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Health care workers honored at Farm Fest event

Frontline Farm Fest

Madison Eason, right, gets a drink from Sonya Knight, Leslie LaPlante and Brooke Morgan during RMC's party at an Ohatchee farm to thank all of its workers and first responders for their efforts throughout the pandemic. 

Health care workers from Regional Medical Center and Stringfellow Memorial Hospital had an important job Saturday evening: to have a good time.

Dozens of people gathered at the Regional Medical Center Foundation’s first Farm Fest, held in honor of thoseDozens of people gathered at the Regional Medical Center Foundation’s first Farm Fest, held in honor of those health care workers health care workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other first responders were invited as well, with everyone gathering at the Ohatchee farm of foundation board members Dick and Sarah Pritchett.

“It has meant the world to us just to have a night where they can relax, be appreciated and know the community loves us,” foundation director Lagina Fillingim said.

It had rained briefly before Farm Fest started. But luckily, RMC spokeswoman Kristin Fillingim said, it stopped right as people started to arrive. 

There were games such as cornhole and horseshoes, as well as food, drinks, drawings and live music. Dr. Raul Magadia said there was only one patient in the hospital’s COVID unit as of that evening, where as at one point last year, that number had been nearly 90.

“There was a time in December and August where I would get home around 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

This year the event was held in place of the annual Garden Jubilee, and sponsors paid for the workers to go instead of for themselves. Pritchett said he and his wife, Sarah, had been preparing the farm for about three months beforehand.

“Lagina came out here and essentially fell in love,” he said.

At a typical gala, winners of the Martha Vandervoort scholarship are announced.

Austyn West, an upcoming University of Alabama sophomore, won the scholarship last year in the midst of the pandemic. It changed his life, he said.

“I’m a first generation college student,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t be able to do all of the things I’ve done so far.”

West said he’s now “fully involved” on campus, and is a member of the university’s Million Dollar Band, works as an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, works with the Al’s Pals mentorship program, is a member of a business fraternity and is designing a minor in public health, among other activities.

This year’s winner, Ashley Morriss, was introduced to a cheering crowd. She credited God for the accomplishment before she was announced.

“I truly probably could not have gone to college and seen it through,” she said.

Morriss, a recent Jacksonville High School graduate, said she plans to attend Jacksonville State University and major in nursing.

“Hopefully, I’ll work at RMC one day,” she said. 

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563 or akortrig@gmail.com.