award on stage at an awards banquet June 14.

Though she knew that one of the facility’s former interim directors of nursing nominated her for the award, she was very grateful to be chosen to receive it.

“My reaction was tears...I cried,” Huddleson said. “The head honchos were on the computer to tell me. All of our department heads were in that meeting. I was just very shocked. I was happy, but I had tears too.”

Huddleson began with Good Samaritan Society June 30, 1989, which made last Thursday her 33rd anniversary working at the facility. She is the Fontanelle location’s longest-tenured employee and has been a certified nursing assistant (CNA) since the beginning of her career. She is also a certified medicine aide (CMA), able to give residents their medicine.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was young, so I came here right out of high school and was working [evenings]. At that time, you could work for six months without being certified, then they sent me to SWCC in Creston and got my certification,” Huddleson said. “They then asked me to work overnights. We got along well, but then a day position became available. I took that, worked that for awhile, and then we switched to 12-hour shifts. It isn’t bad once you get used to it.”

Over time, Huddleson quickly became attached to the residents at Good Samaritan. She’s known for often taking extra shifts on her days off. She says working through the pandemic was very difficult, but was rewarding.

When Huddleson contracted the virus once, she was able to continue working by taking care of patients who also had COVID-19.

“During COVID it was rough, not only on us, but on them,” Huddleson said. “They didn’t get to see their loved ones. Luckily we got to see them. You just get close to them. We are like their second family or they are like our second family.”

Good Samaritan Society has more than 200 locations in 24 states and enjoys 19,000 people serving about 28,000 residents, its website said.

BJ Baskerville, administrator at Good Samaritan Society Fontanelle, said he’s extremely proud of Huddleson for receiving this honor.

“There are thousands of caregivers we have across the United States, so for one of our own here in Fontanelle to be recognized as Caregiver of the Year, it’s big in and of itself,” Baskerville said. “I’ve enjoyed working with Denise. Her story is a unique one for healthcare because she’s been working in the same position for 33 years in this community. It’s a testimony to her loyalty and commitment to this community and the residents here. It’s a great award and I’m very thankful for her and the years of service she’s given in this building.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.