NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: 2013 Marks 20th Year Anniversary For Atlantic General Hospital

BERLIN — For two decades, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) has made its home in Worcester County, and the hospital will be commemorating its 20th Anniversary with the community on Thursday, May 16 at the home of John and Pat Otto in Berlin.

“This year we’re going to step it up a notch because it is the 20th,” said Kim Ruark-Mihaly, Anniversary Celebration Committee chair. “We’re hoping for increased attendance.”

The goal this year is to bring in at least 350 event goers. Even though the celebration is being held at a private home, Ruark-Mihaly said there will be abundant room on the waterfront property for 400 or more guests.

Toni Keiser, vice president of public relations for AGH, noted that for the last 18 years the hospital has held each anniversary celebration at a private residence. It’s a unique way to showcase some of the most beautiful homes in the area while also helping keep the event expenditures lower than what they would have been if held at a public facility.

“From the time I started in 1995, someone in the community has been very generous in opening their home to this event which saves us a tremendous amount on expenses,” she said. “It also makes the affair much more intimate.”

AGH plans on making its 20th anniversary a memorable one by bringing in Sunset Grille to cater and taking advantage of the Ottos’ outdoor brick pizza oven by inviting Touch of Italy from Lewes, Del. to add Italian cuisine to the menu. Finally, an Asian noodle bar will be added to the mix to offer a wide-reaching menu for a variety of taste buds. Musical entertainment will be provided by the appropriately named band The Chest Pains.

The hospital relies extensively on community support, according to Keiser, and events like the annual anniversary celebration are crucial to keeping AGH alive and effective. With the cost of business on the rise each year and the fees the hospital can charge set by the state, the hospital needs the extra funds to continue to grow and improve service. It can be a balancing act because of all of the other worthy causes in Worcester, Keiser admitted.

“We are trying to raise money as a not-for-profit and there are many not-for-profits in a very small community,” said Keiser. “So it’s trying not to step on anyone’s toes, even within our organization.”

The funding received from events like the anniversary celebration, the Fall Golf Classic and the popular Penguin Swim on New Year’s Day, which AGH considers its “big three,” along with other fundraisers throughout the year can’t be downplayed, said Keiser, especially as the health care industry changes every year. In the past, big ticket donations could be expected from a few private individuals. That’s becoming a little less common now with hospitals shifting to focus more on preventative care than to larger facilities.

“Fewer and fewer hospitals are expanding their footprint but still need to raise capital dollars to expand services and programs,” said Keiser. “But in your traditional campaigns for fundraising people want a building, they want bricks and mortar, they want something to put their names on.”

The main challenge now is explaining to people that a hospital doesn’t need a new wing or trauma center to become more effective for the community and that the “intangible” improvements like bringing in new providers, technology and programs is just as worthy an endeavor to contribute funds to, according to AGH Foundation Board of Directors Chair Laura Deeley Bren.

Since opening in 1993, AGH has maintained exactly 62 hospital beds. Services rendered to the community have increased exponentially, however.

“When the hospital first opened, there were six providers in Worcester County,” said Keiser. “We now have over 200 providers both in specialty and primary care.”

The goal, she continued, is not to treat people in the hospital whenever possible but to encourage preventative measures and partnerships with regular providers so that health care problems don’t reach the point where a hospital stay is required.

The funding raised at critical events like the 20th anniversary celebration will provide the foundation for that, said Keiser.

Tickets to the May 16 anniversary celebration, from 6:30-9 p.m., are $125 per person or $200 for a couple. It is open to anyone interested in the community. All proceeds will benefit the AGH Foundation. For more information or to RSVP, contact Laura Stearns in the AGH development office at 410-641-9671 or [email protected].