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These award recipients fill people's lives with joy

Cary Ashby • Dec 25, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Dusty Wilhelm has a gift for remembering his customer’s coffee orders.

His strong work ethic at Mercy Health-Willard Hospital and the joy he takes in socializing gave him the honor of the Ernest “Ernie” Stow Community Employment Memorial Award.

Wilhlem fills the vending machines in the hospital kitchen and provides customer service.

“I like to work in the food line. I like people — socializing,” he said.

On Mondays, he works at the Higher Grounds coffee shop. Wilhem has worked at Mercy since October 2015.

“Dusty remembers how you like your coffee. Basically, he asks if it’s your usual,” said Beth Fox, executive assistant to the CEO at Mercy. “He’s just a treasure.”

Also honored during the annual Christmas party Friday at CLI Inc. (Christie Lane Industries) was Jeff “Woody” Woodruff, who received the Mary Christian Good Friend Award. Named for the late Mary Christian, who died in May 2010 and was known for being “a kind, good-hearted person,” the award goes to someone with a great personality who loves music and looks out for others.

Christian’s brothers and their wives, all of Norwalk, were at CLI for Woodruff to receive a new stereo system. Her family remembered she wore out many transistor radios over the years, so they put a picture of one on her gravestone.

Since Mary’s death, the Christian family has donated money to a restricted account for the award recipients.

Woodruff, who enjoys listening to The Beach Boys, also collects motorcycle shirts and hats.

“He loves music. … He likes just about any kind of music,” said Woodruff’s father, John. “He’s got at least 300 of each (cassettes and CDs).

“He’s probably been doing it for 15 years,” his father said. 

Holly Binkley, CLI non-vocational program manager, honored Woodruff at Friday’s party. She said he always has a smile and jovial attitude, making sure people always have an “awesome day,” just as Christian did.

“His laugh is contagious,” Binkley added.

CLI CEO John Schwartz, when honoring Wilhelm, said it takes courage for the CLI clients to work in the community and leave their friends for part of the day.

“Ernie was a really funny guy. He always worked really hard,” Schwartz about Stow.

Beth Phillips, Mercy’s team lead for nutrition services, shared a little about Wilhelm, who received the annual award named for Stow.

“Everybody loves him. Everybody loves working with him,” she said. “The customers love him.

“Even his corny jokes,” Phillips added. “Just about every day he tells a corny joke.”

“What I know about Dusty is he’s always in a good mood and always has a smile on his face,” said Audrey Ginter, manager of the Mercy foundation. “He’s just a joy.”

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