Woven through the many conversations with Family Health West women in preparation for Women’s History Month, emerged the resiliency of staff, the passion for caring for each other and patients, and the deep roots of building history together. Dietary has the most longevity of any department at Family Health West. It is a tight-knit group that nourishes staff, patients, and visitors through food, smiles, and kindness. Dietary touches every part of our organization with loving care.
KAY GARCIA – 1982
The year was 1982, and unemployment peaked at 10.8% at the end of that year. Ronald Reagan was President. Kay Garcia was living in Fruita and had a friend who worked for the Family Health West nursing home. She heard about a job opening and ultimately started with FHW working in the dietary department as a dishwasher, after a year on the job she was asked to be a supervisor, and later went on to become a dietary manager, and eventually the Dietary Director.
“I’ve retired twice,” Kay said, while currently working part-time in the dietary department. “My last retirement was about ten months and then I called up Holly and asked if she had any openings.”
Under the past leadership of Mark Francis, Kay opened the kitchen in the hospital in 2009. Catering started around 2012 and the birth of Flavors Grille.
“I hired Julie Kovach and Holly Krouse when they were 16 years old,” Kay said. “They now have kids and some people I’m working with have been here for 20 years. I saw The Oaks (now shuttered) and The Willows being built and have worked for four hospital presidents.”
The most important part about the Family Health West name, Kay said, is ‘family.’ That’s what has driven me to stay here so long, for so many years, because it’s such a family here.
MONICA MONTOYA – 1997
“A person doesn’t get up every day and go to the same job for 25 years straight, if they don’t feel appreciated, respected, and valued,” Monica Montoya said. “I’m here because I feel all of those…I never saw myself making a career here original. This was supposed to be my high school job.”
Monica is a dietary staple, who describes herself as a jack of all trades and a master of some. She started working in dietary at age 15, circa 1997. She’s held a variety of positions and worked in all the FHW facilities – but always in the same department.
“I do consider my kitchen people to be my family,” Monica said. “Especially the people who’ve been here since before I started.”
So many faces and wonderful people she’s seen over the years, some of whom she has developed friendships with outside of work. Some, like Errol Snider, FHW’s unofficial historian, would change Monica’s oldest daughter’s diapers, some 24 years ago.
“Errol use to go across the street to the daycare, where his wife worked,” Monica said about the personal and professional lives of so many intermingling, in a positive way.
She says she is here (at FHW) today because of the people who have touched her life and not just bosses and coworkers she clarifies. This includes the residents (of Memory Care) and patients she has helped care for over the years.
“I have the best memories working here and some absolutely unforgettable experiences!” she said.
She’s been offered other positions and department transfers but those roles didn’t work as well with her home life schedule. Monica has six children and the best fit for balancing work and home has always been what she does in the Dietary Department.
She holds a number of certifications and has taken classes too related to her work in the Dietary Department, provided by the support and development of FHW. On her own, Monica has attended college with a double major.