By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Thanked for giving
Driggers named Helmey Award winner
helmey award 1
Effingham Health System CEO Norma Jean Morgan presents the annual C. Edward Helmey Humanitarian Award to Denise Driggers, the hospitals laboratory manager, Monday afternoon. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the hospitals 45th anniversary. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

This year hasn’t been easy for Denise Driggers.

Her husband Steve died March 3 after battling a myriad of health problems, ultimately succumbing to lung disease.

Despite the stress Driggers was under and the heartbreak she felt, she never lost focus on her job as Effingham Health System’s laboratory manager, according to EHS CEO Norma Jean Morgan.

“She continued to keep her job in the forefront of her responsibility, never letting us down and never failing to be present when needed to complete her assignments,” Morgan said. “I have never had an employee, ever, to do what Denise has done.”

Driggers was honored Monday as this year’s recipient of the C. Edward Helmey Humanitarian Award, given annually to an Effingham Health employee who demonstrates excellence in service and care.

“This whole place is full of people that deserve the award, and it’s humbling because I just come and do my job,” Driggers said. “I don’t consider myself to be anything out of the ordinary, because it is the ordinary here for everybody to give everything.”

Morgan credited Driggers with being not only an excellent manager who is highly respected by the hospital staff, but also a tireless volunteer who gives her time to advocate for Effingham Health System.

“She is always the first to volunteer,” Morgan said. “We couldn’t even get her in here this morning because she was down giving to somebody in the nursing home.”

Driggers was one of three nominees for the award this year. Also recognized at the ceremony were operating room nurse Susanna Jarvis and housekeeper Lillie Bell Bedford.

Though the Helmey Award program is typically on a Sunday, this year’s was held Monday to mark the 45th anniversary of the hospital’s opening on Aug. 25, 1969. The award’s namesake, C. Edward Helmey, was one of the local leaders who pushed for Effingham to have its own hospital.

“They fought even more adversity than we do today,” Morgan said.

EHS Chief of Staff Dr. James Cornwell described the hospital’s growth in recent years as “hard to wrap your head around.” He added that the key to the expansion has been a quality staff, such as the three Helmey Award nominees.

“We couldn’t be better represented,” Cornwell said. “These buildings, they’re just materials. The hospital, the caregivers, they’re what make this place what it is.”

Eddie Helmey, the eldest of C. Edward Helmey's four children, was on hand with his wife Pat for the ceremony. He thanked Driggers for her hard work and contributions to the hospital.

“Your achievements are a source of pride and inspiration to us all,” Helmey said. “It is always a pleasure to see recipients of this award who are willing to go above and beyond.”

After presenting the award to Driggers, Morgan asked the lab staff to join her at the podium. Morgan again referenced the challenges Driggers faced this year.

“That was such a trying time. She never missed work,” Morgan said. “She was able to do that not only because of her goodness, but the goodness of these staff who love her and want her to be successful and the lab to be successful.”

Driggers shrugged off the praise, reiterating she was just doing her job. In fact, in the midst of her tough times, she found it therapeutic to go to work and help others at the hospital.

“I would’ve gone crazy if I was sitting at home,” she said.