One hundred years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society was started by Reverend August Hoeger in North Dakota. Another minister had been raising funds for a boy with polio and, when the fundraiser exceeded its goal by $2,000, Reverend Hoeger suggested using the money to help people with disabilities. The next year, he opened a home for people with mental and physical disabilities. Before long, Reverend Hoeger realized that the elderly were also in need of services and the Good Samaritan Society expanded to include that.
The Good Samaritan Society continued to grow and add new locations. In 1994, a new home health care program was opened in the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Preston. Vickie Lynch was working at the nursing home at the time and was approached by the administrator, Douglas Aretz, about starting a home care service. A patient at the nursing home was eager to go home, but they knew he would need some help to be able to do so. “He (Aretz) came down and said, I have a proposition for you. I want to start a home care facility,” Lynch explained. She was on board with the idea and so the ball began rolling. Lynch traveled to the Good Samaritan Society corporate office in the Twin Cities to learn how to write the policies for the program, but other than that, they were mostly on their own. “We learned as we went,” she said. “We spent a year getting all the ground work laid and making sure policies were in place.” Aretz obtained a state license for Good Samaritan Home Care and the program was Medicare certified as well. When the doors opened in 1994, the program, located in the basement of the Preston Good Samaritan Nursing Home, had only three employees, Lynch, social worker Stacey Every, and home health aide Cindy Locker.
Looking back, Lynch can see how much Good Samaritan Home Care has changed over the years. “It was very different then. We provided a lot of 24-hour nursing, pediatrics, etc. Now, our clients are mostly elderly.” Lynch said. “When we first started in 1994, everything was on paper. We didn’t have a computer. Now it’s all electronic.” When they got their first computer, which was basically a glorified word processor with no internet access, around 1999-2000, they had to figure out how to use it on their own. “Now we have consultants and people we can call anytime,” she said.
One of the biggest changes for Good Samaritan Home Care occurred when the nursing home closed in 2008. Lynch thought something was up when she was asked to join a staff meeting at the nursing home. “Usually we weren’t included in those meetings,” she said. When she walked into the room, she recognized some people from the Good Samaritan corporate office in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. and knew it wasn’t going to be good news. It was announced that the nursing home would be closing, but Home Care would stay open. That meant a move for Lynch and her staff as they would no longer be able to operate out of the basement of the nursing home. They ended up finding a home at 200 St. Paul St. SW in Preston, in Doctor Sauer’s old office. They had only four weeks to fix up the office space and move everything to their new location, but the employees all came together to make it happen.
In 2019, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society combined with Sanford Health which enabled it to expand its services even further. Good Samaritan Home Care in Preston serves Fillmore, Freeborn, Mower, Houston, southern Olmsted, and southern Winona counties. They offer home care services which includes things such as medication set-ups, wound care, medical care teaching, and occupational, physical, and speech therapy. Lynch explained that generally a referral will be received from the patient’s doctor and then a Good Samaritan nurse will visit the patient in their home to start the admission paperwork and determine what care is needed, with the doctor’s input. The nurse works closely with each of the clients to make sure that they get the best care possible. “We don’t tell them what to do,” Lynch said. “We help them make it work so they can do it themselves.” Many of the clients only need care for a few months following a surgery while others need long-term care.
Lynch, an RN, retired from her long-time position as administrator of the Good Samaritan office in Preston three years ago. “It lasted a couple of months and then I went back,” she laughed. However, she’s finally relinquished the position for good, moving to being a case manager. “I like being out and meeting the people,” she said. Lynch has every confidence in the new administrator, Tammy Danielson. Danielson, who was just elected mayor of Fountain, spent 25 years working at Mayo Clinic, but when she saw the administrator position advertised, she knew it was perfect. “Everything just clicked. Being able to work locally and drive (from Fountain) is great. I have more time for the things I want to do,” she said. Danielson has already fallen in love with her new job. “It’s been a very great turn of events for my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with,” she said.
The Preston Good Samaritan Home Care location celebrates National Home Care Month each November with an open house. This year, the celebration was extra special as it included the 100-year anniversary of Good Samaritan.
More information on Preston’s Good Samaritan Society Home Care service can be found by calling (507) 765-2700.