Rural Health Initiative Receives $60,000 Grant

Leopolis Farmer Sows Seeds of Support for Healthcare in Shawano County

The Rural Health Initiative in Shawano County received a $60,000 grant from the Harold E. Pevonka Trust and has the opportunity to receive an additional $60,000 through a community match.

Pevonka, a Leopolis farmer, never married or had children. Attorney Jim Ashenbrenner, who administers the trust, directed him to use some of his funds to support organizations focused on improving heart health and that the Rural Health Initiative, which brings healthcare directly to farmers, is a great fit. 

“Since this is a community-supported program, the donations we receive will be doubled. It’s exciting to have an estate from a local rural person help support the initiative,” said Rhonda Strebel, the executive director for the Rural Health Initiative. “If we get the full $120,000, it will cover our two-year budget in Shawano, allowing us to do even more to help local farmers. We’re grateful for the financial legacy and support Mr. Pevonka left behind.”

In 2003, ThedaCare and Shawano Medical Center launched the Rural Health Initiative in Shawano County in partnership with the county extension service, the county public health department, and local schools, with regional agribusiness collaborative and financial partners. In 2012, the Rural Health Initiative was one of five programs to win a national award from the American Hospital Association that focuses on community health.

Strebel said the idea for the Rural Health Initiative came from farmers and their families. “Farmers tend to be isolated and everyone comes to them – the milk truck, the vet, suppliers and more – so it just made sense to go to them,” she said. “Farmers are busy and many of them are committed to their work that they don’t always think about their own health.”

In Shawano County, the Rural Health Initiative nurse visits about 40 percent of the county’s farmers – about 330 families – right at their homes. She conducts health risk assessments, including blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, to help identify possible health issues and also discusses preventative health issues and safety. The nurse can answer questions and provide referrals to physicians, if necessary.

People interested in helping the Rural Health Initiative reach its match can send donations to the Rural Health Initiative Fund, 100 County Road B, Shawano, WI 54166. The organization is a 501c3 and donations are tax deductible and they also have a fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

In addition to serving farmers in Shawano County, the Rural Health Initiative serves farm families in Outagamie and Waupaca counties and is in the process of expanding into Marathon County. The funds from Pevonka’s estate and the matching grant are restricted for use in Shawano County. For more information about the Rural Health Initiative, please visit www.wiruralhealth.org.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees.