Flax retiring after 15 years at hospital
By LAURA TAYLOR
For The Madison Press
After 15 years as chief development and marketing officer at Madison County Hospital and 36 years in health care, Mona Flax is retiring.
“The hospital and the foundation have greatly benefited from Flax’s expertise and passion. We are a better place because she was here,” said Fred Kolb, MCH CEO. “It is easy to see the positive impact she has made just by walking down the hall and looking at all the changes we’ve been able to make thanks to the strength of the foundation. We will all miss her, but wish her well in her retirement.”
“The time just seems right,” Flax said. “The development department is well-staffed with an outstanding group of coordinators. Kelly Snyder, our former development coordinator, has worked with me on foundation projects for more than 10 years and is well prepared to step into my role. Overall, foundation and hospital leaders have developed into an outstanding team and I know they will continue to be successful. Leaving would be much more difficult if I
wasn’t so confident of that.”
Flax started her healthcare career in 1976 as the director of volunteer services at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. Hospital experiences during her first bout with cancer made her realize that she wanted to be part of an organization whose mission was to care for people. Flax expanded Mercy’s volunteer program from a small core group to more than 350 volunteers, and she created a new fundraising event which generated $75,000 a year.
“I really enjoyed creating new volunteer programs and working with community leaders in Springfield,” Flax said. “Plus the hospital was a few blocks from my house and the schools my children attended. It was a great place to work and yet be close to family.”
In 1987, St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Dayton, which later became Franciscan Medical Center, recruited Flax to build their volunteer program and manage several other support services including the gift shop. Franciscan had 650 beds, much larger than Mercy, and Flax was able use her skills on a grander scale. Within four years, she had doubled the number of volunteers to over 600 people who worked 95,000 hours annually. She also designed and supervised a new gift shop which netted $80,000 annually.
“By the time I left Franciscan, volunteers worked in almost every department of the hospital.
Nearly every customer’s experience was enhanced by our patient-centered volunteer program,” Flax said. “I enjoyed being a part of a program where patients were given the highest priority.”
It was at Franciscan that Flax became involved in the fight against breast cancer. In 1990, Flax faced cancer a second time when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she would have preferred to stay at Franciscan for treatment, the hospital did not have a multi-disciplinary breast care center at that time.
“Our CEO encouraged me to have my treatment in Cincinnati and bring back what I learned to help develop a comprehensive breast care center at Franciscan in Dayton,” Flax said. “Breast cancer started me on a journey that included spearheading the establishment of a multi-disciplinary breast care center which opened within two years, starting patient support groups, and raising money for women who couldn’t afford breast cancer treatment.”
Flax learned about the opportunity at MCH through her husband, local attorney Richard Flax. After marrying Richard in 1991, Mona moved to London. At a Madison County Bar Association event, Richard introduced her to Pat Baynes who was then part-time Executive Director of the MCH Foundation. Pat was convinced a full-time director for the Foundation could be successful, and thought Mona would be a great fit based on her professional experiences. Pat began a serious dialogue about this idea with hospital CEO Gary Lehman and the Foundation Board.
“I didn’t know the Foundation was serious about hiring a full-time director until Gary Lehman called Richard to see if I might want to apply,” Flax said. “After commuting to Dayton from Springfield and London for 10 years, I was thrilled for an opportunity to help make a difference right in my own community.”
When Flax started at MCH in 1997 the Foundation was raising about $7,000 through its annual golf outing and accepting memorial gifts. Like all hospitals, MCH needed more philanthropic support to help purchase the latest technology and medical equipment, keep the facilities attractive and functional, and fund programs to improve the quality of patient care. Today the Foundation annually raises about $500,000.
Since the development office began as a one-person department, Flax quickly recognized that the only way to succeed was to recruit a strong group of community volunteers to help with fundraising initiatives. She encouraged the foundation board to establish a development council composed of annual, corporate, planned, special, and employee gifts committees. Committee chairs recruited their own volunteers. This model has been successful in raising money for the hospital, and the 65 community volunteers who participate each year are strong ambassadors for MCH through the county.
“Now when I attend fundraising events or board meetings I see a dedicated group of people who are respected throughout the community and who understand our mission and our challenges. They each do a great job of helping tell the hospital’s story,” said Mona. “Being part of this evolution has been one of the most rewarding parts of my work at MCH.”
“Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to be in positions where I could develop new programs to help others. My focus has always been on organizing meaningful volunteer opportunities—first creating services for volunteers to improve the hospital experience for patients, and later creating ways for community volunteers to raise funds. Those funds are paying for new facilities and equipment and establishing funding resources so that everyone in our community, regardless of their financial situation, can access health care.”
Like many retirees, Flax looks forward to traveling and spending more time on the golf course and with her grandchildren. And, she’s already launched a new business venture as a personal historian through her company Your Memory Scribe LLC.
“My husband, Richard, is not retiring, and I want to continue doing something worthwhile,” Flax said. “As a personal historian, I am helping others write their life stories. My goal is to turn a person’s memories and photos into a family keepsake. Research shows this is a powerful and rewarding experience for those who share their stories. People often find peace and pleasure in the process and it’s comforting for them to know their special memories and photographs are being preserved for children and grandchildren they may never know.”
Even though Mona is retiring, she will continue to be involved with the hospital as a member of The Keystone Society and as a guest at MCH Foundation events.
“I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me at MCH and to those who have helped us develop a wonderful Foundation,” Flax said. “A good hospital can make all the difference in the quality of life in a community, and it’s a privilege to have been part of developing that here in Madison County.”